FLIGHT OF THE SHEARWATER – (The Sturmtaucher Trilogy #2)
With Poland divided between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Union of Soviet Republics, the increasingly confident Third Reich flexes its military muscles northwards into Denmark and Norway, while the rest of Europe watches anxiously over its shoulders.
General Erich Kästner, in his key role in the Abwehr, is fast becoming aware of the mass expulsion of Jews and other minority groups from Germany and from northern Poland, to the new ghettos of the Generalgouverment area of southern Poland, and has an inkling of what the National Socialists’ have in mind for Europe’s Jews.
As Holland and Belgium fall, and the British are routed at Dunkirk, barely escaping across the channel, the seemingly impregnable France collapses under the Wehrmacht Blitzkrieg, sealing the fate of millions of Jews, now trapped under Hitler’s rule.
The Nussbaums, thwarted in their attempts to escape to Denmark, desperately seek other routes out of Germany but, one by one, they are closed off, and they realise they have left it all too late…
Alan was born in Glasgow 1960 and lived there for the first 22 years of his life. He is now retired after nearly forty years as a country vet, and lives on the Ayrshire coast, where he is a volunteer Coxswain on his local RNLI lifeboat. He is married with four grown up children and four beautiful grandchildren, and in his spare time he reads, cooks, sails, makes furniture, plays football and watch films, when he’s not writing, of course!
He started writing in 2003, but it took a few false starts over the next ten years before he completed his first novel, The Cabinetmaker, which was self-published.
Alan’s second book, Blue Wicked, took a year to write; with book #3 Bloq, being published in April 2016. Each book became more pithy and gritty than its predecessor and are definitely not reads for the faint-hearted.
After five years researching and writing, and a complete change of genre, the Sturmtaucher Trilogy, a holocaust story, is being released autumn 2021, with the first book, The Gathering Storm having been published on August 19th.
Alan Jones is his pen name.
Visit Alan at his website
Check in with Alan at: Alan Jones Books
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MALDON, ENGLAND – SUNDAY 15/07/2001
‘The General wasn’t to know,’ Ruth said. ‘It was just yet another misfortune to plague us. Our visas for Britain were only a month or two away from coming through when the war broke out, then the border with Denmark was closed the very day we left Kiel for Copenhagen.’
The acute pain of disappointment showed in Ruth’s face across the years, as if she were still standing at the border, gazing over at what she’d believed to be the first leg of her family’s journey to freedom.
‘We missed so many opportunities; if we’d tried to get out earlier to Britain, America or even, God forbid, Palestine, we’d have been separated from our families and our friends, but we would have been safe.’
A tear ran down Ruth’s face and I looked down at my pad.
KIEL, GERMANY – MONDAY 08/04/1940
By lunchtime, the General had almost managed to put the Nussbaums’ journey to the back of his mind. He took himself off to one of the waterfront restaurants that lined Kieler Hafen but, when he sat back down at his desk on his return, he picked up the memo that was sitting on top of his in tray, in its familiar sealed envelope. He opened it and stared at its contents. His face blanched.
“As Jews, we try and make ourselves as invisible as we can. It’s a triumph if we manage not to get noticed, sir. It’s too dangerous to stick out from the crowd”
“Leave him,” the General said, resting a hand on his elder son’s arm. “He just needs time. It’s a lot to take in, when you find out that you’re fighting for something that is rotten inside. He’ll have a blowout, and tomorrow he’ll have a raging hangover and lots of questions”
“Colonel Schneider’s face softened. ‘I hope I say this as a friend,’ he continued. ‘I believe that your views are coloured by your understandable concern and loyalty for your domestic staff, and I commend that. Get them out, if that’s what it takes, but don’t be pulled down by them.”
“It takes more bravery to stand up to something that’s not right than to go into battle, knowing the wrong of it”
“I’ll let you into a secret. I’m frightened too, but fear keeps us alive, as long as we control it, and don’t let it make us panic”
“There’s another factor which makes my decision easier. I don’t want to be part of the horror that is infecting Germany, not because I’m afraid of fighting for my country, or for what we are doing to other nations’ armies, but for what we are doing to our own people, and to innocent civilians abroad”
“Carl Meyer smiled. He didn’t know if the Nussbaums had ever been on the boat, or if the General or his family had anything to do with them vanishing but, in a way, he admired the Kriminalassistent for not letting the facts destroy his belief that he was right”
“A powerful and compelling story of two families torn apart by evil”
To catch up on the story so far, visit…
Part Two of a trilogy of epic proportions, where to be honest, my reviews could never do true justice to the sheer range or depth of the storyline, or the majestic writing within its pages.
As I indicated in my review of Part One, The Gathering Storm, I still really believe that the books work eminently well as stand alone stories, which due to scheduling constraints is how I have needed to treat them, as each is a monster read of some 800+ pages. However, for the true WWII enthusiast, or lover of intricately detailed and nuanced family sagas, I am certain that reading all three books back to back would definitely provide the most satisfying and fulfilling experience.
It would also help in the understanding of this particular instalment and to get the most out of it, if the reader was a keen yachtsman, as the action is quite evenly divided between land and water, and author Alan Jones, has clearly immersed himself in his maritime research, alongside his wartime investigations, so precisely and arrestingly detailed is the narrative. For me personally, a self-confessed landlubber, the many sailing terms, rituals and routines, on their own, wouldn’t have overly inspired me to carefully read each and every word on the page and there just might have been a little ‘speed reading’ going on. However Alan worked his magic and made excellent use of his exuberant writing skills, in weaving this section into the very fabric of the storyline, until it was impossible to read one without the other, without running the risk of feeling ‘short-changed’. Water flows through the veins of the Kastner men in equal quantities as blood, so I often found myself entranced, standing shoulder to shoulder with Franz and Johann, as they plotted and charted their meandering and thoroughly dangerous course, around the waters, channels and coastline harbours of Sweden, Denmark and Norway, towards their final destination, until the ‘armchair traveller’ in me was well and truly sated.
The lives of the German Kastner family, have been intrinsically linked with that of the Jewish Nussbaum family, for three generations, almost to the point where the lines between them being employers and employees, have become blurred enough for them to refer to one another as friends. The Nussbaum’s live in the grounds of the Kastner house, so are never really off duty and can always be relied on in an emergency or crisis. The children of both families have grown up alongside one another and played together, with obvious differences in culture and religion having always been respected and accommodated by both sides. Now, in 1941, with the war across Europe ramping up and Hitler firmly ensconced in his role as German Chancellor, life for both families has reached a crisis point, with the Nussbaum’s fighting for their very existence and the Kastners becoming evermore divided as conscience threatens to overwhelm duty to their new masters for some, whilst for Frau Kastner and the couple’s eldest daughter, Eva, the new order offers a chance for personal advancement and social climbing, if only her husband would cooperate and toe the party line, so that she is no longer ashamed of the person he is becoming.
Coming from an esteemed lineage of soldiers and having excelled in his service to Germany throughout the devastation and human loss of World War I, being highly decorated and rewarded for his efforts, Erich Kastner remains loyal to his country, but is having difficulty in reconciling his ideology with the direction in which Hitler is taking his homeland, in his quest to create the perfect Aryan race. His two sons, Franz and Johann, themselves having already earned high accolades and promotions in the present conflict, are forced to search their hearts, and also find themselves shamed and sickened by the massacres and genocide they are forced to witness in their beloved country, by their fellow countrymen, on their own people. So along with their younger sister, they resolve to assist their father in helping the Nussbaum’s make good their escape, before it is too late.
For their part, the Nussbaum’s also have some heart-wrenching, highly emotional and they accept, maybe fatal decisions to make, knowing that they have probably left it too late to escape from the Reich as a family unit. However, with their quiet and dignified, yet determined stoicism to do what is right, no matter the ultimate personal cost to themselves, Miriam and Yosef accept the lifeline the Kastner’s offer them, in the knowledge that both families will be changed forever, have everything to lose and will never be able to go back to life as it was before.
That is the scene, set in a very small nutshell, from which this chapter in the saga, rises and triumphs, as a supreme tour de force, on its way to what will no doubt be a stunning climax in book #3, the final episode. There were so many layers waiting to be peeled back, to reveal the many controversial and intersecting strands of this gripping, powerfully presented, desperately intense, wonderfully structured and emotionally textured storyline. The sheer volume and quality of the research author Alan Jones has undertaken in preparation for writing the series, truly makes this an important work of societal and cultural, historic and political fiction. The fluent chapters are well signposted and concise enough, despite making every single word count, to provide plenty of natural reading breaks, whilst the tragic story evolves agonisingly slowly, making this an almost diarised account of events over a relatively short time period. There are some profoundly evocative, touching and emotional moments, with both happy and sad causes, which made my heart beat faster and my pulse race, as I just knew that things were never going to end well, no matter how hard I wished and crossed my fingers. Fast forward and there are also a few interjections from an interview with Ruth Nussbaum in the year 2001, as her own reminiscences of the times are also deftly woven into the narrative of the story, which in itself gives away a little of the endgame, although to whom she is giving voice to her memories, remains as yet, unknown.
Disturbing, perceptive, compelling and rich in detail narrative and dialogue, afford a genuine sense of time and place and a great immersive visual depth, as the net closes in on a minority and persecuted race, which is not able to sustain the interminable onslaught of an administration hellbent on its extinction, not only inside Germany itself, but on any foreign soil where the advancing forces of the Reich prevail, making escape from its deadly clutches, almost impossible.
Oh! how Alan made me love to hate Gullich and Meyer, the epitomes of model German Gestapo Officers. I could just tell that it was making them choke to have to cut Erich Kastner so much slack, as he is an officer held in such high esteem, suspecting but being unable to irrefutably prove that he and his sons had a hand in attempting to get the Nussbaum children to safety. I cheered each time Erich managed to get one over on them, in their seemingly futile search, however I grudgingly had to give them ten out of ten for sheer perseverance, by which point it was inevitable that there would be dreadful repercussions for anyone who had duped them.
Alan has created a sprawling cast of core characters, who are growing in stature with each passing chapter, whose voices are becoming ever louder and stronger and who demand to have their story heard by the outside world. That they need to operate clandestinely, often from inside the administration, only hones and sharpens their resolve to make a difference and make every move count. Now that the storyline has taken us outside the borders of the Fatherland, as the war in Europe intensifies and draws more nations into its arena, smaller pockets of resistance are forming, who add their fledgling voices to the call for justice. Complex and emotionally driven, raw and passionate, often fragile and vulnerable; they are nonetheless completely genuine and believable, reliable and authentic, with a stoicism and loyalty born of necessity.
What makes reading such wonderful experience for me, is that with each and every book, I am taken on a unique and individual journey, by some amazing authors, who fire my imagination, stimulate my senses and stir my emotions. For a single author to achieve all that with one book, is surely testament to the sheer quality of the writing and storyline. Surely an important work of cultural and societal fiction, based on and wrapped around, the reality of some well established historical facts, written sympathetically from the heart, with care and deference to the subject.
A complimentary kindle download of this book, for review purposes, was kindly made available by the author.
Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article which promotes this book or its author.
I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a well deserved 5 out of 5 stars!
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