Five stars for The Blue Suitcase: The past is another country

The past is another country: No Way Home

Review of The Blue Suitcase by Lady Fanciful

The Blue SuitcaseMarianne Wheelaghan’s distressing, absorbing book about a young girl growing up in Germany in the 30’s was springboarded by her own family history, as that young girl was her mother. Marianne discovered a history her mother had never talked about, through journals she had kept, during the 30s and 40s, before she came to the UK after the war. She found the journals after her mother died and translated them

The Blue Suitcase is not ‘the translated diaries and journals’ – that would have been too private – but it is inspired by, based on, her reading of accounts of real events, and a real person, growing up at that time and in that place. The Blue Suitcase is of course a novel, but I sensed it was shaped by a writer, to give the feel and flow of fiction, but was not ‘an invention’

It was the complex, difficult authenticity it arose from which created a powerful response from me, as a reader. At times, too close for comfort, because the author herself must also have found the reading of the journals uncomfortable.

I must admit I put this book down, many times, overwhelmed by the imaginative, empathetic space which is created here. Starting in 1932, the journal writer is Antonia, Toni, a volatile self-obsessed twelve year old (as twelve year old often are), growing up in a dark time, a dark place, (Breslau, Silesia, 1932) Toni’s family is middle class; they are Catholics with a strong sense of morality – father a civil servant, mother a doctor. The entire family dynamics are strongly motivated by a sense of needing purpose and codes to live by which were more than just personal – the urge to serve something higher, clear. That ‘higher’ took one sister into being a ‘bride of Christ’ (a nun) one brother into Communism, another to join the Brownshirts, her law abiding conservative father, initially opposed to Hitler, keeping his head down and acquiescing, and her doctor mother, through her serving both her strong Christian faith and the Hippocratic oath, to be fierce and vocal against Fascism. Another sister surrendered into being the kind of hausfrau producing children for Germany….

Do follow the link to read the full review on Lady Fanciful’s bog:

2 Responses to Five stars for The Blue Suitcase: The past is another country

  1. Pam Ellis says:

    Hi Marianne
    I meant to write to you ages ago but time went past… My husband Mike and I stayed with you in November for a wedding and at breakfast we chatted to you about your book The Blue Suitcase. I mentioned that I was reading it. I thoroughly enjoyed it and in fact recommended it to my book club for our monthly read. Everyone enjoyed it – which does not often happen! (We have been meeting for 30 years). We marvelled at how you wrote in the early stages with the mindset of a young teenager, conveying so accurately the thoughts and hopes that occupied a young mind at that time. It was extremely informative for us to learn of the day to day life and trials of an actual german family at that time – and we came away so much better informed and with a much greater insight into their lives. I intend reading your other books- which will be a very different read! Hope you and Marc are well. Regards, Pam Ellis

  2. Dear Pam, what a lovely surprise to hear from you! Thank you so much for reading The Blue Suitcase and recommending it to your book group. And thank you for taking the time to tell me how much you – and the others in the book group – enjoyed reading it! It is always good to hear from readers and know that the story made a difference to them. Yes, the other books are very different but I hope you enjoy them too. I am, in fact, finally, finally writing the follow up to The Blue Suitcase – so many things got in the way of starting this next book! It is about what happens to Antonia when she arrives in Scotland and is set in the 1950s. I’ll let you know when it is done which will be a while yet! Thanks again for writing and very warm regards to you and Mike!

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