The past is another country: No Way Home
Marianne 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: https://ladyfancifull.wordpress.com/2015/10/30/marianne-wheelaghan-the-blue-suitcase/