Two young doctors form a profound and loving bond in Nazi Germany; a bond that will stretch them to the very limits of human endurance. Catholic Max – whose religious and moral beliefs are in conflict, has been conscripted to join the war effort as a medic, despite his hatred of Hitler’s regime. His beloved Erika, a privileged young woman, is herself a product of the Hitler Youth. In spite of their stark differences, Max and Erika defy convention and marry.
But when Max is stationed at the fortress city of Breslau, their worst nightmares are realised; his hospital is bombed, he is captured by the Soviet Army and taken to a POW camp in Siberia. Max experiences untold horrors, his one comfort the letters he is allowed to send home: messages that can only contain Fifteen Words. Back in Germany, Erika is struggling to survive and protect their young daughter, finding comfort in the arms of a local carpenter. Worlds apart and with only sparse words for comfort, will they ever find their way back to one another, and will Germany ever find peace?
Fifteen Words is a vivid and intimate portrayal of human love and perseverance, one which illuminates the German experience of the war, which has often been overshadowed by history.
Book Rating: 8.5/10
Insightful, poignant, and incredibly moving!
This is an extremely compelling story that allows us a rare opportunity to see the war from two different German perspectives and reminds us of the emotional, psychological and physical horrors seen and endured during times of conflict and their long-lasting effects on not only the soldiers themselves, but also the families they leave behind.
The story is set in both Germany and Siberia, Russia, and is told from two points of view; Max, a German doctor, who continues to aid and comfort to the best of his abilities even when freedom seems beyond reach and home seems a world away; and Erika, Max’s wife, a young doctor herself who struggles to stay positive and raise and support her daughter despite her flagging optimism.
This is story about war, loss, loneliness, determination, hope, love, courage, and survival.
The prose is descriptive and smooth. The characters are strong, real, multi-layered, and damaged. And the plot is subtle but impactful with an underlying current that sometimes we can say so much with so few words.
Overall, this is truly a powerful story I won’t soon forget.
About the Author
Monika Jephcott Thomas grew up in Dortmund Mengede, north-west Germany. She moved to the UK in 1966, enjoying a thirty year career in education before retraining as a therapist. Along with her partner Jeff she established the Academy of Play & Child Psychotherapy in order to support the twenty per cent of children who have emotional, behavioural, social and mental health problems by using play and the creative Arts. A founder member of Play Therapy UK, Jephcott Thomas was elected President of Play Therapy International in 2002.
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Thank you to Authoright for providing me with a copy in an exchange for an honest review.