Drama, Historical fiction

All The Broken Places by John Boyne

Books I have reviewed by the author on the blog earlier: A Ladder to the Sky, The Echo Chamber

I must begin by admitting that I have found that I have an affinity for the author’s works. Even if I do not like the end result, the journey to that point makes from some swift reading. The prose flows, and I can imagine the people and the places.
This is a sequel to a more famous work, one that I have not read. After looking at a few better-informed reviews, I do not really plan on reading it either. That does not take away anything from my reaction to this story.
If you are aware of the previous work, you would be interested to note that this is Gretel’s story.
The skill that I was surprised to appreciate was the author’s ability to create unlikeable characters that I would still willingly read about. Many of them have no redeeming characteristics, just at least one other person who does not mind their general makeup.
Gretel is ninety. She has lived a long and convoluted life. We get brief glimpses of her past (post-Hitler’s fall) during the events of the present. Her son wants her to give up the house as an early inheritance before he gets married again – the same goes for her only friend in the building, who is having memory issues, but her grandson also wants some liquid cash.
In the midst of the contemplation of her long life, a new family moves into the building. Their presence brings back uneasy memories and stirs a form of rebellion in Gretel’s mind and heart.
When we first meet our central protagonist, her mind and behaviour seem much more straightforward and linear. It is only with each additional piece of information and the pressures she starts to feel that the tone of the narrative shifts.
I really enjoyed this book. I found the twists quite intriguing. One of the main ‘secrets’ was not continuously in our faces(although one was – that was understandable), so when the reveal happened, I was quite taken aback by how much it mattered to me by that point.
I preferred the current timeline to the older one, but Gretel’s past is quite important to show the truth of the multiple facets of her present actions.
I highly recommend this to fans of the author and of historical fiction/dual narratives.

I received an ARC thanks to Netgalley and the publishers but the review is entirely based on my own reading experience.


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