Review THE WATCHER by Monika Jephcott Thomas. Set in occupied Germany in 1949,deception drives the plot of this novel based around an ordinary family and a murder investigation.Max, a doctor, returns home from a Siberian prisoner-of-war camp and struggles to adapt to family life. This is seen through the eyes of his daughter, Netta, and his wife, Erika.Evoking the mood of the period, the characters and narrative balance themes of paranoia,loneliness, trauma,and the spartan atmosphere that prevailed until the end of the Cold War. Inspired by the author’sown father’s experiences,this is a haunting novel that will remain with the reader for a long time.
by Review in The Lady 27/10/2017
Dr Max Portner has finally been released from the Siberian prison camp where he spent four years following capture by the advancing Russian army. Returning to Mengade, Dortmund, and his wife, daughter and parents, Max is a changed man, haunted by his experiences of war and imprisonment, suffering from PTSD and struggling to adapt to life in a peaceful, if occupied, country.
Netta, his young daughter, six, when her father returns, small for her age and struggling with her breathing in the polluted air, doesn’t understand what’s happening around her. Her father is a stranger to her, and frightening. He shouts, suddenly becomes violent, silent and distant. Her mother has changed too, as her focus turns from little Netta to her gaunt, suffering husband.
The narrative follows the Portner family through grief and joy; and through it all there’s the mystery of their housekeeper’s death.I liked this book; the author brings Germany in the late 1940′ and early 1950’s to life and the experiences of the characters are vividly written.
I was quite affected by Max’s experiences and the family’s road to recovery. The novel is easy to read and although I spotted the odd typo, it wasn’t distracting.The author aptly shows us how trauma can pass through the generations, whether that trauma is caused by war or abuse. Children aren’t stupid, they pick up on what is going on around them and pass it on to the next generation as they grow up. Without a conscious effort to address the trauma, it harms each generation.
by Rosie 4/5
This book has several stories running together. There is that of Max, a prisoner of war in a the Siberian concentration camp of Gegesha, his experiences whilst there an also how he deals with being back home. Then there is the story of Netta and her childhood and also of Erika as she deals with the day-to-day living with a man who has been through an extreme and traumatic event. Then how these three very different people have to deal with change and how they have changed in themselves.
So Max is married to Erika, together they have daughter Netta. The story is told from perspectives of all, Max has returned home after 4 years in the camp, he has severe flashbacks during dreams as well as while awake. The relationship between himself and his wife and daughter is hard, and all have to adapt to the change in him. As well as this there has also been a murder, a woman known to the family and local people.
This is a time-slip story, and flits between Max and his memories in the camp, and also how life in Germany after the second world war has changed, food is scarce and money is tight. Max, Erika and Netta live in the attic of his parents house, even though both husband and wife are doctors they cannot afford their own house, money is spent on the clinic they run. The story as I have said is told from different perspectives, but is mainly focused on Netta, a time when children are seen and not heard, but children have a habit of hearing things they shouldn’t, this is very much the case for Net.
It took me a little while to get into this book, it took a few chapters before I understood the style and characters, but once I had got a feel for it I enjoyed it. The characters and plot I found to be well described, I thought the descriptions of Max and his treatment and experiences as a prisoner of war had been done well, not too overbearing or graphic, though still uncomfortable reading at times. It had a what you would expect and nothing that describes concentration camps should be easy reading, but it had been done sympathetically to the subject.
Towards the end the various threads of the plot started to come together and as this happened this pacing definitely quickened. This is a book that readers of historical fiction and mystery genres would read, I would recommend it. It is a very interesting look at life in Germany post war, as well as relationships within family and also socially.
October 13, 2017 yvonnembee review of The Watcher
Blog Tour – The Watcher by Monika Jephcott Thomas – Review by David
Today is my stop on the blog tour for The Watcher by Monika Jephcott Thomas.
If you haven’t already I highly recommend you read the authors previous novel Fifteen Words. The Watcher follows directly on and it would give you some background to the characters.
Fifteen Words was the story about Max being held prisoner, The Watcher is a story about how life and Max himself have changed since his release.
Max is a torn man, he’s struggling to come to terms with what happened to him when he was a prisoner and this really made me feel for the man, I don’t imagine being a POW is something you would ever come to terms with.
His relationship with his wife is stretched to breaking, the love they had for each other just isn’t what it once was, so much has changed.
For me this tale was really about Max’s daughter Netta, I loved her. She’s a young girl who’s grown up in an adult world and she hears and sees more than people know.
While the family are trying to come to terms with their own demons a murder occurs that has the police snooping around and the author keeps you on edge until the last moment to reveal all.
I really enjoyed how the ending was written when you see the events play out from different perspectives, this really kept the suspense going.
There’s some good twists in the tale, nicely written and followed on well from the previous novel. The characters might be the same but this tale had that little bit extra with a whodunit thrown in. It was a change in direction from what I expected but it worked well and I was hooked.
Going back to Max, there is a lot of development for him during the story and emotions are very raw for him and I liked how this was explored. Not easy to read at times as he’s a beaten man with what looks like no way to build himself back up.. just when he needs someone the most he and Netta finally bond and it was a pleasure to read.
Overall I loved it, the unexpected events in the book really kept me on my toes and had me sucked in from page 1. We are left with a little cliff-hanger so I do hope we see more of Max and his family to see how things play out.
Review By David
Review of The Watcher by Monika Jephcott Thomas
My Thoughts & Review:
The Watcher is the continuation of the story of Max, Erika and Netta Portner from Fifteen Words
Often there is a danger with follow up books that they don’t meet the high standard set initially, but here I think it’s fair to say that The Watcher is a wonderfully written book that is packed with strong emotions and exceptional characters.
The physical and psychological scars of the war are deeply imprinted on the souls of Max and Erika. Upon his return home Max is not the man he once was, and far from the man that Netta is expecting from the tales told my her mother and grandparents. But more difficult, is that he is so far from the man that Erika used to know, his traumatic experiences in the Siberian POW camp have reshaped this character beyond recognition. Today he would probably be diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), but not back in 1949. The murder investigation and the secrets that are unearthed add an extra layer to this well crafted plot.
As before, the author writes with a wonderful descriptive quality that gives the reader fully detailed account by these characters, there is a rawness to the prose that evokes emotion from the reader and almost makes you want to reach out to these characters. You become invested in their lives and well being. There is a poignancy in any tale about survivors of WWII, but here there’s something more. Perhaps because I read Fifteen Words and witnessed the suffering that the characters endured previously I felt more of a connection reading The Watcher, but I really felt this book tugging on the heartstrings and lingering in my head long after I finished reading it.
I would thoroughly recommend reading both Fifteen Words and The Watcher, they are definite must reads for fans of WWII fiction.
October 11, 2017 by The Quiet Knitter