There is an endearing, insightful and captivating experience listening to an elderly person reflect on the events and experiences they witnessed during their life. When those events include world wars or other major historical moments, then be prepared to sit up all night long listening or reading. When the writing is as good as Juliet Conlin’s, you will be immersed in the life of Alfred Warner. It is a very sentimental and poignant story of reflection, loss, love, and a family secret Alfred must pass on.
Alfred Warner arrives back in Berlin, after living in the UK since the end of the Second World War. His purpose in travelling back to Germany is to meet his estranged grand-daughter Brynja before he dies. These are the last 6 days of his life and when he meets a stranger, Julie, that he chats to on his travels, he tells her his story. As she befriends him she feels a sense of necessity to help him locate his grand-daughter and now we have another perspective on the narrative. This is not a spoiler as we pretty much know the finale from the title and outset but dare I say, the journey is engrossing, enthralling, and utterly absorbing. The story of Alfred’s life interacts and touches on the rise of the Nazi party, the persecution of the Jews, the time spent as a soldier and as a PoW in Scotland. There is also a special gift Alfred possesses and he must explain this to Brynja before he dies.
The events, the family losses, and the torments in his life are described in wonderful detail with periods of deep sadness but times of uplifting happiness, and always with the help of something extremely special. The structure and flows of the story are very interesting from 3 different perspectives: Alfred’s life story is told chronologically which is really well matched with Julie’s perspective as she steps through the 6 days, and finally Brynja’s narrative as she steps back in reverse chronology from 2005.
A great book that I highly recommend. Many thanks to Black & White Publishing and NetGalley for an ARC version of the book in return for an honest review.