I had been eying up ‘The Aftermath’ for weeks in bookshops before I bought it, and I can not sufficiently express how glad I am to have bought it. This book was a gripping read, with a range of believable and complex characters. Although it is set in post-war Germany, it is much more than a ‘war book’, and is more a book about relationships and grief. I would recommend it fervently to anybody.
The Aftermath focuses mainly on the Morgan family, which consists of Lewis, Rachel and their son Edmund. Lewis is a British colonel who has been charged with the task of rebuilding Germany after its destruction in the war. Lewis finds himself swimming against the tide of British people who believe that all Germans are untrustworthy, and in an unexpected move, shares his requisitioned German house with the family to whom it belonged. He and his family live alongside the Lubert family, consisting of Stefan, an architect and Frieda, his daughter, who is bitter about her mother’s death in the war and the destruction of her country. As the two families try to live side by side, all sides struggle to remain loyal to their values and principles, abide by the rules, and come to terms with what they suffered in the war. What I love about this book is that it cannot be classed in a single genre – there is a bit of everything in it. There is romance, drama, action and suspense all taking place against the backdrop of a tragic but interesting situation in history. I loved how all of the characters had different perspectives of how they should be around the others, whether it was Rachel initially trying to keep her distance before breaking all of her rules, or Lewis who tried to trust everyone before making a dramatic U-turn, or Frieda, who couldn’t seem to be able to decide whether she was with or against the English family living with her. I also loved the layered characters who were completely believable as well as likeable. From the characters in the house itself, Rachel and Stefan, whose relationship was intriguing from the beginning of the book to the end, to mischievous Edmund and rebellious Frieda, to the characters outside the house. Ozi was an enjoyable character, with all of his quirks and Albert (or Berti) was fascinating even though he was largely shrouded in mystery. I liked that different characters called him different things so that initially, I did not link Frieda’s kind Albert with Ozi’s Berti who seemed to be more of a criminal than a friendly young man. I enjoyed piecing together this storyline as we seemed to be shown the characters and relationships more than told about them. It was not until quite late in the book that I pieced together that Ozi and Berti were brothers, and Berti’s relationship with Frieda took place largely outside of the book’s narrative. Nevertheless, although Ozi and Berti were not main characters, I was as interested in them as I was in the members of the central two families, and found them just as exciting to read. Overall, I would advise people to read this book regardless of the genre of book that they enjoy. There were so many different stories that I think there would be something for everybody in this book, and it was written so well that I could envisage everything happening in my mind and could not put the book down.