our pick of the latest books and a Great Read from Kate Furnivall
What price survival? This is the moral dilemma at the heart of Kate Furnivall’s shocking and intensely gripping window on post World War II Germany and it’s one that stays with you long after the final page. Polish refugee and ballsy resistance fighter Klara Janowska and her daughter, 10yearold Alicja, have ducked and dived and fought hard for their lives to finally reach Graufield Displaced Persons camp in Germany. How they managed to survive the war is the “whodunnit” at the centre of Kate Furnivall’s compelling story – that and how they will manage to survive and escape the new terrors of the camp, where danger lurks around every corner, fuelled by the desperation of broken humanity. With the war over it is time to put the world back together, but is that possible when pain, hatred and mistrust still rule?
The plot cleverly plays with the reader’s sense of truth and lies as we search for the souls of our protagonists underneath their complex web of subterfuge. In the camp where 3200 people barely exist, Klara recognises a man who can destroy her and so a cat and mouse game begins. This Nazi has brazenly taken her brother’s name as his and seems to have fooled the authorities. But as the truth about their past together unfolds, it’s clear that Klara must kill this man if she and her daughter are ever to be free.
Kate Furnivall was inspired to write The Survivors by news pictures of “terrified Syrian refugees clinging to a capsized boat in rough seas off the coast of Italy. The image of a father on a beach holding his drowned daughter in his arms still haunts me,” she says. “The question of how we, as a civilised society, deal with the immense problem of international refugees is one that we all have to face. It was this that drove me to dig deeper.”
While the novel is fiction, the details of the chaos in Europe following the war were researched meticulously by Kate. “I spent hours scouring old photographs of the postwar era in Germany, seeing the cities reduced to rubble or a ragged child clutching a knob of bread for grim death, or faces lit from within by a grim determination to survive. The atmosphere they created for me was very vivid and intense.” The result is utterly pageturning and thrillingly plotted, but it’s also an important study of what humankind can and did do.