A once glamorous woman is on the run in British occupied Germany, in 1946. She is wanted for war crimes that she may have committed with her father, a owner of a steel factory in Essen. She was destined to take over the successful business and had shown great promise when she ran it in her father's absence. She pretends to be someone else: takes the name of a dead woman and changes her appearance as she decides to go back to her hometown where her mother and friends are.
The mystery of her past and why she is wanted gradually unravels in this story. During this we see the the wrecked homes and bodies of the war torn country, the horrors of survival and how people cling to or reject the Nazi philosophy. The question is which side Clara really falls on.
The viewpoint is mainly from Clara, but there is also the perspective of a fifteen year old boy. He is the most interesting character as he guards a disused mine, which acts as a supply store, with no one but his pet canary. He believes that the war is still on and doesn't realise how long he has been there. He guards the mine diligently and is not prepared to let anyone in. If they attempt anything they will be shot. His chapters are short and infrequent but always fascinating. There should be more from him.
The third viewpoint is from a one legged Russian soldier. Badly injured during the war his sole aim is to protect those of his family who are still alive - his two sisters, one of whom is pregnant. He works in the black market now. He meets up with Clara while she is on the run.
This is an interesting story about the immediate aftermath of the war. There are sections that are slow and cloying and hinting at becoming tale of romance, but it just about manages to pull itself out of that. Just.
Published by Random House UK, Cornerstone Hutchinson on 5 March 2020. Advanced review copy supplied by the publisher.
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