Publisher and Publication Date: March 7, 2019. Neem Tree Press.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Source: I received a complimentary copy, but was not required to leave a positive review.
Audience: History readers of post World War II East Germany.
Rating: Very good.
The book was first published as Fremde Zeichen in 2013.
The translation to English is by Douglas Irving, 2019.
Link to the blog tour: https://www.hfvirtualbooktours.com/distantsignsblogtour/
The book is not available in Kindle. The Hardcover was published March 7, 2019. The paperback was published November 21, 2019.
About the Author:
Anne Richter was born in 1973 in Jena, in the former German Democratic Republic. Her degree in Romance languages and English included study periods in England, Italy and France. In 2011, Anne was nominated for the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize, a highly regarded German-language literary award. Her debut novel, Distant Signs, was published in Germany in 2013. Anne is currently writing her second novel.
Douglas Irving is Scottish. He studied German and Spanish at Aberdeen University. In 2014, he completed a Masters in Translation at Glasgow University. His first translation, Crossing: A Love Story by Anna Seghers was published in 2016 in the US to positive reviews. His translation of Anna Seghers’ last work published in her lifetime, Three Women from Haiti, is set to follow.
Distant Signs is an intimate portrait of two families spanning three generations amidst turbulent political change, behind and beyond the Berlin Wall. In 1960s East Germany, Margret, a professor’s daughter from the city, meets and marries Hans, from a small village in Thuringia. The couple struggle to contend with their different backgrounds, and the emotional scars they bear from childhood in the aftermath of war. As East German history gradually unravels, with collision of the personal and political, their two families’ hidden truths are quietly revealed. An exquisitely written novel with strongly etched characters that stay with you long after the book is finished and an authentic portrayal of family life behind the iron curtain based on personal experience of the author who is East German and was 16 years old at the fall of the Berlin Wall. Why do families repeat destructive patterns of behaviour across generations? Should the personal take precedence over the political? Can we rise above our histories and political identities to forge a new understanding of the past and to welcome change?
My first thought about Distant Signs is character study. This is a book strong in a character study of the protagonists.
The protagonists or main characters:
Sonja, Hans and Margret’s daughter
Johanna, Margret’s mother
Friedrich, Margret’s father
Lene, Han’s mother
Erwin, Hans’s father
The thoughts behind the characters are shared. So, I’m privy to the layers of thoughts and feelings behind the words and actions. However, there is an absence of completeness. What I mean is the characters don’t fully complete the thought pattern behind the feeling. So, if there is a feeling of sadness, that sadness is not addressed but pushed back. Each of them are affected by World War II. Even the family members who were born afterwards. Those who were living during the war are emotional vacuums. It’s a topic they don’t want to discuss, but its presence is like an elephant in the room. The people don’t feel the freedom to express what they really need to express. And, it’s possible they don’t know how. Yet, there is deep anger and sadness. Instead, they are stoic or detached. Needs and desires are stifled. Sometimes they don’t even look at one another, their eyes shift away to another object.
My second thought is Distant Signs showed me the shifting political ideology of the people. From the National Socialist German Workers’ Party or Nazi Party, to the German Democratic Republic or Communism. It’s interesting how people justify what role they portrayed in the war.
Distant Signs is a sad book with a glimpse of hope. I wanted to make this last point, because most readers want a book to have a positive conclusion.
Giveaway: This blog does not host giveaways. The giveaway is coordinated by another blog. Good Luck!
During the Blog Tour, we are giving away a copy of A Distant Signs by Anne Richter! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.
– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on November 29th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Paperback giveaway is open internationally.
– Only one entry per household.
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– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.
Direct Link to the giveaway: https://gleam.io/j4uyi/distant-signs