“A powerful and compelling story of two families torn apart by evil”
- Book: The Gathering Storm (The Sturmtaucher Trilogy Book 1)
- Location: Kiel
- Author: Alan Jones
First off! Can I only reiterate what so many other readers have already said – Please, please, please, don’t be put off by the number of pages in this book!
I am definitely one of the world’s worst for reading ‘chunkster’ books, but this one is worth it, 100% guaranteed. Although you do need to ‘clear the decks’ and make plenty of time to read it at a leisurely pace, in order to fully appreciate the amazing range and depth of the storyline, narrative and writing style.
Every once in a while, you come across a book which is truly exceptional and any review I can possibly write, even one which honestly comes from the heart, can’t possibly hope to even scratch the surface in doing true justice to The Gathering Storm, which is undoubtedly a real tour de force.
Being of a certain age demographic, this pre WWII period in Hitler’s Germany, was a staple part of my World History curriculum at school, where the events and data were learned rote and almost devoid of any real context, so long as you could remember them for exam time. Oh! how I wish this book had been available as part of the required reading schedule, as the entire period would have been brought to life so wonderfully and cohesively, that I might have gone on to further studies. I had forgotten just how relatively slowly and deliberately each individual decree was issued, which each time further eroded the rights of anyone not deemed fit to continue living as part of this superior Aryan race. Seven long and torturous years seemed an age when condensed into a mere 800 pages, but it must have seemed like a lifetime to all those living daily on the marginalised edges of an ever increasingly single minded society, never knowing where the axe would fall next.
This fantastic blend of fact and fiction is almost perfectly seamless, so that it is difficult to tell where one stops and the other begins, as history is inspirationally brought to life within its pages. The meticulous research and attention to detail is phenomenal and must have taken so many painstaking hours to complete and compile into a chronologically correct timeline of events, which is then knitted into the very fabric of a family saga of monumental proportions. It brings together a dark, troubling and shameful period of our modern history and gives it life, as seen through the eyes of the extremists, the moderates and the persecuted, who will all have their own personal perspectives about the unfolding atrocities and tides of change, inexorably heaped upon a nation by a cold, methodically calculating, dictator. Whilst the story throws the spotlight not only on the almost complete and total annihilation of all minority races within Germany, it also shows how events not only divided a country, but how they also had the potential to fracture and damage friendships and even tear family relationships apart, as individuals are forced to choose their sides in this terrible internal conflict, which spreads like a poison and holds almost everyone within its grip, as the country hurtles headlong towards war with the rest of Europe.
This tragic, multi-faceted storyline is a beautifully structured, powerfully presented, piece of cultural, social and historic writing, which is highly textured, desperately intense, rich in atmosphere and ever evolving. The chapters are kept short and every word is made to count. The narrative is focussed yet highly detailed, sharp and punchy. The dialogue is expressive and packed full of raw emotion. Perceptive and compelling this immersive, almost claustrophobic story is definitely very three dimensional, as it is plot and character driven in equal measure, whilst attaining the added awareness of a genuine sense of time and place. The story is almost exclusively told in ‘real time’ 1930s, however there are a handful of ‘fast forward’ moments to 2001, when snippets of conversations with the character of Ruth Nussbaum, now living in England, are interspersed, as her own reminiscences of the times are also deftly woven into the narrative of the story. I would urge you to check out the real-life Ruth Nussbaum, whose own life in some ways mirrored that of her fictional counterpart, she was definitely an inspirational individual.
Alan has created a cast of characters who have been allowed a loud voice to drive and completely own this storyline, with just the lightest of occasional guiding touches. They were all so well defined and developed, that although often complex, vulnerable and emotionally raw; they were always authentic, genuinely believable, and easy to relate to and invest in.
Author, Alan Jones, ‘cut his writing teeth’ on some very gritty and disturbing stand alone thrillers and whilst part of me is willing him not to give up on that genre completely, I can see how invested he has become in this full bodied saga storyline, which must have taken him over heart and soul during the writing … Either way, he is always going to be on my ‘go to’ author list.
What makes reading such a wonderful experience for me, are the books which can take me on a unique and individual journey. So I recommend that you read The gathering Storm for yourself and see where it leads you. You won’t be disappointed!!