Cover image for The aftermath
Title:
The aftermath
Publication Information:
New York : Vintage Books, a division of Random House LLC, 2014.
ISBN:
9780307948571
Physical Description:
340 pages ; 21 cm
Language:
English
Abstract:
Set in post-war Germany, the international bestseller The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook is a stunning emotional thriller about our fiercest loyalties and our deepest desires. In the bitter winter of 1946, Rachael Morgan arrives with her only remaining son Edmund in the ruins of Hamburg. Here she is reunited with her husband Lewis, a British colonel charged with rebuilding the shattered city. But as they set off for their new home, Rachael is stunned to discover that Lewis has made an extraordinary decision: they will be sharing the grand house with its previous owners, a German widower and his troubled daughter. In this charged atmosphere, enmity and grief give way to passion and betrayal.
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Summary

Summary

Set in post-war Germany, the international bestseller The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook is a stunning emotional thriller about our fiercest loyalties and our deepest desires. In the bitter winter of 1946, Rachael Morgan arrives with her only remaining son Edmund in the ruins of Hamburg. Here she is reunited with her husband Lewis, a British colonel charged with rebuilding the shattered city. But as they set off for their new home, Rachael is stunned to discover that Lewis has made an extraordinary decision: they will be sharing the grand house with its previous owners, a German widower and his troubled daughter. In this charged atmosphere, enmity and grief give way to passion and betrayal.


Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Postwar Hamburg is the backdrop for British writer Brook's (The Testimony of Taliesin Jones) emotionally charged third novel, which is inspired by his family history. British Col. Lewis Morgan is stationed in the German city in 1946. He requisitions a house for his family, but instead of casting out its German owners (the standard procedure), he allows them to remain. Brook's chilling observations of Hamburg's defeated inhabitants and "the fantastic destruction that lay all around" are unnerving and riveting. "Feral" children, he writes, beg for cigarettes and chocolates, and "Rubble Runners" clean up the remains of bombed-out buildings in exchange for food vouchers. But the novel's smaller stage-the home that Morgan; his wife, Rachael; and their son, Edmund, share with Stefan Lubert and his daughter, Freda-tells the bigger story. The blended families are uncomfortable with their new relationship, and the toxic effects of unassuaged grief for lost love ones complicates the situation. Fans of WWII-era historical fiction will be drawn to this novel. First printing of 75,000. Agent: Stephanie Cabot, Gernert Company. (Sept. 17) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Guardian Review

In Hamburg just after the war, the denazification process carried out by the occupying powers entailed the filling-in of a 133-question fragebogen that would determine the degree of a German citizen's collaboration with the regime. "From this they were categorised into three colour-coded groups - black, grey or white, with intermediate shades for clarity - and despatched accordingly." Colonel Lewis Morgan arrives in this world of shattered buildings and broken spirits charged with overseeing the reconstruction in the British zone. He has an idealistic, forgiving nature, seeing the Germans as a people crushed first by Hitler, then by the allied pounding of their cities. The strength of this novel lies in its superb management of the various lines of narrative tension, alongside a painfully clear portrait of Germany in defeat, conjuring surprise after surprise as it shows how the forces of politics and history penetrate even the most intimate moments of its characters' emotional lives. By the end they are exposed, and the new Germany is glimpsed, just visible beyond the piles of rubble. - Gerard Woodward In Hamburg just after the war, the denazification process carried out by the occupying powers entailed the filling-in of a 133-question fragebogen that would determine the degree of a German citizen's collaboration with the regime. "From this they were categorised into three colour-coded groups - black, grey or white, with intermediate shades for clarity - and despatched... - Gerard Woodward.


Kirkus Review

The ruins of postWorld War II Germany provide the complicated emotional background to a sensitive but inconsistent story exploring the fallout from epic catastrophe and loss. Like Sadie Jones in Small Wars, Brook (The Testimony of Taliesin Jones, 2001, etc.) approaches history through the differing experiences of a married couple. British colonel Lewis Morgan has been so immersed in war that he has scarcely grieved the loss of his elder son. Now appointed governor of Pinneberg, in the fire-bombed city of Hamburg, and reunited with wife Rachael and younger son Edmund after a 17-month separation, Lewis is billeted in a luxurious art-deco mansion, saving its owner, cultured German architect Stefan Lubert, from eviction by allowing him and his rebellious daughter to live in an upstairs apartment. Rachael, still consumed by grief and "fragile nerves," responds icily to Lubert, at first. Meanwhile, the British, trying to put Germany back on its feet while weeding out the Nazis, are caught between pressure from Russia and the struggle to satisfy the expectations of a victorious but exhausted nation at home. This promising scenario, drawn in part from family history, offers Brook the opportunity for insight and empathy in Lewis, but elsewhere, the psychology and plot developments are patchier. The open-ended conclusion could conceivably lead to a sequel. Uneven storytelling fails to do justice to a fascinating moment in history.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

This precisely written novel is loosely based on events in which the English author's forebears were involved. In the immediate aftermath of WWII, as the victorious Allies partition and independently administer a Germany in ruins, English Army Colonel Lewis Morgan, joined by his wife, Rachael, and young child, Edmund, is assigned to take over the luxurious Hamburg home of Stefan Lubert and his teenage daughter, Freda. Rather than displacing them, Morgan generously, though inexplicably, encourages them to stay on and live upstairs, sharing the capacious residence. This is an uneasy arrangement, exacerbated by domestic stress and war-related bitterness: Rachael and Freda still harbor deep resentments, having lost in the bombings, respectively, a son and a mother. Further, the devastated North Sea city is home not only to the occupying British and the defeated, not always clear (of Nazi taint) Germans, but also to feral children roaming the streets, and members of a group ironically characterizing itself as the Resistance, those who have not yet admitted defeat. In this unique historical novel, Brook plays these elements out dramatically and, for the most part, credibly.--Levine, Mark Copyright 2010 Booklist


Library Journal Review

If ever there was an apt title! The German city of Hamburg lies in ruins in 1946 in the aftermath of a bombing firestorm wrought three years earlier by the RAF. Col. Lewis Morgan, with the British occupying force in postwar Germany, is in charge of reconstruction of the city and the de-Nazification program. He has been billeted in a luxurious villa on the Elbe. His wife, Rachel, is shocked when she arrives from England with their teenage son, Edmund, to learn that her husband has allowed the owner of the villa, a widowed German architect, to cohabit there along with his teenage daughter. Rachel is inconsolable owing to a recent family tragedy-the death of their older son in a German bombing raid-and bitterly resents the presence of the German and his daughter in her new home. As time passes the increasingly strained relations between Germans and Brits take several utterly surprising turns. Verdict Basing the novel on a true story from Brook's (The Testimony of Taliesin Jones) family history, the author conveys with sensitivity and compassion the horrific plight of Germans immediately after World War II and the clashing and meshing of cultures as the British take over their occupation zone. Highest recommendation for anyone who enjoys a scathingly honest tale well told. [See Prepub Alert, 3/25/13.]-Edward Cone, New York. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

"We've found a house for you, sir." Captain Wilkins stubbed out his cigarette and placed his yellowed finger on the map of Hamburg that was pinned to the wall behind his desk. He traced a line west from the pinhead marking their temporary headquarters, away from the bombed-out districts of Hammerbrook and St. Georg, over St. Pauli and Altona, towards the old fishing suburb of Blankenese, where the Elbe veered up and debouched into the North Sea. The map--pulled from a pre-war German guidebook--failed to show that these conurbations were now a phantom city comprised only of ash and rubble. "It's a bloody great palace by the river. Here." Wilkins's finger circled the crook at the end of the Elbchaussee, the road running parallel to the great river. "I think it'll be to your taste, sir." The word belonged to another world: a world of surplus and civil comfort. In the last few months, Lewis's tastes had narrowed to a simple checklist of immediate and basic needs: 2,500 calories a day, tobacco, warmth. "A bloody great palace by the river" suddenly seemed to him like the demand of a frivolous king. "Sir?" Lewis had "gone off " again; off into that unruly parliament inside his head, a place where, more and more, he found himself in hot debate with colleagues. "Isn't there someone living in it already?" Wilkins wasn't sure how to respond. His CO was a man of excel- lent repute with an impeccable war record, but he seemed to have these quirks, a way of seeing things differently. The young captain resorted to reciting what he had read in the manual: "These people have little moral compass, sir. They are a danger to us and to them- selves. They need to know who is in charge. They need leadership. A firm but fair hand." Lewis nodded and waved the captain on, saving his words. The cold and the calories had taught him to ration these. "The house belongs to a family called Lubert. Loo-bear-t. Hard 'T.' The wife died in the bombings. Her family were bigwigs in the food trade. Connections with Blohm and Voss. They also owned a series of flour mills. Herr Lubert was an architect. He's not been cleared yet but we think he's a probable white or, at worst, an acceptable shade of grey; no obvious direct Nazi connections." "Bread." "Sir?" Lewis had not eaten all day and had taken the short leap from "flour mill" to bread without thinking; the bread he pictured in his head was suddenly more present, more real, than the captain stand- ing at the map on the other side of the desk. "Go on--the family." Lewis made an effort to look as if he was listening, nodding and setting his jaw at an inquisitive tilt. Wilkins continued: "Lubert's wife died in '43. In the firestorm. One child--a daughter. Freda, fifteen years old. They have some staff--a maid, a cook and a gardener. The gardener is a first-rate handyman--ex-Wehrmacht. The family have some relatives they can move in with. We can billet the staff, or you can take them on. They're clean enough." The process by which the soul-sifters of the Control Commis-sion's Intelligence Branch assessed cleanliness was the Fragebogen, or questionnaire: 133 questions to determine the degree of a German citizen's collaboration with the regime. From this, they were categorized into three colour-coded groups--black, grey and white, with intermediate shades for clarity--and dispatched accordingly. "They're expecting the requisition. It's just a matter of you viewing the place then turfing them out. I don't think you'll be disappointed, sir." "You think they will be disappointed, Captain?" "They?" "The Luberts? When I turf them out." "They're not allowed the luxury of disappointment, sir. They're Germans." "Of course. How silly of me." Lewis left it there. Any more such questions and this efficient young officer with his shiny Sam Browne and perfect puttees would have him reported to Psychiatric. He stepped from the overheated British Military Detachment Headquarters into the premature cold of a late-September day. He blew vapour and pulled on the kid gloves that Captain McLeod, the American cavalry officer, had given him in the town hall at Bremen the day the Allies had announced the division lines of the new Germany. "Looks like you get the bum deal," he had said, reading the directive. "The French get the wine, we get the view and you guys get the ruins." Lewis had lived among the ruins for so long now he had stopped noticing them. His uniform was fitting garb for a governor in this new, quadripartite Germany--a kind of internationalized mufti which, in the midst of post-war disorientation and re-regulation, passed without comment. The American gloves were prized but it was his Russian-front sheepskin coat that gave him the most pleasure, its provenance traceable back via the American to a Luftwaffe lieutenant who had, in turn, taken it from a captured Red Army colonel. He'd be wearing it soon enough if this weather kept up. It was a relief to get away from Wilkins. The young officer was one of the new brigade of civil servants that made up the Control Commission, Germany, a bloated force of clipboard men who saw themselves as the architects of the reconstruction. Few of these people had seen action--or even a German--and this allowed them to pronounce and theorize their way to decisions with confidence. Wilkins would make major before long. Lewis took a silver-plated cigarette case from his coat and opened it, catching the light from the sun on its clear, buffed surface. He polished it regularly. The case was the only material treasure he had with him, a parting gift from Rachael given to him at the gates of the last proper house he'd lived in--in Amersham, three years ago. "Think of me when you smoke" was her instruction, and this he had tried to do, fifty, sixty times a day for three years; a little ritual to keep the flame of love alive. He lit a cigarette and thought about that flame. With distance and time it had been easy to make it seem hotter than it was. The remembrance of their lovemaking and of his wife's olive-smooth, curvy flesh had sustained him through the cold and lonely months (her flesh seemingly growing smoother and curvier as the war went by). But he had grown so comfortable with this imagined, ersatz version of his wife that the imminent prospect of actually touching and smelling her unsettled him. A sleek black Mercedes 540K with a British pennant on the bon- net pulled up in front of the steps of the headquarters. The Union Jack at the wing mirror was the only thing that looked out of place. Despite its associations, Lewis liked this vehicle, its lines and the silky purr of its engine. It was appointed like an ocean-going liner, and the ultra-careful driving style of his driver--Herr Schroeder-- added to the impression of it being like a ship. No amount of British insignia could de-Germanize this car, though. British military personnel were built for the bumbling, bulbous Austin 16, not these brute-beautiful, world-conquering machines. Lewis walked down the steps and gave his driver a half-salute. Schroeder, a reedy, unshaven man wearing a black cap and cape, leapt from the driver's seat and walked briskly round to the rear passenger door. He bowed once in Lewis's direction and, with a flourish of his cape, opened the door. "The front seat is fine, Herr Schroeder." Schroeder seemed agitated at Lewis's self-demotion. "Nein, Herr Kommandant." "Really. Sehr gut," Lewis repeated. "Bitte, Herr Oberst." Schroeder clunked the rear door shut and held up a hand, still not wanting Lewis to lift a finger. Lewis stepped back, playing the game, but the German's deference depressed him: these were the motions of a defeated man clinging to patronage. Inside, Lewis handed Schroeder the scrap of paper on which Wilkins had scribbled the address of the house that was probably going to be his home for the foreseeable future. The driver squinted at it and nodded his approval of the destination. Schroeder was forced to steer a weaving course between the bomb craters that pocked the cobbled road and the rivulets of people walking in dazed, languid fashion, going nowhere in particular, carrying the remnant objects of their old lives in parcels, sacks, crates and cartons, and a heavy, almost visible, disquiet. They were like a people thrown back to the evolutionary stage of nomadic gatherers. The ghost of a tremendous noise hung over the scene. Something out of this world had undone this place and left an impossible jig- saw from which to reconstruct the old picture. There was no put- ting it back together again and there would be no going back to the old picture. This was Stunde Null. The Zero Hour. These people were starting from scratch and scratching a living from nothing. Two women pushed and pulled a horse cart stacked with furniture between them, while a man carrying a briefcase walked along as though in search of the office where he once worked without even a glance at the fantastic destruction that lay all around him, as if this apocalyptic architecture were the natural state of things. A smashed city stretched as far as the eye could see, the rubble reaching as high as the first floor of any building still standing. Hard to believe that this was once a place where people read newspapers, made cakes and thought about which pictures to hang on the walls of their front parlours. The facade of a church stood on one side of the road, with only sky for stained glass and the wind for a congregation. On the other side, apartment blocks--intact except for the fronts, which had been completely blown off, revealing the rooms and furniture within--stood like giant doll's houses. In one of these rooms, oblivious to the elements and exposure to watching eyes, a woman stood lovingly brushing a young girl's hair in front of a dressing table. Further along the road, women and children stood around piles of rubble, scavenging for sustenance or looking to save fragments of their past. Black crosses marked the places where bodies lay waiting to be buried. And, everywhere, the strange pipe-chimneys of a subterranean city protruded from the ground, pouring black smoke into the sky. Excerpted from The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.