Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Book Review: Restitution by Eliza Graham




Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Pan Macmillan (2009)
Pages: 391 (Paperback edition)
ISBN-10: 0230741886
ISBN-13: 978-0230741881









Synopsis: (From Eliza Graham's blog)

February 1945. Europe is in ruins and the Red Army is searing its way across Germany's eastern marches, revenging itself upon a petrified population. The war is over, but for some the fight for survival is only just beginning. Alix, the aristocratic daughter of a German resistance fighter, is desperate to flee before the Reds come. But when a ferocious snowstorm descends she is left alone and terrified.

First Line:

"Even now I don't like leaving the house on foggy days, though soldiers are unlikely to jump on me in Richmond."


These are the thoughts of Alix, an elderly lady who is nervously awaiting the arrival of her son who she hasn't seen since his adoption as a baby. During the visit, the inevitable question of who his father was sparks memories for Alix and we are then taken back to 1945 in Pomerania and the Red Army is advancing.............

This passage relates to Alix trapped in her house during the snowstorm (page 45):

The shutters rattled. The snow was blowing itself into a storm. Good. It would cover her footprints and slow down the Red Army. On the other hand, it might bring others here seeking shelter. She shouldn't be in this warm kitchen with its blue and white Dutch tiles above the stove, and the pots and pans hanging from the ceiling and reflecting the light of the gas lamp. She'd been a fool to come back, she should have obeyed Mami and kept on going west, no matter what. She'd promised and promises mattered, Papi had always told her that. Then, about a year ago, he'd shaken his head and said that therein lay the officer's dilemma. If you'd promised a monster that you'd serve him it was still a promise.


My Thoughts:

This was one of the most absorbing and thought-provoking books that I've read for a long time. Eliza Graham's simple and easy writing style kept me hooked throughout all the turbulant lives of all the characters - from South Tyrol in 1919 to London, England in 2002.

I felt emotionally drained at the end of it, having been every step of the way with Alix (a Baron's daughter) while her life and everything she knew and loved crumbled around her.

It was a love story, an heroic story, a sad story, also a story of hope and resilience.


I kept thinking how lucky we were (in England) that we didn't go through such a traumatic time and wondering how I would cope if I had to leave everything behind and start again. Truly a frightening thought! I marvelled at peoples ability to go on living and re-building their shattered lives in the face of such cruelty, but also some kindness still shone through.

The only minor negative that I would mention is of how the characters were introduced and how I was taken back and forth in time, I was quite confused by so many people, so many places and eras that it took me quite a while to really get into the book. But when it all 'clicked' I was hooked.


I would recommend it to anyone looking for a storyline that will draw you in and leave you breathless at the end.

Restitution is Eliza Graham's second novel - her debut novel Playing with the Moon was released in 2007 - my review here.






Special Thanks to Eliza Graham.

Comments and discussion welcome.

Also check out Juxtabooks review here

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