Nazi Germany provides the malevolent oxygen to a story of unrequited love, and lives tarnished by greed and loathing. The swastika becomes the symbol of social and familial disintegration as Martha Wiesberg sees her brother descend into a void of darkness.
As the plot transcends the Atlantic the arch dictator’s controlling characteristics are reflected on a smaller stage by Franz Montgomery, a German migrant determined to make his fortune in the land of dreams.
Fast forward 80 years though and we become embroiled in Maya’s struggle to unpick the mystery of her grandmother’s disappearance. A shared love of literature and the lure of faraway places had always bridged the generational divide but it’s a fairy tale that can potentially re-unite them or simply tear them apart.
The author delivers a light touch social and historical sweep through the twentieth century but complements the factual with a fictional narrative energised by suspense and underpinned by a tempo that gives both momentum and time for reflection.
Moving from the contemporary to the remembered, snippets of previous lives present questions marks, blind alleys and occasional shards of light but Maya is unrelenting in her determination to uncover the truth. By unravelling the past though she inevitably unearths deeply supressed memories that take the living back to a place that was deemed best forgotten.
The Montgomery Preserve is Franz’s life-work and though the landscape remains constant the lives of his immediate family become a façade of old word success disguising an emotional implosion that’s created a fissure through the brittle carapace of his hotel dynasty.
“Do for me what I couldn’t” were her grandmother’s parting words and Maya comes to realise that a life lived in the past brings only regret but a life lead in the present can bring love.