Every year, I have one or two books that manage to touch me very deeply. They even manage to move me to tears and the story stays with me for a very long time. What Only We Know is one of those books.
What Only We Know
A door slammed and the unmistakable sound of boots came crashing up the hall. Liese held her little daughter’s hand so tightly, the tiny fingers had turned purple. The SS officer’s hand was at Liese’s throat before she saw him move. ‘I can kill you easily, then I can kill your daughter.’ He relaxed his grip a little. ‘Or perhaps I could kill her first?’
England, forty years later. When Karen Cartwright is unexpectedly called home to nurse her ailing father, she goes with a heavy heart. The house she grew up in feels haunted by the memory of her father’s closely guarded secrets about her beautiful dressmaker mother Elizabeth’s tragic suicide years before.
As she packs up the house, Karen discovers an old photograph and a stranger’s tattered love letter to her mother postmarked from Germany after the war.
During her life, Karen struggled to understand her shy, fearful mother, but now she is realising there was so much more to Elizabeth than she knew. For one thing, her name wasn’t even Elizabeth, and her harrowing story begins long before Karen was born.
It’s 1941 in Berlin, and a young woman called Liese is being forced to wear a yellow star…
A beautiful and gripping wartime story about family secrets and impossible choices in the face of terrible hardship. Perfect for fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, We Were the Lucky Ones and The Alice Network.
Catherine Hokin is a Glasgow-based author writing both long and short fiction. Her short stories have been placed in competition (including first prize in the 2019 Fiction 500 Short Story Competition) and published by iScot, Writers Forum and Myslexia. She blogs on the 22nd of each month as part of The History Girls collective.
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This, like many other WWII books, is a story of the resilience of people and the triumph of the human spirit over pain, bitterness and the dark horrors of war.
A parallel story to two women – modern day Karen trying to uncover the secrets of her mothers past and Liese who lived through terrifying reality of WWII in Berlin. The author moves seamlessly between the two times and stories.
The narrative, the characters and a most extraordinary story that kept me engaged from start to finish.
Buy What Only We Know
Thanks to Bookouture for inviting me to tour with them and giving me access to the book via NetGalley.