All The Broken Places by John Boyne
When does guilt by association end? In this heart-wrenching sequel to The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, 91 year old Gretel Fernsby has been running and hiding for the past 70 years. This novel is told in the first person, from Gretel’s viewpoint, and flips back and forth from current day Mayfair London to various events in her life including the days immediately following on from The Boy.
The reader is rewarded by the beautifully paced story telling. As each chapter unfolds, the reader pieces together Gretel’s real identity, why she and her mother ran as the Nazi regime ended, why they changed identities, moved towns and countries to escape guilt by association. But Gretel hide a far darker secret from her parents (which explains an inconsistency in The Boy), of which she knew she was fully guilty and thought she could never atone.
Whilst the author advises he wrote the book during Dublin’s Covid lockdown, his research into Sydney’s Circular Quay setting, post war, appears spot on. As a local resident, one appreciates Mr Boyne’s historic and geographic accuracy when placing Gretel and her work friends in such an iconic location.
This reviewer believes this novel is a far superior story and telling than The Boy. The plot weaves through time, from WWII to 1950s Sydney and back to present day Mayfair. There are a couple of very surprising endings, a couple more very surprising revelations and all in all, a very satisfying full circle conclusion to The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.