Spring Reading Week
It’s 1949 when Netta’s father Max is released from a Siberian POW camp and returns to his home in occupied Germany. But he is not the man the little girl is expecting – the brave, handsome doctor her mother Erika told her stories of. Erika too struggles to reconcile this withdrawn, volatile figure with the husband she knew and loved before, and, as she strives to break through the wall Max has built around himself, Netta is both frightened and jealous of this interloper in the previously cosy household she shared with her mother and doting grandparents. Now, if family life isn’t tough enough, it is about to get even tougher, when a murder sparks a police investigation, which begins to unearth dark secrets they all hoped had been forgotten.
Review: I would like to thank Rachel at Authorright for asking me to review this book. Rachel sent an email listing a range of books for Spring reading week for us to choice to review, ‘discover something new’ and I remember thinking why not? I decided to try The Watcher by Monika Jephcott Thomas a historical novel.
I was excited to read about life after war and how it had changed the family involved in this war veterans life.
It is well written and very deep, going into the thoughts and feelings of each character enable myself as the reader to really get to know the characters. You could really feel what the characters felt and picture their stories. It took me a little while getting into this story as the style of writing is different to what I have read recently but it in no way takes away from the greatness of this book.
I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it.
See below for an extract from the book.
About the Author:
Monika Jephcott Thomas grew up in Dortmund Mengede, north-west Germany. She moved to the UK in 1966, enjoying a thirty year career in education before retraining as a therapist. Along with her partner Jeff she established the Academy of Play & Child Psychotherapy in order to support the twenty per cent of children who have emotional, behavioural, social and mental health problems by using play and the creative Arts. A founder member of Play Therapy UK, Jephcott Thomas was elected President of Play Therapy International in 2002. In 2016 her first book Fifteen Words was published.
Netta was running for her life.
At least that’s how it felt when you were trying to outrun the boys. And she often did. She would much rather be charging around with Peter and Josef than sitting about chatting with Mia and Inge and swapping Glanzbilder with their soppy images of kittens in dresses and angel-faced children.etta was running for her life.
Josef was the son of Herr Ritter the school caretaker, whose entire family lived in the dingy basement under the school. Peter’s parents were both dead, he said. Now he had to live with his aunt – the witch who ran the sweetshop. No wonder the two of them couldn’t wait to run about the woods with Netta whenever they got the chance.
They had stood on the edge of the woods, fists in tight little balls, the way they had seen Olympic athletes stand in Peter’s magazine.
‘First one to the canal is the champion,’ he’d said.
‘Last one is a rotten egg,’ Josef had added.
Netta was smaller and younger than them both but there was no way she was going to be a rotten egg. Besides, this race was downhill nearly all the way, through the woods and out to the canal, which ran by her house. She was already as sure as she could be that she wouldn’t be last.
‘Ready, steady…’ Peter had said very slowly and everyone had slid their front foot through the grass a little hoping it wouldn’t be noticed.
Netta couldn’t bear to wait another half a second. ‘Go!’ she’d squealed and shot off with the boys complaining and running at the same time.
The complaining soon stopped as Peter and Josef needed all the breath they could get to speed them between the tree trunks, over the logs and under the branches. She heard their shoes getting closer and their panting like a couple of dogs. Then a yelp and a shiver of leaves told her one of them had fallen over. She didn’t dare look behind to find out which, in case she fell too. And then the ditch was before her and, with all the speed she’d gathered so far whooshing down the hill, she took off like a swallow and landed safely on the other side.
She heard Peter’s Wooo! and hoped that meant he was impressed by her jump over the ditch. But he was probably just enjoying his own little flight. And the thud on the ground behind her as he landed told her that was so.
Her little lungs were burning, her legs were like jelly, her ears were throbbing, but she broke through the tree line ahead of the boys and the canal was only yards away.
She had done it!
But what about stopping?
Winning was so important she hadn’t thought about what happened after, when your body kept going whether you wanted it to or not. When all the speed you had gathered from going downhill just kept you going straight into the water.
Peter and Josef were quick to help her out. They knew she couldn’t swim yet and her falling in the canal was just desserts enough for winning. They could tease her for it endlessly, but in order to do that, they had to save her life first.
The three wet kids slapped along the towpath in the grey afternoon back to the schoolhouse where they could use the communal showers. Netta’s family came here most evenings anyway to wash, as it was much bigger and better than the bathroom at home, which was so tiny you had to go in one at a time, so the wait could be forever.
The teasing started only a few yards down the path, but Netta was too proud of her win to be hurt and too interested in trying to work out who that was in the shadow of the trees by her house, staring at them as they passed.
But even the watcher was soon forgotten under a shower of liquid sunshine. Netta sat on the smooth blue tiles with the hot water pouring over her and she felt like a snowman melting. Peter had gone next door to ask Netta’s Oma for some dry clothes for her. He was glad her mama was too busy working in the surgery to be disturbed – she would be so much angrier about it, Peter thought, because her face always looked so serious.
After the shower, Josef had to stay in as it was nearly dinner time. Peter had to go too, so Netta had no choice but to walk home. She wasn’t ready to go inside yet, so she walked the short distance to next-door as if she were a snail.
It was funny how she could get so out of breath walking so slowly when she’d run all that way through the woods like an athlete. She looked at the yellow clouds above the trees as if she knew they were responsible, and that’s when she could have sworn she saw someone hiding there again. She started walking faster and fixed her eyes on the front door of her house up ahead. She heard a sound of leaves, a bit like when Josef had fallen during the race earlier, then footsteps heavier than hers were on the street behind her. And she ran for the door and hammered on it with all her might.
Her mother rushed from the surgery where she was finishing her notes for the day to answer the door in case it was an emergency.
‘What are you doing banging about like that?’ she said to the top of her daughter’s head as it rushed inside to the living room and the safety of the piano.
‘There was someone out there. They were hiding in the trees. Watching me. They were watching Peter and Josef and me earlier too and just now they started chasing after me.’
‘Who was watching you? Who was chasing you?’ her mama huffed, peering out into the empty street before closing the door.
‘Someone. I don’t know. I couldn’t see them.’ Netta began lightly fingering the keys. Their padded bounce was reassuring.
‘Well, if you couldn’t see them, they couldn’t have been that close, could they?’ her mama said going back to the surgery to finish her work.
‘Unless it was a ghost,’ Martha said poking her head in from the kitchen with a mischievous grin on her face, which was meant to distract and cheer up her granddaughter, but only served to frighten her further.
‘Did they make a sound? Did they speak at all?’ her father’s voice made her jump. She hadn’t even realised he was back from the Klinik already, sitting by the window, one of those blasted medical books on his lap. Yet since he was the only one who seemed to be taking her seriously she was happy to answer him.
‘No. They never spoke.’
‘Was it a man or a woman?’
‘I’m not sure.’ She wasn’t being much use and she didn’t want to disappoint him so she added, ‘A man, I think.’ Because who’d ever heard of the Bogey Woman?
‘Did you get a look at what they were wearing? Normal clothes or a uniform, like a soldier?’ he said, leaning forward.
This was the longest conversation she’d ever had with her father. This was the longest he had ever looked at her with such interest and concern. She didn’t want to ruin it by having nothing interesting to say. ‘It sounded like they…like he was wearing boots when he started to run after me.’
For more from Spring Reading week see below blogs where you can find more reviews.