Monday 8 May 2017

TOUCHING The WIRE by Rebecca Bryn

Amazon UK £1.99 £7.99
Amazon US $2.46 $9.50
Amazon CA $16.35

Auschwitz Poland

"In a death camp in 1940’s Poland, a young doctor and one of his nurses struggle to save lives and relieve the suffering of hundreds of women. As their relationship blossoms, amid the death and deprivation, they join the camp resistance and, despite the danger of betrayal, he steals damning evidence of war-crimes. Afraid of repercussions, and for the sake of his post-war family, he hides the evidence but hard truths and terrible choices haunt him, as does an unkept promise to his lost love. "

Touching The Wire is an excellent novel for the quality of the writing, the complexity of the plot and the depth of the characters. The subject matter is the unspeakable horrors perpetrated in central Europe between 1940 and 1945. The theme is forgiveness.

Not that either I or Ms Bryn would dare to suggest that those responsible for such inhumanity deserve forgiveness. But it is possible, even necessary, to believe that among those who were motivated by pure evil there were some who hated what they were doing.

Given that context, it is inevitable that some of the passages in this book are painful to read. Ms Bryn's novel covers a particularly disturbing aspect of the activities in the camps: the medical experiments conducted by the evil Dr Mengele.

Ms Bryn does not hold back from describing the inhuman cruelty to be found in the nightmare surroundings of Auschwitz. Her novel is told in two parts. In the first section a man who collaborated in those experiments is living under an assumed identity in England in the late 1970s and early 1980s. We follow him as he remembers his previous life and prepares clues he hopes will reveal the truth.

The second part is set in the present day as his 40 year old grand-daughter follows those clues. The way Ms Bryn has constructed these clues will delight anyone who loves cryptic puzzles. This section also includes a failing marriage and the flowering of new love. It ends with yet more harrowing revelations about the experiments as the unravelled clues reveal the truth.

Reading fantasy horrors, watching zombie movies, even viewing the horrors of modern warfare all too easily dulls our senses, so it is surely the duty of the writer of historical fiction to remind readers of the real horrors endured by ordinary people. In Touching The Wire Ms Bryn has done just that. Her book is, rightly, dedicated “to the memory ... of all those who have suffered at the hand of tyranny.”

This is a work of fiction, but the depiction of real events is all too believable. It is a novel which aims to answer the question “must we live our lives plagued with guilt, or can we find the strength to forgive ourselves?” Forgiveness is necessary for peace of mind. To forget is to demean the sacrifice of those who endured the inconceivable realities of the past.

A harrowing read, but for all that, a very good one.

© Frank Parker

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