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A heart-wrenching love story for the ages – inspired by true events
Eastern Prussia, 1944: Young lovers Annie and Werner are separated from each other when he is drafted into Hitler’s Volkssturm. While the SS orders Werner to remove the dead bodies of frozen refugees from Königsberg’s streets, Annie discovers she is pregnant. As she urgently awaits Werner’s return, rumors of the advancing Red Army mount and with it, alarming reports of what they do to women. Running for their lives, Annie and her mother embark on a life-threatening journey west. Even before they can escape by boat, Annie makes a horrifying mistake, one that will haunt her forever. Werner, arrested and imprisoned in a Russian gulag, manages to escape after four months of cruelty and returns home. But his and Annie’s farms lie abandoned—the love of his life and his own family have vanished…
East Berlin, 1989: On the evening of November 9, when the borders between East and West Berlin open for the first time in nearly thirty years—a day which ultimately heralds Germany’s reunification—Annie watches a correspondent on West TV who reminds her of her childhood sweetheart Werner, the man she has thought dead for 45 years. Together with her daughter Emma, Annie sets out on a search...
“Did you hear?” he asks.
“You have to leave?”
“Hitler calls it the People’s Storm. We’re supposed to dig fortifications to keep the Russians out. At least that’s what the rumor says.” He shrugs, his eyes a bit wild. “We’ll travel in the morning.”
Something icy balls itself in my stomach. Until now, I figured that the war would eventually pass, that Hitler would see reason and finish. It’s been going on so long, but except for the bombing in July it’s always been other places, always farther east in Russia or in the west. “What about school?” I say just to say something.
Werner grimaces. “Mayor Wander says the Russian Army has come across the border, that it’s too dangerous. He wants all our families to leave the area.”
I stare at my best friend. “Where would we go?”
“No idea. I doubt Mother is willing to leave our horses.”
The school bell rings a second time and the principal appears and yells at us to head for home. But the throng of us is moving slowly, reluctantly. Who needs rules when the world stands on its head?
Werner turns his head toward the line of bikes, then takes my hand. “I’ve got to hurry and tell Mother.”
4 out of 5 (very good)
THE SCENT OF A STORM is the second book by this author I have read, and gave me the authentic feel I got from the first. This is based upon real events that made it into the history books.
One thing that seems easy to forget is not everyone in Germany thought Hitler was doing the right thing; not everyone belonged to the SS. This book paints the picture of what it was like for those who tried to live as best they could, before they were unwillingly drawn into the middle of events that would change their lives forever.
The hardships told in this book sound like fiction; terrible, horrible fiction, which makes it even harder to understand when you realise circumstances like those mentioned were 'normal'.
Whilst the whole book is brilliantly written, I preferred it when Annie and Werner were young, even though the conditions were heart-breaking. When it changed to the more recent time, I felt like I'd lost something. That is the way of war, I guess. I just wanted more than I received.
For anyone with an interest in the history of WWII, especially if you are interested in the German perspective, then this is definitely one for your bookshelves. Highly recommended by me.
* A copy of this book was provided to me with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book, and the comments here are my honest opinion. *
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Annette Oppenlander is an award-winning writer, literary coach and educator. As a bestselling historical novelist, Oppenlander is known for her authentic characters and stories based on true events, coming alive in well-researched settings. Having lived in Germany the first half of her life and the second half in various parts in the U.S., Oppenlander inspires readers by illuminating story questions as relevant today as they were in the past.
Oppenlander’s bestselling true WWII story, Surviving the Fatherland, received multiple nominations/awards. The recently translated German version received the silver Skoutz Award 2020. Uniquely, Oppenlander weaves actual historical figures and events into her plots, giving readers a flavor of true history while enjoying a good story.
Oppenlander shares her knowledge through writing workshops at colleges, libraries, festivals and schools. She also offers vivid presentations and author visits. The mother of fraternal twins and a son, she recently returned to her home, Solingen, Germany where she lives with her husband.
2017 National Indie Excellence Award
2017 Winner Chill with a Book Readers’ Award
2017 Kindle Book Awards Finalist
2017 Discovered Diamond Historical Novel
2018 Indie B.R.A.G. Award
2018 Readers’ Favorite Book Award—Bronze
2019 Global eBook Award—Gold
2020 Skoutz Award—Silver
IWIC Hall of Fame Novel