I was thrilled to recently read The Will to Succeed as it told a part of history almost forgotten. How lucky was I to read two great books that taught me about a part of history I didn’t in less than one month.
What Remains at the End by Alexandra Ford
Marie Kohler’s grandparents rarely spoke about their past, and now with the chance of
finding out the truth growing slimmer by the day, she travels to Europe to discover
what really happened. She uncovers an area of history forgotten by time and concealed
by unspoken truths. But how can what has been lost for so long be recovered in the face
of so many secrets?
In the aftermath of World War II, hundreds of thousands of Yugoslavia’s ethnic Germans, the Danube Swabians, were expelled by Tito’s Partisan regime. A further sixty-thousand were killed.
Seventy years later, Marie Kohler’s marriage is falling apart. She’s seeing someone new, an enigmatic man named David, who takes her to the former Yugoslavia to find the truth behind her grandparents’ flight to America.
Alternating between the late 1940s and contemporary Serbia, Marie’s story is interwoven
with those of Tito’s victims—a young survivor who has lost his mother and his identity, a
woman held captive in a sugar factory, a refugee girl living in Austria under the din of air raid sirens. Her journey follows the Danube in search of connection in the face of loss. Connection to the lost souls, to the memory of her grandfather, to the man beside her, to her grandmother suffering from Alzheimer’s back home.
What Remains at the End sheds light on a largely undocumented history that led to the ethnic cleansing of tens of thousands of Germans at the end of World War II. A story of war and suffering, of loss and the search for connection and identity, it is a heart-wrenching and important debut from Alexandra Ford.
How many of you actually knew about this period of history? Because I certainly didn’t. It was absolutely heartbreaking to discover the story of the Danube Swabians, although it is their story that makes this book worth reading.
What Remains at the End jumps between Marie in the present day, and, individually, her Opa and Oma’s back story. This type of back and forth is typical for a historical fiction novel but I found it a bit too jumpy between the storylines. It took a while for the entire thing to flow for me. However, once it did, I was enthralled.
Let it be known, though, I was enthralled by Marie’s grandparents’ stories, plus the individual stories of other Danube Swabians thrown into the mix. Marie herself, and also David, I didn’t really like. I found Marie to be selfish and David too controlling. I would have preferred less of their romantic story and more about Oma and Opa. I found myself a bit upset at not knowing more about them. Actually, the entire book itself feels unfinished in a way but there was a part of me that liked that. It felt like the author’s way of telling us that we must now go on and continue this part of history in our memory.
If you like learning about history via fiction, especially a part of history not really discussed, I totally recommend grabbing yourself a copy of What Remains at the End.
I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.