The Gathering Storm: book review


The Gathering Storm examines the impact of the Holocaust on the sailor family, the Kastners and their valued servants, the Nussbaums of the city of Kiel. An engaging read, says Julia Jones

The Gathering Storm (Sturmtaucher Trilogy vol1)

Alan Jones

Ailsa editions 17,99 €

The coming storm is the first volume of a history of the Holocaust.

It takes place in Kiel and covers the years 1933-1940, from the appointment of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of Germany, to the eve of the Weserübung, the invasions of Denmark and Norway from April 1940 .

By then it had become clear that there was no place in Germany for its Jewish population and no safe place to go, if they hadn’t already left.

The atrocities in Poland were systematically organized and a sickening fact. The novel also conveys the brutality of the authors

The strength of The coming storm is his description of the slow and shocking development of inhumanity that leads seemingly decent people to condone attempted genocide.

The story takes place in Kiel, a city small and special enough for neighbor to be drawn up knowingly.

The two families at its heart are the high-ranking Kastners and their valued servants the Nussbaums.

Their existences are intertwined, symbolizing the dependence of one class and people on another, but that doesn’t force credulity to accept that they are friends too.

Kiel is important as a port city and center for shipbuilding because the Kreigsmarine waives the limitations imposed by the Treaty of Versailles.

It is also a city with its own hierarchies of municipal and military life; far enough from Berlin to have the illusion of controlling one’s own affairs – although that is just an illusion.

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The author makes good use of the editorial messages of the city newspaper to illustrate the creeping evil that will lead to previously unimaginable crimes against the Jewish population and the betrayal of individual bonds of trust and affection.

The mix of reality and fiction is handled well, with all the characters feeling believable, whether they are “real” like Admiral Canaris, leader of the Abwehr, or “imaginary” like the central character, General Erich Kastner. (whose name, I suppose, is borrowed from the author of the children’s classic Emil and the detectives.)

Kastner is a good man unable to escape involvement in increasingly terrible events.

He and his family also enjoy sailing and it is lucky for him that he can get out on the water once in a while in one of those slender and handsome racing yachts that graced the pre-war Baltic .

The coming storm is a big book in every sense of the word: 746 pages of ostensibly small characters covering a relatively small number of characters gradually developing over a number of years.

Physically and imaginatively, this is not comfortable reading.

The descent into horror feels intimate and somehow inescapable.

The atrocities are powerfully portrayed as the storm of evil begins to erupt. When could each individual have said STOP?

The second and third volumes of the trilogy have already been published, equally voluminous but covering shorter periods.

A narrative of this size is a big commitment that some readers will find daunting and others an immersive experience for the summer months ahead.

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