Shadows and Wings

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This beautiful story of family and history is told in three main parts. The first part follows young Lara as she grows up in rural Australia. We see her explore the wilderness with her sister and deal with life’s first hard truths, the ones that put an end to the childhood world of total beauty and possibility. The carefully selected, beautifully told snippets of an early life reveal two main facts: Lara’s Opa (grandfather) is her rock, and knowledge of the Holocaust caused Lara’s first realization of evil. When she was seven, she accidentally saw a clip of a documentary showing endless bodies being pushed into a mass grave, and that image, understandably, haunted her for years. It comes as a great shock, then, when, years later at her Opa’s funeral, these two truths come crashing together, and Lara discovers that her wonderful, loving grandpa may have been an SS officer.

Thus begins the second part of the story, the beautiful, heartbreaking tale of Tomas Müller (Opa) as he grows up in a small village amidst the first whisperings of the Nazi Party. It follows him as he moves to Berlin and as the war sweeps the country, changing everything.

Tomas’s story is the heart of the novel. It feels so real, so alive, that every fear and disappointment he experiences is felt in kind by the reader. After the emotionally wrecking story of Tomas, Lara’s search for information about her Opa feels subdued, less vivid. This is not because the writing falters or the story lacks anything. It is just that pre-war and wartime Germany and all of the turmoil (political and emotional) are so expertly portrayed that anything following would seem less evocative. Tomas’s story is so profound, so utterly powerful, that any other story would feel flatter afterwards. Still, Lara’s exploration of Germany and intensity of feeling as she searches for the truth are powerful in their own way, and this third act makes the story feel complete.

This book is an amazing piece of art. Tulk perfectly captures such a range of human experiences and to such a depth that it left me reeling. The storytelling is quiet and literary, the delicate, intricate sentences so adept at conjuring the exact image or feeling they seek that they almost disappear. This book is so tender, so raw, and yet indescribably lovely. Shadows & Wings is absolute magic.

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Star Count 4.5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 396 pages
Publisher Small House Press
Publish Date 01-Apr-2013
ISBN 9780985842802 Buy this Book
Issue July 2013
Category Modern Literature


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