Hi and welcome to FromBelgiumWithBookLove!
Today I would like to chat about the Sturmtaucher Trilogy. This is set before and during the Second World War, told from the perspectives of a German military family and a Jewish family. The Jewish Nussbaums work for the “Aryan” Kästners, but since the men grew up together and now their kids are growing up together as well, they are much closer than the average employer-employee.
A while ago I posted a review for book 1, The Gathering Storm. Several raving reviews piqued my interest and I had wanted to read The Gathering Storm but it had also scared me because of its setting in WWII and, well, because big books scare me regardless of setting or genre. But I ended up adoring it and I bought the sequels immediately!
Still, I added those to my list of 2022 goals and challenges, thinking I might need the extra nudge to pick up the (even bigger) sequels despite how much I loved the first instalment. Then COVID hit and I found myself on the sofa, feeling like death warmed up, not enough energy to read or even watch TV, but still thinking about the Nussbaums and the Kästners. Would General Kästner get away with his rather anti-Nazi feelings in a Germany that was becoming more Nazi by the day? Would he be able to get the Nussbaum family to safety, would they survive? And would his own family survive his rather controversial views?
I had to know, I just had to. As soon as I felt up to it I picked up Flight of the Shearwater and in between naps and coughing fits I devoured it. Days later I did the same with The Turn of the Tide. I’m loath to go into detail about the storylines for fear of spoilers, just know that both these books are absolutely riveting. As the families are torn apart, the story goes from one character to the next and I couldn’t stop reading, I needed to know how they were all getting on.
This entire trilogy is fantastic, it’s an absolute triumph. They are big books but not a single scene is superfluous. This saga is extremely well researched, I learnt so much, but by seeing the war through the eyes of characters I grew to love or hate, root for their success or hope for their demise, it never felt like an information dump and it was never just history. The suspense was killing me on so many occasions, my eyes and my head couldn’t keep up with the need to know how a certain storyline would turn out, often exacerbated by some cleverly dropped nuggets of information referring to the outcome.
The Sturmtaucher Trilogy is brutal, but of course so was WWII. The author doesn’t shy away from highlighting the atrocities that were committed in the name of Adolf Hitler, nor does he avoid putting his own characters through the wringer. I gasped, I cringed, I cried, but I also smiled.
If I had to describe this trilogy in one word, I’d say it’s phenomenal. All three gave me a huge book hangover I’ve still not fully recovered from, and if I get around to making a Best of 2022 at the end of the year, I already know these three books will be at the very top. Highly, HIGHLY recommended.