Synopsis: Distant Signs is an intimate portrait of two families spanning three generations amidst turbulent political change, behind and beyond the Berlin Wall. In 1960s East Germany, Margret, a professor’s daughter from the city, meets and marries Hans, from a small village in Thuringia. The couple struggle to contend with their different backgrounds, and the emotional scars they bear from childhood in the aftermath of war. As East German history gradually unravels, with collision of the personal and political, their two families’ hidden truths are quietly revealed. An exquisitely written novel with strongly etched characters that stay with you long after the book is finished and an authentic portrayal of family life behind the iron curtain based on personal experience of the author who is East German and was 16 years old at the fall of the Berlin Wall. Why do families repeat destructive patterns of behaviour across generations? Should the personal take precedence over the political? Can we rise above our histories and political identities to forge a new understanding of the past and to welcome change?
My Thoughts: Distant Signs is a beautifully written story showcasing the complexities of life in Germany and Eastern Europe after World War II. The story follows the lives married couple Hans and Margaret as they navigate their relationship with each other, their children, and their parents' lives. It is a very unique story and unlike any I have read before. The author contrasts the lives of those in the countryside with those in the city and shows how each had survived the war and how Soviet rule affected everyone. I think the author's East German background really helped to bring to life these characters and their histories.
The story moved along slowly but I think this was necessary. It gave the author time to lay out the setting and the nuances of each character and their relationships. If things had moved more quickly, I don't think I would have been able to take everything in. The characters were so well-developed and while I don't know that anyone was particularly likable, they all had their reasons for being that way and it made the story seem more real.
Distant Signs is a truly pleasurable read that highlights a period of history that is not normally covered in works of historical fiction. This is definitely a good read when you're looking for something new and different. 3 stars.
About the Author:
I received this book from HFVBT in exchange for an honest review.