About the Book:
What makes a good man bad? Nature or nurture?
This is the extraordinary story of the author’s father, a Holocaust survivor who left a trail of pain and secrets in his wake
Vicky Unwin had always known her father – an erstwhile intelligence officer and respected United Nations diplomat – was Czech, but it was not until a stranger turned up on her doorstep that she discovered he was also Jewish.
So began a quest to discover the truth about his past – one that perhaps would help answer the niggling doubts she had always had about her ‘perfect’ dad. Finally persuading him to allow her to open a closely-guarded cache of family books and papers, Vicky discovered the identity of her grandfather: the tormented author and diplomat Hermann Ungar, hugely controversial both in life and in death, who was a protégé and possible lover of Thomas Mann, and a friend of Berthold Brecht and Stefan Zweig. How much of her father’s child was Vicky – and how much of his father’s child was he?
As Vicky worked to uncover deeply-buried family secrets, she would find herself slowly unpicking the lingering power of ‘survivor guilt’ on the generations that followed the Holocaust, and would learn, via a deathbed confession, of the existence of a previously unknown sister.
Together, the sisters attempt to come to terms with what had made their father into the deeply flawed, complex, yet charismatic man he had always been, journeying together through grief and heartache towards forgiveness.
About the Author:
Vicky Unwin has had a long career in both book and newspaper publishing, centred round her African roots, and is currently the chair of Wasafiri Magazine and a Caine Prize Council member. Her first book, Love and War in the WRNS, a collection of her mother’s letters home during the Second World War, was published by History Press in June 2015.
She has always been fascinated by family secrets and began researching the story behind The Boy from Boskovice shortly before her father’s death in 2012. Vicky writes extensively about living with cancer at Healthy Living with Cancer, and is a Trustee of Transform Drug Policy Foundation campaigning for the decriminalisation of drugs after losing her daughter to a ketamine overdose in 2011.
So many things about this book caught my eye; my main hobby (after reading of course!) is Genealogy and researching my tree, and the trees of many friends. I also have a growing love of history and have been trying to read more non-fiction books to broaden my knowledge in all sorts of subjects.
This book is brilliantly written; i literally struggled to put it down and found myself saying ‘OK I have time for one page’ – this is not normally something I do as I like to read in long sessions but I couldn’t help it with this one!
I loved that Unwin had a great mix of fact, research and her personal feelings in the book; never once did I feel that I was being given too much information or that I was encroaching on a family drama that felt awkward. I very often went through the emotions with Vicky as she learnt more about her father and the realisation that he was portraying himself so differently in different circles. It must have been such an emotional rollercoaster, not only discovering all of this but then when writing the book and having to decide how to frame it.
Vicky included some photographs which I thought was a lovely touch; it made me remember that this is a real story and not a fictional tale.
I would HIGHLY recommend this to anyone that is a non-fiction fan.
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