Friday 28 June 2019

Distant Signs by Anne Richter BLOG TOUR @NeemTreePress #DistantSigns #RandomThingsTours

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?

Distant Signs by Anne Richter was published by Neem Tree Press on 21 February. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. I'm delighted to share my thoughts today as part of the #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour

Anne Richter grew up in East Germany and was 16 at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Her novel, Distant Signs is a beautiful and thought-provoking study of relationships, and how people can be affected by the political landscape and their social standing.

Despite its length (just 240 pages), this is not a quick read. The author's in-depth detailed construction of character deserves to be savoured and not rushed. I was totally committed to both Hans and Margret, along with the supporting cast of characters who have such an impact on how the story progresses.

I admit to not knowing a great deal about the history of GDR but I do remember the day that the Berlin Wall fell, it was a milestone in my own history, and remains so thirty years later. 
Distant Signs goes some way to explaining how life was lived in the East and opens as Margret; one of the new generation who are questioning their rulers, faces up to her father. She doesn't do this in private though; in what is probably one of the most uncomfortable yet poignant and telling scenes of the book, Margret accuses him, in one of his own lectures, of his failings.

When Margret meets future husband Hans, it is clear that they come from very different backgrounds, yet he too, wants change and has embraced the educational opportunities denied to his parents.

Anne Richter tells the story of Marget and Hans' marriage and life after the War, but before the fall of the Wall. The stark contrast between characters such as Margret and her mother-in-law Lene are beautifully portrayed.
The writing is spare, with no flowery prose or unnecessary descriptives and the translation is done well, with the inclusion of some phrases and words that may be unfamiliar to the British reader, but are explained at the back of the book.

This is a compelling, quiet and finely crafted novel. Astutely demonstrates the effects of war and the aftermath on the ordinary citizen.

Anne Richter was born in 1973 in Jena, in the former German Democratic Republic. Her degree in Romance languages and English included study periods in England, Italy and France. In 2011, Anne was nominated for the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize, a highly regarded German-language literary award. Her debut novel, Distant Signs, was published in Germany in 2013. Anne is currently writing her second novel.

Douglas Irving is Scottish. He studied German and Spanish at Aberdeen University. In 2014 he completed a Masters in Translation at Glasgow University. His first translation, Crossing: A Love Story by Anna Seghers was published in 2016 in the US to positive reviews. His translation of Anna Seghers’ last work published in her lifetime, Three Women from Haiti, is set to follow.

Neem Tree Press Limited 

twitter: @neemtreepress

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