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Monday 5 June 2023

Fragments of a Woman by Emma Venables BLOG TOUR #FragmentsOfAWoman @EmmaMVenables @AderynPress @WriterForster #BookReview


Five women, trapped by duty, fighting to survive...

Gentle Ingrid puts her life at risk when she tries to save her beloved daughter from her husband’s zealous beliefs. 

Liesel, a lesbian, marries a gay man in hopes that they can feign the ideal marriage and, in doing so, protect each other from persecution. 

Lovesick Greta, spurned by Liesel and lost, joins the Resistance, then disappears. 

Gisela, a prostitute once contentedly in control of her own destiny, is incarcerated at Mauthausen, where she must fight for a future she cannot yet imagine. 

While Lore, craving a life beyond Berlin, wifedom and motherhood, steps down a dark and dangerous path.

Exploring themes of motherhood, identity, trauma, fascism, and survival, Fragments of a Woman offers a nuanced and heartbreaking exploration of what it meant to be a woman living under National Socialist rule.

Fragments of a Woman by Emma Venables was published on 1 June 2023 by Aderyn Press. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this Blog Tour

I am extremely impressed by this small independent publisher. Late last year I read another of their books; The Sandstone City by Elaine Canning which went on to become one of my top books of the year. I think Fragments of a Woman will most certainly be getting a spot on this years top books. 

This is a stunning debut, written out of frustration by the author who was tired of reading the stereotypical characters of German women during the war, so often depicted in fiction. I think this is the first World War Two novel that I've read that is told from the point of view of ordinary German people. All too often we assume that every German person during the war supported the National Socialist rule, but of course, the country was and still is, made up of a wide variety of people. People with varying views and beliefs and this wonderful novel concentrates on five German women, all very different, but each one is tenderly and beautifully crafted. 

Each character tells their own story and they all suffer hardship, pain and grief throughout the years. The novel begins in 1933, and runs right through to the end of the war in 1945. Each woman endures unimaginable torments during this time, and each of them change dramatically.

Mothers, sisters, wives. Gay, straight, good time girls and those who are forced into doing things that in peace time would never have been thought possible. This author has clearly done some incredible research when writing this book, there are events that I was unaware of, but are based upon truth, and the truth is often devastating and heart breaking. 

As the war continues towards the end, the feeling of the book and the characters within changes. From women who were confident, to women who are scared, hungry, homeless, tortured and grieving. There are some very very dark scenes, especially towards the end of the story, as Berlin falls and the Russians advance. At times, I felt as though I had to put the book aside, to contemplate what I'd just read, yet I was always desperate to continue to read and follow the lives of these normal, but extraordinary women. 

This is a masterful, important, richly detailed novel that will stay with me for a very long time. I applaud the author for her decision to cast off the stereotypes and to detail such horrors and pain. It is a difficult read in parts, but it is also filled with beautiful, spare prose that cannot fail to impress. Highly recommended. 

Emma Venables' short and flash fiction has been widely published in magazines and

Her short story, ‘Woman at Gunpoint, 1945’ was a runner-up in the Alpine Fellowship Writing Prize 2020. 

She has a PhD in Creative Writing and has taught at Royal Holloway, University of London and Liverpool Hope University.

Instagram @emmamvenables

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