The Uncommon Life of Alfred Warner in Six Days by Juliet Conlin
Release Date: 23rd February 2017
Publisher: Black & White Publishing
Buy: Paperback | Kindle
What’s the Story?
Approaching 80, frail and alone, a remarkable man makes the journey from his sheltered home in England to Berlin to meet his granddaughter. He has six days left to live and must relate his life story before he dies…
His life has been rich and full. He has witnessed firsthand the rise of the Nazis, experienced heartrending family tragedy, fought in the German army, been interred in a POW camp in Scotland and faced violent persecution in peacetime Britain. But he has also touched many lives, fallen deeply in love, raised a family and survived triumphantly at the limits of human endurance. He carries within him an astonishing family secret that he must share before he dies… a story that will mean someone else’s salvation.
Welcome to the moving, heart-warming and uncommon life of Alfred Warner.
We first meet Alfred on a train journey to meet his granddaughter, Brynja, in Berlin. Alfred has never met Brynja before, he doesn’t even properly know what she looks like – but for reasons which will soon become clear he is under the impression that he has six days left to live and he has a very important story that he feels he must share with Brynja before he dies. Not necessarily for his benefit; but for her own.
Whilst making the journey to Berlin, Alfred meets Julia. An unsuspecting stranger, Julia is concerned for Alfred’s welfare and ends up befriending him on a train station platform. Alfred shares his story with Julia in the hope that she will be able to pass it on to Brynja, however she ends up playing a rather important role in proceedings herself…
There are some books that reel you in from the very first page. It’s almost as if you get a sense that what you’re reading is going to turn into something amazing and I undoubtedly had this feeling with The Uncommon Life of Alfred Warner in Six Days. The premise absolutely fascinated me; it was intriguing and somewhat mystifying. Therefore it would be safe to say that I had rather high hopes for this novel and it absolutely did not disappoint. I couldn’t wait to discover the story that Alfred so desperately needed to tell and it completely enthralled me as I re-lived his experiences with him throughout the pages of this awe-inspiring novel.
It’s fair to say that Alfred has led far from your average life. His journey starts as an orphan in Germany and the tales which follow are both heartbreaking yet fascinating to read about. Life in a prisoner-of-war camp, enrolling in the German army, living through the Holocaust, love, life, death and everything in between. Alfred’s journey is also quite profound, particularly in the way that it demonstrates the impact that the people we meet can have on us throughout our lives. It’s a message that will not only astound you but also really get you thinking and I always love it when a book can do that to me.
One of the things that I thought worked well with this book was the format in which the story was told. We get to hear from both Alfred, Brynja and Julia throughout the six days of the story. As well as learning about Alfred’s life we also get to discover more about Brynja’s life, as we first meet her when she is preparing to meet Alfred and then her chapters take us backwards though her life. Secrets are revealed and parts of the story start to slot nicely into place.
Juliet Conlin’s writing really brought the character of Alfred alive for me. I absolutely adored him and I felt as though I was re-living his experiences with him throughout the story. He is quirky, fascinating and memorable; certainly a character who will stick with me long after I turned the last page. Juliet is a natural storyteller, setting the scene so delicately that you have no trouble envisaging what is happening on the page as if it were right in front of your eyes.
There is so much I want to say about this novel, but I think the best piece of advise I could give you would be to just go and read it for yourself (you can thank me later…!) because it will provide you with the most enjoyable yet heart-wrenching 2-3 days (or however long it takes you to read it…) I had difficulty putting it down because I felt so submerged in Alfred and Brynja’s worlds that I couldn’t rest until I had found out exactly what was going to happen.
So many fascinating themes can be found within these pages and I really hope that this novel gets the recognition is deserves. Full of hope, heartbreak and celebrating the importance of being different, The Uncommon Life of Alfred Warner in Six Days is inspiring, unusual and an absolute must-read.
My thanks to Lina at Black & White Publishing for the opportunity to review The Uncommon Life of Alfred Warner in Six Days.
My daughter Juliet always carefully researches her stories and weaves in experiences and memories from real life. In my youth in Wales just post-war (1947), we sometimes had young Catholic German POWs to breakfast after church. Later, in Berlin in the 80s, we got to know a member of the British Security Services – Fred Warner – originally a German Jew who was parachuted into Germany in the last phases of WW II. I am always amazed how Juliet remembers the stories I told her when she was young.
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You have sold me on this book, Holly!
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