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Historical and human perspectives clash in this cool, compassionate, psychological novel that unfolds around the chance meeting of two elderly women at a Belgian health resort. Each woman has come for the famously curative waters, but it is no coincidence that both suffer from debilitating arthritis – the women are twins, separated in childhood by the death of their parents.Anna stayed in their native Germany, while Lotte was taken in by relatives in the Netherlands. Consequently, they lost touch with each other and lived through the rise of Hitler, the second World War, and the post-war era from opposite sides of the war. The narrative unfurls through a series of often thorny conversations, as the sisters probe these and other points of contention. Artfully weaving two fully developed fictional personalities into an expertly realised historical background, this exploration addresses notions of guilt and responsibility in a sensitive, thought-provoking manner, without exonerating or condemning its central characters.


A fascinating way to understand the effects of war, the tangled, muddied absurdity of it, how it traces remain in the blood for generations
Los Angeles Times
Completely original . . . Takes the reader's breath away
Joan Smith, Sunday Times
Gripping and touching . . . Tessa de Loo's powerful narrative filters Europe's grand events through a family story that tests the ties of blood against the pull of passion and the blast of war
A huge success . . . a memorable and moving tale
Sunday Telegraph
Has there ever been, one wonders, a more imaginative and moving dramatization of the human cost of the divisions and destruction wreaked by Hitler s madness? Quite likely not. A flat-out masterpiece: exhilarating and unforgettable
Kirkus Review
This excellent novel spans the entire twentieth century. De Loo interleaves the twins' story with that of two countries locked in bloody conflict. A moving read about humanity's darkest hour
Sebastian Shakespeare, Evening Standard
Details of time, place and atmosphere are acutely evoked, and the characters are presented with a generous sympathy that stops short of special pleading
The Times