Delighted to kick off the blog tour today, along with some other great book reviewers, for The Uncommon Life Of Alfred Warner In Six Days by Juliet Conlin.
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.
This a wonderfully written end-of-life memoir a little in the style of “A Man Called Ove” and “The Secret Pilgrimage of Harold Fry”, with interesting and unusual twists.
Alfred Warner hears voices and at the end of his life he becomes desperate to meet his grand-daughter, Brinja, so she can understand the joyful side of the curse that also afflicts her. He is rescued by a young woman, Julia, who meets and befriends him when Brinja fails to meet him at Berlin main train station. It’s not clear why Julia takes this lonely, old man in for his last few days, but you get the impression she has her own troubles and Alfred’s curious story is a distraction during his pilgrimage around Christmas. Their short story is tenderly told.
Juliet Colin effortlessly uses multiple narrators to move between Alfred and his remarkable story of growing up in a rural farm community in 1930’s Germany, orphaned and rescued by Jews in Berlin, his subsequent life in a changing post-war Britain and the modern-day anguish of Brinja. Julia’s character carries the practicalities and she becomes increasingly involved, as we do, in Alfred’s story and why it so important to him and his grand daughter. In many ways this telling has much of the suspense of a thriller.
The poverty and growing threat to those around him as a child are brought to life in the early chapters. Alfred begins to hear voices when young, he finds it’s something he shares with his mother and previous generations of her Icelandic family. Through his life these voices are guardian angels, friends and bullies, the author guides us through the stages of denial, then caution on to acceptance and embrace as Alfred accepts these interlopers into his life, allowing him to live a largely normal and content life and apparently protecting him from the psychological impact of his early years. This normalisation of his mental health is in contrast to the impact of the same phenomenon on the more troubled, modern-day Brinja.
The story is well paced, as Alfred escapes from the things that oppress him externally and emerges into a comfortable life in post-war Scotland and England, we move with him through the trials of his life, including the early death of his first child and the later estrangement of his son, Brinja’s father, who is also visited by the voices. With the younger generations suffering with more malign voices, Alfred is compelled to tell his story to Julia in a hope to show his granddaughter the more helpful ways to interpret them.
A beautifully written, heartbreaking yet heartwarming tale that I would highly recommend.
Juliet Conlin was born in London and grew up in England and Germany. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University and a PhD in Psychology from the University of Durham. She works as a writer and translator and lives with her family in Berlin. Her novels include The Fractured Man (Cargo, 2013), The Uncommon Life of Alfred Warner in Six Days (Black & White, 2017), The Lives Before Us (Black & White, 2019).
The blog tour runs through to July 26th so please to check out the other reviews.
Thank you to the publishers for my digital copy of the book and to Kelly of Love Books Tours for my invite and place on the tour.
The Uncommon Life of Alfred Warner in Six Days by Juliet Conlin @julietconlin @bwpublishing @lovebooksgroup #lovebookstour