Welcome to our Anniversary Blog by resident blogger Jake Hope. Jake will be reading and reviewing all of the past CILIP Carnegie Medal winning books during the anniversary year. We are also asking shadowers to "Adopt a Book" and join in reading and discussing the anniversary titles in their shadowing groups.
"Some I could identify quickly – typhus, dysentery, pneumonia. Others required the opening of their coat to discover missing limbs, gunshot blasts and tank treads. Dr Richter’s instructions were explicit: ‘If you are certain they can survive the voyage, log them for registration. Only if you are certain.’ Many would not survive the voyage. They wouldn’t survive the hour. Their bodies and voices trembled with the delirium of death. "
Brimming with both heart and heart-break, this novel interweaves the stories of four characters heading to the Wilhelm Gustloff, each is given their own background and motivation making their actions and aspirations feel palpably real. Thrown together, the four characters, with their very different backgrounds, nationalities and systems of belief, find themselves challenged as they head for the ship hoping to journey towards a brighter future and a place of freedom.
Through following a small group of people seeking refuge, we are given insight into a microcosm of the disparate and displaced, of those seeking a place and a position following the tumult and turmoil of war. A startlingly vivid sense of the struggle to regain a sense of normality following atrocities and extremes is portrayed. Characterisation feels real with Joana, Florian, Emilia and Alfred all having rich backgrounds and often harbouring secrets or guilt and offering a pathway into the history and politics towards the close of the wartime era.
Fact and fiction intertwine as the story of the doomed ship and four of its passengers converge. As much as this is gritty and bleak, a pervading air of hope and resilience exists which makes the inevitable culmination of the story all the more indelible in its impact.