Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Last Telegram by Liz Trenow

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: April 2, 2013

The war changed everything for Lily Verner. As the Nazis storm Europe, Lily becomes an apprentice at her family’s silk weaving factory. When they start to weave parachute silk there is no margin for error: one tiny fault could result in certain death for Allied soldiers. The war also brings Stefan to Lily: a German Jewish refugee who works on the looms. As their love grows, there are suspicions someone is tampering with the silk. Can their love survive the hardships of war? And will the Verner’s silk stand the ultimate test?

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There are precious few authors who can boast having brought me to tears, but thanks to her powerfully emotive debut, The Last Telegram, Liz Trenow can count herself among them. 

Perhaps it is because my grandparents left unanswered questions in their wake, choosing to quietly carry their burdens with them throughout their lives, but something about this story really resonated with me. The letters Lily kept secret long after the war not to mention the love and guilt she quietly harbored for so many years. Being a fictional character in a silk factory, Lily's story is unique, but her emotional journey is very real and indicative of so many of that generation and I can't put into words how wonderful it was to see Trenow recreate those intensely personal experiences in her work.

Of course, Trenow doesn't limit herself to a personalized experience of the war at home either. She also he goes to great lengths to illustrate broader concepts, namely the rampant germanophobia and underlying antisemitism that existed during this period.

In terms of historic content I enjoyed learning about two new chapters of the war: the intricacies of parachute silk and Britain's efforts toward civilian interment. A perpetual student of WWII, I get a little thrill whenever I pick up some previously unknown tidbit so it really comes as no surprise that I found these aspects of The Last Telegram quite fascinating.  

Before I wrap up I'd like to offer a word of caution to any and all potential readers. The Last Telegram is a beautiful novel, but it is also what you call a slow starter. The story takes a while to really get its feet under it so don't be discouraged early on. Take my word for it friends, this is one of those cases where persistence will be richly rewarded.

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I know every detail of what the case contains, of course, a package of memories so intense and so painful that I never want to confront them again.
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2 comments:

Tara said...

I really liked this one too!

Marg said...

This so sounds like my type of book!

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