Immersive Dual Storylines that Tug on the Heartstrings
In all honesty, historical fiction and I have not been on the best of terms in recent years. I LOVED historical fiction as a young reader but in recent years I’ve hardly picked up a book in this genre. Perhaps is was burn out after my history graduate program. In any case, I’m so glad that I’m reading more historical fiction again !
Kelly Rimmer’s The Things We Cannot Say is a powerhouse historical fiction book. I can be quite critical of the genre due to my subject specialty. With big topics like World War II , I’m often wary of how a author will handle it. And as mentioned in my previous blog post, WWII era historical fiction seem to be pretty popular but I love Rimmer’s unique spin.
As a quick synopsis: This novel follows Alina and Alice. Alina’s story opens in Poland where a quaint pastoral life is destroyed by the brutality of the Nazis invasion of Poland. Fifteen year old Alina dreams of marrying her sweetheart, Tomasz, and moving to Warsaw where he’s studying to be a doctor. Patiently waiting for him to finish medical school, Alina and Tomasz’s town near the border of Germany and Poland is bombed and invaded by the Nazis. Meanwhile, present day, we also meet Alice. Alice’s story opens with her son, Eddie, midway through a meltdown in a grocery store. We learn that Eddie is on the autism spectrum and that Alice is his primary caretaker. Dealing with this meltdown and people’s insensitivity, Alice rushes to her grandmother’s hospital bed. Her babcia is unable to speak but needs to communicate something of great importance to her. Alice vows to fulfill her request.
This was a powerful story. I appreciated the historical depth of the story and that Rimmer didn’t shy away from the complex narrative of what happened in Poland during Nazi occupation. This was a hard book to stomach because war is horrific and Nazis ideology and policy was appalling. Rimmer’s humanizing story is gut-wrenching but necessary.
Moreover, I found Alice’s storyline compelling in its own way. Each perspective is has its own rich voice. I love with multiple perspectives are done well and Rimmer’s execution was on point. I loved reading each perspective and did not feel like the POVs were muddied like other books I’ve read.
Overall, I highly recommend this book!