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Some exquisiteness ennobles. Some exquisiteness draws blood. Such was my experience reading The Words I Never Wrote, (2020), the historical novel written by Jane Thyme.

The enigmatic title speaks to the estrangement of two sisters, inseparable and gifted artists as they grew up on their British estate at Birnham Park. Vaguely aware of Germany’s 1936 rearmament in defiance of the Treaty of Versailles, one sister follows her industrialist husband to Berlin, while the other relocates to Paris to advance her career in journalism. Their exchange of letters abruptly stops the following year.

To unravel this estrangement becomes the self-appointed task of a photographer, in present time, who happens upon the unfinished manuscript of a novel wedged in the case of an antique Underwood typewriter; such comprises the first half of The Words I Never Wrote.

Upon its yellowing pages unfold juxtapositions that craze spirit: the sisters’ divergent lifestyles with consequent distancing, the underbelly of Nazi Germany’s heinousness and opulence, prickly fears of arrests and the underground, burgeoning law codes and the impossibility of observing them, Hitler and his henchmen attending the Berlin Philharmonic, slave labor cultivating choice foods for Nazi tables, the torture and random abuse of lawbreakers requiring medical care—And so much more. So violently did the sensuousness of the images suck me within the story line that I had to put the book down.

Yet, the preciseness of these images, especially, the formal gardens having gone to seed, the estates along the Wanasee River, the outdoors in all seasons, the allied bombings of Berlin and consequent mayhem, lovemaking and separations, contributed an almost lyrical dimension to this novel. As a writer, I often stopped over an exceptionally well-worded phrase and relished its afterglow. 

A workout, yes, but The Words I Never Wrote left its mark—exquisite is its end.

Sizzling aromas of bratwurst and curried mustard tweaked my appetite following the morning’s sightseeing in Munich, Germany. Cloudless skies warmed hundreds of other tourists seated at circular tables and chairs that filled the Marienplatz, Munich’s Civic Center, first established in 1158 AD. Across from us rose the Neo Gothic New City Hall with its clock tower and Glockenspiel. Soon it would be time for the show.

It was June 1977.

 

 

Around our table conversation was brisk. Only thirty-two years before, this entire area smoked in ruins, the result of Allied blanket bombing that ended World War II. Blueprints and photos of pre-existing buildings guided workmen in the square’s reconstruction, purposely weathered with centuries of wear and tear to look Medieval. In another part of Munich, a bombed brick wall, resembling a jagged tooth, still stood, a reminder of what had happened here. Ambivalent feelings tweaked my stomach as I dipped the bratwurst in mustard.

 

 

Suddenly from above, metallic bells jangled conversations as we leaned back in our chairs and holding hands over our eyes, squinted at the Glockenspiel; on its upper level, animated figures enacted a royal wedding and a jousting tournament; on its lower, three coopers danced a jig signaling the end of the 1517 plague. Then the show was over, the diversion well received.

Still uneasy, I wondered about humankind’s tendency, as well as my own, to bury the scars of evil within recesses of the unconscious, kept in bondage by sloth, and what it takes to face truth, when stripped of defense mechanisms.

Long ago, I was told that nothing is, as it seems. I’m still learning …

 

 

Available on Amazon

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