Today’s team review is from Terry. She blogs here https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/
Terry has been reading The Other Mrs Samson by Ralph Webster
This book, for me, went from nicely readable but only moderately interesting, to absolutely unputdownable, and back to only moderately interesting. The first narrator, in the present day, finds a secret horde of papers belonging to his recently deceased, ninety-five-year-old friend, Katie Samson, from which he surmises that her husband had been married before. At this point, although not enthralled, I thought, well, this is certainly no chore to read, being nicely written and with the possibility of a great story to come.
…and whoosh, there it was. I turned the page to the POV of Hilda, the first wife, and the book bloomed, opened up, emerged from black and white into glorious technicolour. Hilda’s story went back as far as her grandparents’ experience in San Francisco Gold Rush days, and on to the making of that city, the role of women in the Victorian era, life in a small Bavarian village, changing times and growing problems in Europe, to do with Germany’s place in the world – I was gripped, all the way through. Hilda and her grandmother were so alive, and aside from being a great story with wonderful characters, it was historically informative. Fascinating. Loved it.
Next came Katie’s POV, and at first I still liked it a lot, as I read about her family tragedies, the aftermath of WW1 and Berlin’s ‘Roaring Twenties’, the effects of American’s Great Depression on the rest of the world, the Nazi party’s growing control, and her and lover Josef’s route out. Then the lead up to the WW2 … and I’m afraid it all went a bit flat for me, and became nothing more than a factual account of someone’s life. Events are recorded, but without emotion; all we ever learn is that the threat to Josef, a Jew, was ‘very unsettling’. I read of their luck at being able to move from one place to another just in time, before the Gestapo established travel restrictions, but it was no more thrilling to read about than the sentence I have just written. There was no emotion, no action, no feeling of danger, no story, just an account.
I was disappointed by my disappointment, if you know what I mean, because I loved the book so much earlier on; for instance, Katie’s only brother, Karl, joins the Nazi party and gains a position of authority, but that’s all—we never hear about him again, and there is no story attached to this. At the end there is another little twist, but it seems almost like an afterthought.
Four stars on Amazon because Hilda’s part was absolutely 5* plus, and because the author writes in an extremely accessible fashion, so that even the 3* bits were no effort to read. I would recommend it to readers who like a family drama and are interested in reading about the history of the times mentioned – it’s worth getting just for the middle section.
Surviving two wars, sharing one husband, searching for answers.
A secret compartment in a black lacquer cabinet left in an attic reveals the secrets of two incredible women: Hilda, born and raised in one of the wealthiest Jewish families in turn-of-the-century San Francisco, and Katie, whose early life in Germany is marked by tragedy and death. Their lives are forever entwined by their love of the same man, the brilliant and compassionate Dr. Josef Samson.
From the earliest, rough-and-tumble days of San Francisco, through the devastation of the Great War in Berlin and the terrors of Vichy France, and then to a new yet uncertain life in New York City, their stories span the most tumultuous events of the twentieth century. In the end, one of these women will complete the life of the other and make a startling discovery about the husband they share.