Today’s team review is from Sandra. She blogs here https://www.firthproof.co.uk/index.php/book-reviews
Sandra has been reading The Sins Of Others by Florian Schneider
The Sins of Others is described as fiction, however, it reads more like a biography or memoir. Each of the eleven chapters deals with a different episode in the lives of Ingrid Heimlich, a left-wing terrorist in the 1970s, and her son, Ben, a photographer living in Los Angeles. The timeline covers the period from 1945 Berlin where Ingrid’s mother, Marlene, is starving and hiding from the Russians, to 2018 as Ingrid lies dying in a German hospital. The intervening chapters focus on specific events, allowing us to gradually piece together the stories of Ingrid and Ben’s lives.
Ingrig was a hard character to empathise with as she did not seem to have changed much over the years, and was still using the same tired political arguments at the end of her life as she had in her youth. Ben was a more interesting character who had worked hard to improve his life, and was lucky enough to have found a partner to share it with.
I suspect that English isn’t the author’s first language as often the narrative had a stilted quality, with the word order in some passages reminiscent of German, but maybe this was deliberate? There was also a high number of obscure words used, where a simple one would have easily sufficed.
A much larger hindrance to the smooth flow of the narrative was an overuse of parenthetical dashes. The large sections of text enclosed within these dashes really slowed down and interrupted my reading; I often had to go back and reread whole paragraphs to get the sense of what the author was trying to say.
On a positive note, I thought that the historical background was thoroughly researched, and painted a fascinating picture, particularly of Berlin in the months leading up to the end of WW2. It was just a shame that the disjointed narrative made it a struggle to read.
1993. The war-torn Bosnian countryside. Jane Abbott, a seasoned English conflict zone photographer who is no longer easily surprised, is surprised. Stunned, in fact, to’ve come across the son of the notorious Ingrid Heimlich—who, until her traceless disappearance twenty years ago, had been the world’s most infamous leftist terrorist. Ben Heimlich, the stranded German kid and wannabe reporter she has picked up by the roadside, is either fearless or incredibly naïve—though probably naïve—and were it not for the platoon of Serbian partisans who intercept them on their way, she’d pestered him incessantly with questions of his mother’s whereabouts. 1994. Still reeling from the horror he had seen in Bosnia—and, as ever, wondering where in the world his mother is—Ben Heimlich moves to the United States and settles in the sparkling neighborhood and allegory known as Hollywood. As he gets older and, eventually, more affluent, Ben realizes that, no matter how ostensibly successful he’s become, he can’t escape his lingering despair. When he meets Isabel, who’s left her own traumatic early life in Mexico behind to make a new beginning in Los Angeles, his life takes a dramatic upward turn. Chapter after chapter, Ben and his mother’s backgrounds and personae are illuminated from a multitude of angles by, among others, a former student activist aboard a hijacked airplane on a dusty stretch of tarmac in the capital of Libya in 1971; an aging homeless actor in Los Angeles still waiting for his break in 1994; a young girl who stumbles through the smoldering ruins of Berlin in 1945; a US State Department operative who interferes with sovereign states all over South America; the involuntary teenage wife of an imperious Sinaloan drug lord who attempts to flee her gilded cage; and the ninety-something-year-old son of German immigrants who’d fought for the United States against his parents’ onetime countrymen in World War II.