Dunedin Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute

Book: The Wish Child (March 2017)

By Catherine Chidgey

March 1, 2017

Finalist New Zealand Book Award

At the heart of Catherine Chidgey’s extraordinary new novel is an enigmatic voice that tells the story of German families caught up in a nation’s dream.

It’s 1939.  Two children watch as their parents become immersed in the puzzling mechanisms of power.  Sieglinde lives in the affluent ignorance of middle-class Berlin, her father a censor who cuts prohibited words such as love and mercy out of books.  Erich is an only child living a rural life near Leipzig, tending beehives, aware that he is shadowed by strange, unanswered questions.  Drawn together as Germany’s hope for a glorious future begins to collapse, the children find temporary refuge in an abandoned theatre amidst the rubble of Berlin.  Outside, white bedsheets hang from windows; all over the city people are talking of surrender.  The days Sieglinde and Erich spend together will shape the rest of their lives.

The Wish Child is a profound meditation on the wreckage caused by a corrupt ideology, on the resilience of the human spirit, and on crimes that cannot be undone.

I am the wish child, the future cast in water.  I am the thrown coin, the blown candle; I am the fallen star.

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