Dunedin Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute

Book: All the Broken Places (October 2022)

By John Boyne

November 2, 2022

Ninety-one-year-old Gretel Fernsby has lived in the same mansion block in London for decades.  She leads a comfortable, quiet life, despite her dark and disturbing past.  She doesn’t talk about her escape from Germany over seventy years before.  She doesn’t talk about the post-war years in France with her mother.  Most of all she doesn’t talk about her father, the commandant of one of the most notorious Nazi concentration camps.

Then, a young family moves into the apartment below her.  In spite of herself, Gretel can’t help but begin a friendship with their son, Henry, though his presence brings back memories she would rather forget.  One night, she witnesses a violent argument between Henry’s mother and his domineering father, one that threatens Gretal’s hard-won, self-contained existence.

Gretal is faced with a change to expiate her guilt, grief and remorse and act to save a young boy – for the second time in her life.  But to do so, she will be forced to reveal her true identity to the world.  Will she make a different choice this time, whatever the to cost to herself?

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