Recommended by The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2018
Meike Ziervogel’s new novel celebrates how humanity can thrive against all odds.
Set at the end of the Second World War when eleven million Germans fled from east to west, The Photographer explores love and survival in a time of mass migration.
Pomerania, 1933: Trude falls in love with Albert, a young photographer who takes her picture in the street. Her mother disapproves, and when war breaks out she arranges for Albert to be sent to the front. Eventually, Trude and Albert are reunited in a refugee camp near Hamburg. But now the couple face a new challenge: can they begin their relationship anew?
In a Europe of ruined cities and refugee camps, Trude and Albert learn to respect each other’s flaws and, in doing so, discover unexpected strengths.
‘A writer of grace, forensic precision, and power.’ —Nicholas Lezard
‘Book of the Week Meike Ziervogel’s The Photographer is a beautiful and moving work of art, told in a series of vivid and visual chapters like snapshots. With its underlying message of acceptance, forgiveness and hope, The Photographer should be an obligatory teen-read on every school curriculum. It is a perfect book to kick off a book club. Buy it and see.’ —Georgia de Chamberet, BookBlast Diary
‘The Photographer has that wonderful combination of being dense with reading, yet with an openness to the writing. The novel is structured like a photo album: whole lives are narrated, but intermittently. Some events are told in detail; others have to be inferred by the reader; still others are so private that they don’t appear on the page. This is a novel of history as something lived through and looked back on, vivid incidents scattered among the threads of life.’ —David Hebblethwaite, David’s Book World
‘The writing is spare yet strikingly affective, touching the essence of each individual with precision. This is an impressive work of literary fiction that remains compelling and accessible. Like fine wine, it is best savoured and shared.’ —Bookmunch
‘Ziervogel’s plot is consciously elliptic, full of inscrutable silences, screaming questions (or accusations) and glaring absences. She succeeds in transcribing both the guttural, monistic psychology of pre-war Germans but also the mechanics of how they were precipitated into a void so irrefutably full of human presence – of all sorts. Refusing to edit or beautify through elaborate framing, she would rather capture the moment as it happens, in its ineluctable fragmentary sequence. As a novel, this reads powerfully, intriguingly, engagingly. As a human record, it has a depth of uniqueness, a perspective not often acknowledged: that of anonymous, inconsequential, commonplace Germany during the first half of the 20th century, and the exceptional, undeniable value of singular, individual lives.’ —Bookanista
‘Altogether this is a remarkable book that explores a number of important issues; I haven’t even mentioned the way it hints at the impact being a refugee has down the generations, or explores the tensions between a returning father and his child. And I’ve hardly touched on the questions it asks, certainly makes me ask, about the silences and gaps that run through any family history.’ —Hayley Anderton, Shiny New Books
‘Two generations on from her own Grandmother’s experience, Ziervogel shines a humanising light into the dark spots of her country’s history.’ —Lucy Ash, The Observer
‘Few books have the ability to move the reader in the first pages, as The Photographer does... Ziervogel makes us question ideas of innocence and blame during fraught times ... Through her quiet exploration of the domestic lives of refugees, Meike Ziervogel shows us the less visible effects of war, and the ways in which it can corrupt and change us.’ —Claire Kohda Hazelton, Times Literary Supplement
‘Haunting originality and real flair.’ —Christena Appleyard, The Daily Mail
‘This searching, beautifully written novel gets to the heart of woman’s attempt to step out of the role of her mother’s daughter, and make sense of the person she has become. Terrific.’ —Kate Saunders, The Times
‘Ziervogel goes bravely to the bleakest points of humanity and illuminates them with her lyrical and enthralling prose.’ —Claire Kohda Hazelton, Guardian