This Terrible Beauty by Katrin Schumann

This Terrible Beauty by Katrin Schumann
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (381 pgs)
Rated: 5 stars
Review by Snapdragon

From the bestselling author of The Forgotten Hours comes an unforgettable story of one woman’s journey to reclaim what she lost in a country torn apart by the devastating legacy of WWII.

On the windswept shores of an East German island, Bettina Heilstrom struggles to build a life from the ashes. World War II has ended, and her country is torn apart. Longing for a family, she marries Werner, an older bureaucrat who adores her. But after joining the fledgling secret police, he is drawn deep into its dark mission and becomes a dangerous man.

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Ten years later, Bettina has reinvented herself as a celebrated photographer in Chicago, but she’s never stopped yearning for the baby she left behind. Surprised by an unexpected visitor from her past, she resolves to return to her ravaged homeland to reclaim her daughter and uncover her beloved’s fate, whatever the cost.

From the start of This Terribly Beauty we are effortlessly transported into Bettina’s life and her past. Ms. Schuman offers of the story of a life confronted by challenges; those large challenges involving World War II, as well as personal challenges, made by the main character. Bettina’s circumstances are often out of her control, but her early decision to follow her heart, her judgments and her eventual resolution are all understandable.

We, as readers, are drawn in and find ourselves sympathizing even with choices we might not have made ourselves. It is easy to share outrage, loss and conviction. She sees her world as if through the lens of a camera and more and more becomes clear. Love both captivates the main character and traps her.

The author writes her prose with immediacy; with an in-the-moment quality that is hard to describe. At the outset, I thought to find fault with it, but progressing, found myself drawn in, so the style disappeared and all that is left is story and the emotions.

Background details seem to emerge in almost poetic turns of phrase, for example: “…there’s an unruly rosebush twisting its way over the step…” and ” …memories live in each closet.”

The synopsis really does this book no service, leading me to expect a rather abrupt drama, rather than the thoughtful and heartfelt life’s journey This Terrible Beauty offers. Five solid stars and I highly recommend you add This Terrible Beauty to your “must read” list.

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