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I was raised in a small town in Flanders, in a family where bread and butter were put on the table because no one lives forever. My father, you see, was a master mason, a tombstone maker, and I spent part of my childhood happily romping among my fellow townspeople resting in peace at the local cemetery.
Then, after the romping, came the roaming.
And the writing.
Poetry mostly, as I criss-crossed Europe this side of the Iron Curtain, then the States, Canada and Alaska, by train, bus and thumb, on foot, in kayaks and rafts and the odd dogsled. Somehow, in between travels, I also managed to snare a degree in literature.
Then came settled life, a family and a career, and let's not forget the dog, and the writing stopped.
Now, the roaming's back, though mostly in the mind, writing.
Listen to the Colours by J.L.Dupont is a well researched WW2 story but like no other war story you will have ever read before. Seen through three very different pairs of eyes, a German soldier, a Polish prisoner of war and a young French boy, we read how the lottery of birth affects life experiences and how these can be made sense of and coped with, even manipulated, under very difficult circumstances. We first meet Heinrich and Hanusz, long time friends and now studying together at the technical college in their home town of Gdansk/Danzig, in 1939, when the city is seized by the Nazi regime and the Pole is forced to complete his studies elsewhere in Poland. Heinrich joins and rapidly rises through the ranks of the German army, whilst Hanusz is soon captured by this rapidly advancing force. The contrast between the privileges of the former and the privations of the latter are really well written and will take the reader right there. But what sets this book apart is the heart wrenching story of Remy, who is 12 years old at the start of the war and severely autistic. The author manages to take us right inside the boy's mind in a way that is quite remarkable and explains just what it means to live in a world that largely follows a different set of rules. A quirk of fate brings these three characters together in a forest in Northern France in 1945 and bonds, both old and new, prove stronger than ideologies but only one of the three will survive. The title of the book refers to the way Remy experiences music, amongst other things, and as another character says 'one French hand, one German hand, a Polish composer and together one performance...that's the Europe I hope will rise from the ruins', a sentiment that is in danger at the present time. This is definitely a must read for anyone interested in people and what makes them tick. Drena Irish, A LoveReading Ambassador
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