Blog Tour – The Watcher by Monika Jephcott Thomas – Review

Today is my stop on the blog tour for The Watcher by Monika Jephcott Thomas.

41FGhheQvGL

Here’s the blurb –

Synopsis

It’s 1949 when Netta’s father Max is released from a Siberian POW camp and returns to his home in occupied Germany. But he is not the man the little girl is expecting – the brave, handsome doctor her mother Erika told her stories of. Erika too struggles to reconcile this withdrawn, volatile figure with the husband she knew and loved before, and, as she strives to break through the wall Max has built around himself, Netta is both frightened and jealous of this interloper in the previously cosy household she shared with her mother and doting grandparents. Now, if family life isn’t tough enough, it is about to get even tougher, when a murder sparks a police investigation, which begins to unearth dark secrets they all hoped had been forgotten.

The author has kindly wrote a piece on how her work has progressed since the release of Fifteen Words so keep reading after my review for something I hope you’ll find as interesting as I do! It will also give you a little more insight to her latest work.

Review

If you haven’t already I highly recommend you read the authors previous novel Fifteen Words. The Watcher follows directly on and it would give you some background to the characters.

Fifteen Words was the story about Max being held prisoner, The Watcher is a story about how life and Max himself have changed since his release.

Max is a torn man, he’s struggling to come to terms with what happened to him when he was a prisoner and this really made me feel for the man, I don’t imagine being a POW is something you would ever come to terms with.

His relationship with his wife is stretched to breaking, the love they had for each other just isn’t what it once was, so much has changed.

For me this tale was really about Max’s daughter Netta, I loved her. She’s a young girl who’s grown up in an adult world and she hears and sees more than people know.

While the family are trying to come to terms with their own demons a murder occurs that has the police snooping around and the author keeps you on edge until the last moment to reveal all.

I really enjoyed how the ending was written when you see the events play out from different perspectives, this really kept the suspense going.

There’s some good twists in the tale, nicely written and followed on well from the previous novel. The characters  might be the same but this tale had that little bit extra with a whodunit thrown in. It was a change in direction from what I expected but it worked well and I was hooked.

Going back to Max, there is a lot of development for him during the story and emotions are very raw for him and I liked how this was explored. Not easy to read at times as he’s a beaten man with what looks like no way to build himself back up.. just when he needs someone the most he and Netta finally bond and it was a pleasure to read.

Overall I loved it, the unexpected events in the book really kept me on my toes and had me sucked in from page 1. We are left with a little cliff-hanger so I do hope we see more of Max and his family to see how things play out.

To find out more head to Goodreads or Amazon


Monkika Jephcott Thomas

How my work has progressed since the release of Fifteen Words. –  Monika Jephcott Thomas.

Writing my debut novel, Fifteen Words, was a daunting task. No doubt it is for most writers. So when it came to writing the follow up, The Watcher, I was definitely less apprehensive. I was more confident with the whole mechanics of writing and publishing, but I was also on more solid ground with regards to my characters, because some of the protagonists I had got to know so well during the writing of Fifteen Words and the newest character was based on myself – so what could possibly go wrong!

Although the character of Netta is based on me, she is based on my five-year-old self, so the challenge here was to try and recall the feelings, preoccupations, and perspective of a child’s world when I had been resident in the adult one for over half a century. Fifteen Words is quite an adult book – in its events and style of prose. But during the initial drafts of The Watcher I realised that writing in a more ‘childish’ way could be just as powerful, if not more so.

The advantage of writing from a child’s perspective, if you succeed, is that it can illuminate the absurdities of the adult world and adult relationships in a way that no adult character can. The central motivation of a child, wherever they come from, is to play. Children play games. But of course, so do adults in relationships, whether they realise it not. Psychological games, power games, cynical games. Hence, the best person to illuminate how daft these games appear to be, is the unjaded player of innocent games: a child. As Netta thinks to herself after observing her family one morning:

Adults were like the British soldiers who still hung around on the streets: they spoke a different language and had no intention of learning hers.

As well as unwittingly observing the chess of adult interaction for us, Netta soon becomes a direct recipient of adult game-playing, ironically enough, when she stays at children’s home. There the abusive Herr Kahler fulfils his own perverse desires by callously manipulating Netta. You can perhaps see from this extract how it is written with almost fairy-tale repetition, which is intended to elevate Kahler’s callousness to ‘wicked witch’ proportions whilst keeping it in the realms of possibility, as we are reminded more than ever by this fairy-tale style how we are seeing these events through a child eyes. This reminder, I hope, makes the end of the extract even more sickening.

‘What did I tell you to do this morning?’ he growled.

‘Sweep the sand from the driveway,’ she answered.

‘And did you do that?’

‘Yes I did,’ she said.

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘Yes I did, Herr Kahler,’ she added to make sure she wasn’t sounding rude. She didn’t want to sound rude. She was just telling the truth.

‘I beg your pardon?’ he repeated.

‘Yes I did!’ She raised her voice ever so slightly in case he was having difficulty hearing her.

‘I beg your pardon, but if you had done what I’d asked you to do, why was there sand all over the driveway when I went out at lunchtime?’

Silence, except for the sound of children enjoying themselves in the garden. Netta couldn’t think of anything to say.

‘I’ll tell you why.’ The red face was getting redder again. ‘Because you’re a lazy, spoilt little girl, that’s why.’

Netta had to tell him this wasn’t true. She had to explain that she had done the job. ‘No, I—’

‘I beg your pardon?’ he shouted, slamming his hands on the table and pushing himself up.

‘I—I—I… yes, I—I’m lazy, Herr Kahler.’

‘And?’ He sang the word like a motorcar speeding up.

‘And spoilt,’ she said, but the words tasted foul in her mouth because she was sure they weren’t true.

‘Yes you are.’ He came out from behind the desk and Netta flinched, but he passed by her and grabbed the broom from behind the door. ‘Now, you’ll go and do it again and you’ll make sure you do it properly otherwise you’ll get the slipper, do you hear?’

She took the broom. It felt like it was made of lead. She went outside. The driveway was covered in sand. Her whole body drooped. But she swept it all away again, more thoroughly than she did the first time with the thought of the slipper hanging over her.

Milla found her at dinner time slumped in her chair at the round table.

‘What happened?’ she whispered.

‘I’m too tired to even tell you,’ Netta sighed.

The two girls ate their fish and cabbage that evening in the kind of silence Frau Auttenberg expected every evening. When the cod liver oil came round Netta opened her mouth obediently, as she had done ever since that long night when she had first done battle with the battle-axe. And when she was allowed to leave the dining room she spat out the oil she’d been hiding into the potted plant on the windowsill in the stairwell, which was growing much faster and looking much healthier than Netta was for its daily dose of fish oil.

But before she could begin to get undressed, Paul came up to her and said, ‘Herr Kahler wants to see you.’

Netta almost cried right there in front of Paul, but somehow she held it in and got herself back downstairs to the office. And it all sounded very familiar.

‘What did I tell you to do this afternoon?’ he growled.

‘Sweep the sand from the driveway,’ she answered.

‘And did you do that?’

‘Yes I did.’

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘Yes I did, Herr Kahler.’

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘Yes I—!’

‘I. Beg. Your. Pardon?’

She knew what the answer was supposed to be, but she couldn’t believe she hadn’t done it properly this time.

She opened her mouth to speak.

‘Think very carefully before you answer, young lady,’ he snarled.

She couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. If she told the truth she would get the slipper. If she lied and said she had been lazy again, she would get the slipper. This was so unfair!

Herr Kahler got up. He was wearing his pyjamas already with an open red dressing gown on top and red leather slippers to match.

He closed the door quietly and took Netta by the wrist.

Without giving too much away about how this strand of the story ends, it takes another child to see a possible way for Netta out of Kahler’s twisted game. And it has to be a child, I think. The Watcher partly explores the effect of trauma on children in an age when children were supposed to be ‘seen and not heard’ by illuminating that fatal mistake all adults make, as if they have never been children themselves:

how children, seen and not heard, still saw things and heard things, especially the things expressed inches above their heads, which adults somehow believed were inaudible and forgettable to something as absorbent as a child.  


My thanks go to Monika and Authoright for the chance to read and review the book in exchange for my honest review.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s