What Only We Know by Catherine Hokin
English | 2020 | General Fiction/Classics | ePUB | 2.8 MB
I seem to have followed a rather meandering career, including marketing and teaching and politics (don’t try and join the dots), to get where I have always wanted to be, which is writing historical fiction. I am a story lover as well as a story writer and nothing fascinates me more than a strong female protagonist and a quest. Hopefully those are what you will encounter when you pick up my books.
A door slammed and the unmistakable sound of boots came crashing up the hall. Liese held her little daughter’s hand so tightly, the tiny fingers had turned purple. The SS officer’s hand was at Liese’s throat before she saw him move. ‘I can kill you easily, then I can kill your daughter.’ He relaxed his grip a little. ‘Or perhaps I could kill her first?’
England, forty years later. When Karen Cartwright is unexpectedly called home to nurse her ailing father, she goes with a heavy heart. The house she grew up in feels haunted by the memory of her father’s closely guarded secrets about her beautiful mother Elizabeth’s tragic death years before.
As she packs up the house, Karen discovers an old photograph and a stranger’s tattered love letter to her mother postmarked from Germany after the war.
During her life, Karen struggled to understand her shy, fearful mother, but now she is realising there was so much more to Elizabeth than she knew. For one thing, her name wasn’t even Elizabeth, and her harrowing story begins long before Karen was born.
It’s 1941 in Berlin, and a young woman called Liese is being forced to wear a yellow star…
There wasn’t a finger’s breadth between them. Paul’s eyes were closed, his chin resting on Margarethe’s black curls; Margarethe’s head was tucked into his chest, her arms draped round his shoulders.
Liese imagined her father choreographing the pose and spinning its caption: Paul and Margarethe Elfmann – the fashion genius and his beautiful muse. Two perfectly still figures forming one complete whole.
You’re a lucky girl to live with so much love. To have such a perfect family. They all said it – the dreamy-eyed seamstresses coveting Margarethe’s velvet-bowed shoes. Sometimes Liese considered puncturing their visions, pointing out how awkward it was to always be cast in the spectator’s role. It was easier, in the end, to stay silent.
The seconds dragged; the stillness grew stifling. Liese peeped at her watch: almost three o’clock. She willed the hands to hurry. Finally, the tiny gold pointer clicked into place and, exactly on cue, there it came: a knock on the door that pulled the Elfmanns apart like a knot unravelling. Whatever they whispered to each other was too soft to hear.
Margarethe was the first to untangle, her body reforming into a model’s precisely cut lines. She tripped past Liese without looking at her daughter; Liese let her go. Margarethe was never cruel to her daughter or, at least, not intentionally so – she was as perfectly pleasant to Liese when she noticed her as she was to anyone else. Margarethe’s life always had, and always would, revolve around herself and, since her marriage, it had also revolved around Paul; the rest of the world hovered somewhere on the edge of her attention. For years, Liese had refused to accept that. She had held fast to the belief that, one day, when she was older, she would finally achieve the close bond with her mother she longed for. She had spent hours as a child drawing pictures of the two of them, sipping coffee on the Kurfürstendamm or gliding into fashion shows; giggling together like the arm-locked mothers and daughters who visited Haus Elfmann. She had presented each carefully crafted scene, hoping, at the least, for a smile. Margarethe, however, had shown no interest in the sketches, or in the excursions their pencil lines imagined.