Loving the Enemy: Building bridges in a time of war by Andrew March
|Loving the Enemy: Building bridges in a time of war by Andrew March|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Andrew March has pieced together the quite extraordinary stories of his grandfather and grandmother in the years leading up to, during, and after WWII, in careful detail and their voices rise vividly from the pages|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: October 2021|
|Publisher: Halwill Publishing|
|External links: Author's website|
Loving the Enemy tells the quite extraordinary story of author Andrew March's grandparents, who first met when grandfather Fred Clayton went to Dresden to teach in the early days of the Nazi regime in the 1930s. Fred, a sensitive and thoughtful man, had some vague ideas of "building bridges" which may guard against the growing hostilities between nations unfolding in Europe at the time. Fred's attempts to separate individual people from ideology weren't universally successful but he did make friendships and connections that lasted for a lifetime.
Fred Clayton was a grammar school boy and brilliant scholar, winning prizes and undertaking a fellowship at Cambridge, where he became friends with Alan Turing and resisted attempts by Guy Burgess to recruit him to the communist cause. Fred was always suspicious of extreme political ideology and this is, in part, what prompted him to travel to teach in Dresden. He was also socially awkward and often felt conscious of his working class background at Cambridge. He went through some confusion about his sexuality, which came to a head during the war.
After the war, Fred found a post in academia and sought to find out what had happened to the Germans he had known before. And this leads to an epistolary love affair with Rike, who will become his wife.
That's the summary. But reading Loving the Enemy is so much more than a few words from me. So many people travelled these years of war with tales that seem scarcely credible to those of us born during mostly peaceful times. Andrew March has pieced together the lives of his grandfather and grandmother in careful detail and their voices rise vividly from the pages. It's about personal connections and the way in which they transcend their times - even in war, we worry about finding someone to love, about what our futures will look like, about the people we've known, even if we are now on different sides.
The book is easy to read and the addition of photos helps to personalise the story. There's plenty of jeopardy of course and at times it felt almost like a thriller. I particularly enjoyed Rike's letters to Fred. They speak of such sadness but also of such hope. This is a story as relevant today as it was to its participants almost a century ago.
People really did live quite extraordinary lives in the period surrounding WWII. If the stories about them that never made it to the public consciousness interest you, you might also enjoy Invisible Ink: A Family Memoir by Martha Leigh which also speaks of a love affair separated by conflict and takes the two sides of a Jewish family from what is today Chernivtsi in Ukraine and was then Czernowitz in Romania, to Paris, Vienna, Switzerland and London.
You can read more about Andrew March here.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Loving the Enemy: Building bridges in a time of war by Andrew March at Amazon.com.
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