Sometimes the past really is a foreign country.
When Julia Rosenthal returns to the suburban estate of her childhood, the unspoken tensions that permeated her seemingly conventional family life come flooding back. Trying to make sense of the secrets and half truths, she is forced to question how she has raised her own daughter – with an openness and honesty that Susanna has just rejected in a very public betrayal of trust. Meanwhile her brother, Max, is happy to forge an alternative path through life, leaving the past undisturbed. But in a different place and time, another woman struggles to tell the story of her early years in wartime Germany, gradually revealing the secrets she has carried through the century, until past and present collide with unexpected and haunting results.
In her devastating and beautifully understated second novel, Sue Eckstein takes the reader on a skilfully plotted journey where our growing awareness of Julia and Max’s true heritage is in stark contrast to Julia’s own interpretation of the past. Interweaving universal themes – the nature of identity, the meaning of family, the emotional legacy of the past – Interpreters magnificently unravels the impact of a war that resonates across four generations.
SOME REVIEWS OF INTERPRETERS
Times Literary Supplement
A skilfully constructed saga spanning five generations…Interpreters is an ambitious book with an impressive breadth and an inventive way of intertwining its two plots.
The scene for this wonderful novel is set in the first paragraph: where privet hedges give way to barriers of leylandii and high wrought-iron gates. A place we are told that “could induce a yearning for death in even the most optimistic.” Not only does it establish the spikey, drily humorous tone of the narrator, but it clearly marks the territory for a story about the screens that people erect to conceal unpalatable truths as much as to protect themselves from the transgressions of others. Like all the best literary suburbs, behind the neat hedges all is not as it seems…With her characteristic lucid prose and deft characterisation, Eckstein has produced another finely-wrought and gripping novel that is destined to be a favourite with book groups.
The Brighton Magazine
The secrets she discloses are both disturbing and haunting. They touch on universal themes, and give a voice to the many who perished in the war, and the many silent secrets those who survived carried with them to their deathbeds…the characters are so strong and rounded that they will stay with you for years to come.
Broadway Book Club
There is much that will resonate with families who’ve experienced difficult relationships in Sue Eckstein’s stunning new novel. Sensitively written and beautifully observed, it explores the damage that can be inadvertently inflicted within families when the secrets of the past have a hold over the present.
We Love This Book
Creates a poignantly vivid sense of the horrors of war…the narrative is compelling and powerful. We too, as readers, become interpreters.
Book After Book
You just won’t want to stop reading until you reach the end of the book. This is a beautiful and moving story with credible characters that you will quickly warm to.
It reprises the parental silence and filial incomprehension at the trauma that remains too fierce ever to be spoken of…Strongly written…demonstrates that trauma is the most powerful inheritance of all.
A fascinating exposition of how the past affects the future.
The great beauty of this short, but complex book was that odd sensation you sometimes get at family gatherings where you spot little correlations between family members often generations apart, whether they’ve met each other before or not. And it’ll make you think of the strange forces, characteristics and attractions that led you to be exactly where you are right now.
Eckstein constructs her characters with a shrewd dramatist’s eye. The dramatist’s skill is evident too in the way she lets behavior reveal character and relationship rather than explanation. Eckstein has crafted a smartly intertwined pair of narratives about how versions of the past interplay within three generations, one which grabs the reader with its immediacy.