Wednesday, 5 February 2020


My review 

THIS TERRIBLE BEAUTY by Katrin Schumann is a beautifully-written and compelling work of historical fiction that will stay on my mind for a long time. Inspired by actual historical events, the story has a past and present timeline that follows the heartbreaking journey of main character, Bettina Heilstrom as she seeks to rebuild her life after a devastating loss. The past timeline is set on an island in East Germany after World War II has ended and Germany has been divided. East Germany is under the control of the German Democratic Republic which is becoming increasingly repressive to its own citizens. 

Bettina’s husband, Werner is quietly rising in the ranks of the new secret police, a dangerous role which keeps them under constant scrutiny. When Werner discovers that Bettina has been unfaithful to him, he punishes her by forcing her to give up her young daughter, Annaliese and leave the country forever in return for sparing her lover, Peter’s life. Broken-hearted and alone, Bettina ends up in Chicago where ten years later she is a reknowned photographer. However, she has never given up hope of someday being reunited with her daughter. A surprise visit from someone in her past sets Bettina on a path back to her homeland to search for her daughter and learn the fate of her former lover. 

The descriptions of the characters, their relationships and the political climate in both time frames are vivid and haunting. I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen in the end. THIS TERRIBLE BEAUTY is a touching and emotional story of love, loss and the tragedies of war and I recommend it most highly.


Book description 

From the bestselling author of The Forgotten Hours comes an unforgettable story of one woman’s journey to reclaim what she lost in a country torn apart by the devastating legacy of WWII.
On the windswept shores of an East German island, Bettina Heilstrom struggles to build a life from the ashes. World War II has ended, and her country is torn apart. Longing for a family, she marries Werner, an older bureaucrat who adores her. But after joining the fledgling secret police, he is drawn deep into its dark mission and becomes a dangerous man.
When Bettina falls in love with an idealistic young renegade, Werner discovers her infidelity and forces her to make a terrible choice: spend her life in prison or leave her home forever. Either way she loses both her lover and child.
Ten years later, Bettina has reinvented herself as a celebrated photographer in Chicago, but she’s never stopped yearning for the baby she left behind. Surprised by an unexpected visitor from her past, she resolves to return to her ravaged homeland to reclaim her daughter and uncover her beloved’s fate, whatever the cost.

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