Wow. I am in shock. I’m writing this review directly after reading the book as all my thoughts on this book are tumbling out of me and I need to type them before I forget them.
When Clare approached me to read this book, she’d already sold it to me, but even then, I don’t think I’d appreciated what a rollercoaster I was going to be sent on.
It’s 1938 and we’re introduced to two very different young people but both having courage and determination.
Alice is half-Jewish and her Christian father is being held at a camp due to his skills as a physicist. Her Jewish mother has died and her younger sister; Edie, has her mother’s features meaning she’s not safe. Alice looks more like her father and so it’s up to her to protect her sister and get them to safety.
Kurt is a member of the Hitler Youth, but he’s starting to have doubts – the violence seems unnecessary and when his team leader requests him to fight his best friend just to prove himself, he turns against team orders and flees.
Alice and Kurt are now both on the run from the Gestapo and meet on a train, neither knowing each other’s true identities as they are, of course, travelling on false papers. They then meet again on S.S St Louis as they flee Germany for Cuba.
Tension is high on-board, the captain wants to get his Jewish passengers to safety but not all of the crew feel the same way.
Alice and Kurt have become the interest of a group of young Jewish people, their leader being Eli, and they are questioning if Alice and Kurt are who they say they are… which of course… we, the readers, are the only ones that know the truth.
The story unfolds as we learn a spy is definitely on-board, whilst Eli’s group suspect it’s Alice or Kurt; Alice and Kurt are also terrified of the spy capturing them. With Eli now trusting them but others not; the place is divided and we see the desperation and impulsive angry reactions, that come from people who have seen so much pain and evil in their own country, that they begin to lash out and suspect it in everything and everyone around them now.
With suspicion causing havoc among the passengers and the ship’s journey not being ‘plain sailing’ either, this book had my heart going like the clappers, lurching up and down with the waves.
I was utterly immersed in this story and blown away by Coombe’s attention to detail in all the historic facts. The characters are fictional but the setting is real and Coombe’s research transports you back to 1938/39 with such power, creating vivid images in your mind.
Whilst I have read many stories before set in the WWII era, I have never read the story of S.S St Louis and with such strong characterisation, this is a book that will remain in my heart.
We Are of Dust is out now in paperback and eBook by The Liverpool Publishing Company. I would highly recommend it, perhaps a great last minute present for someone in your life for Christmas?
Thank you so much Clare for sharing your book with me, I feel truly honoured to have read it!
Anyone else love WWII stories? Which have you read? Let me know either here in the comments or over on twitter!
Until next time, Chloé x