Stunning Family Saga
Avaliado no Reino Unido em 2 de julho de 2020
If The Son and Heir were a work of fiction it would be amazing,as the true story of the decline of a dysfunctional family dynasty it's stunning.
Written by award-winning Dutch journalist Alexander Munninghoff the book begins with him as a 4 year-old in 1948 discovering some of his his Father's war memorabilia in an attic, his old SS helmet, and the reaction of his family when he walks into the room they're in wearing it. This sets the scene for a book full of family secrets and divisions.
Alexander's Grandfather Joannes, known as Joan, leaves his native Netherlands for Latvia where he builds a business empire and makes all kind of connections,from the political to the decidedly shady, becoming one the richest men in the country in the process. He marries a Russian woman and they have a daughter and 3 sons,one of whom,Frans,is Alexander's father and the main focus of the story. Frans is sent to Holland as a boy for his education in the lead up to WW2 and hates it, eventually rebelling against his Father by joining the SS. The rather convoluted story tells of Frans' war and the turmoil in the family when they're forced to flee Latvia as the Russians approach.
From then on it's a tale that takes in adultery,kidnap,crime,corruption, the war,the declining remnants of the old German,Russian and Baltic aristocracies, hippy communes,suicide, smuggling ,the traumas of former frontline soldiers,alcoholism,drug addiction,exploitation,family feuds, friendship loneliness, poverty,vast wealth, politics,redemption, greed and much more. Most of the family are damaged in some way. Wera, Alexander's Mother,is a tragic figure ,the victim of some pretty awful behaviour by the tyrannical Joan and the just plain horrible Frans. Alexander's life is far from normal and with his treatment of his Mother ,which he only realises when it's pointed out by a blunt-speaking colleague ,is not much better than that of his forebears.
This book is already an award winner,it won the prestigious Libris History prize in 2015 but this is the first time it has been available in English,and on that note the translation by Kristen Gehrman is superb.
Sadly Alexander Munninghof passed away on the 28th of April 2020,shortly before the publication of this translation, but the book is a fitting memorial to him.
If you're interested in 20th century European History , want to read a fascinating family history or just enjoy an interesting and well-written book ,you won't be disappointed with The Son and Heir.
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