Tale of a tragic era of history

2011-05-04 00:00

AS I am very interested in World War 2 literature, specifically that of the Nazis and their reign of terror, I jumped at the chance to review Dan Vyleta’s The Quiet Twin. Nothing is as it seems, and as the plot progresses, each character’s closely guarded secrets­ are revealed, leading to a most harrowing, tragic end.

It is 1939, and Vienna is on the brink of war, with Austria having already been annexed to Germany’s Third Reich­ in the previous year. We are introduced to the inhabitants of a rather dismal block of flats, where Dr Beer, a psychiatrist forced to practise in the guise of a general practitioner, tends to Zuska, the oversexed, attention-seeking niece of Professor Spekstein. Unwittingly, Beer becomes embroiled in the investigation of a number of grisly murders, including that of Spekstein’s beloved dog.

Throughout the book, one gets the ominous feeling that no one can hide away — that someone is always watching. Perhaps Vyleta is emulating the Nazis’ invasive presence and vigilant control at that time. Each person’s story seems to reflect the horrific nightmare that was Nazi rule and its devastating effect on their state of mind and living conditions. One of the most poignant characters in the book is Lieschen, a severely deformed, hunch-backed little girl, who finds sympathy in Beer. However, she does not escape the clutching hands of her fate and becomes one of many who became orphans and wards of the state created by the horrors of the Second World War.

Otto Frei, a mime and one of Beer’s neighbours, lives in putrid filth and is the bearer of a most shocking secret, which Beer eventually finds out. Through the shared knowledge of this secret, they are drawn together in a desperate, fruitless fight to save one person’s life, and in the process, murder another.

As you read the book, there is almost a sense of claustrophobia. One person’s life becomes entangled with another’s, and the complex and convoluted plot mirrors the stifling way in which the Nazis brought down their baton.

Disturbing and heart-rending, this book left me feeling rather dejected and disturbed. However, Vyleta’s captivating plot and insightful understanding of Nazi brutality and the chaos that spread into every rotten core of Nazi rule, made it very difficult to put the book down. The Quiet Twin is a definite must for anyone interested in this tragic era of history.

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