‘Sometimes the past is too frightening to visit’
– A Telegram from Berlin
[ About the Book ]
1939 – As the clouds of war gather across Europe, diplomat Gabriel Ford is sent to London to outline the Irish government’s intended policy of neutrality. While there, Gabriel, recently engaged and the son of a War of Independence hero, has his life thrown into turmoil when he meets a beautiful mysterious woman, Karina Harper.
Karina watched as a child as her magnificent home in Ireland was burned down by rebels and her family were driven out of the country. Now a secretary at the British Foreign Office, she is using all her contacts as she desperately tries to rescue the man she loves from Nazi Germany.
As war erupts and Karina is posted to Dublin, Gabriel risks everything for a scandalous affair with her. Gabriel and Karina become engaged. But is she all she seems? Is she just using Gabriel’s diplomatic status to rescue her true love trapped in wartime Germany? Or does she have some other darker motive for pursuing the relationship?
As a Nazi victory in Europe looks imminent, Gabriel is sent to Berlin by De Valera to try to avert a feared invasion of Ireland. Karina uses the opportunity to accompany him, to find her old love.
But as she and Gabriel board a plane for Berlin, Karina is hiding one more secret. And if discovered, this secret will ensure neither ever return.
[ My Review ]
A Telegram from Berlin is the much awaited new novel from bestselling author A O’ Connor. Published today October 21st with Poolbeg Press it is described as ‘a dramatic new story set in the Irish corridors of power during the Second World War‘.
Historical fiction is a genre that will always educate and A Telegram from Berlin did not disappoint. Set during the turbulent years of the Second World War it focuses on Ireland’s response to The Emergency, as it was called here. O’ Connor takes the reader behind the scenes into the war offices of De Valera and his cohorts as they battled with maintaining their hard won independence but also recognising the necessity of providing a workable agreement with Britain. Ireland was a country on shaky legs, in recovery from the Easter Rising in 1916 and the following bloody and guerrilla War of Independence. The country had been divided with neighbour turning on neighbour and many Anglo-Irish were run out of their beloved ancestral homes as the fires raged on.
July 1922, Karina Harper evacuated to England with her parents in a panic. After being attacked in their Co. Galway home, Inishwood, and then watching it burn before their eyes, they moved in with relatives in England. But Karina’s father, Percy, never recovered from the attack, leaving her American born mother and herself to fend for themselves, stripped of all their wealth and everything they had been used to. Penny, Karina’s mother, found work, as did Karina when she was of age but an underlying bitterness for the Irish remained buried deep in their hearts. Karina still had her network of socialites and was a regular at the renowned 400 Club on Leicester Square. Here she mingled with celebrities, royals and politicians, dancing til dawn but she was always very much aware of everything she had lost.
Gabriel Ford, the son of a War of Independence hero, is now a diplomat with the Irish Government. His mother, Cynthia, is a fighting woman with a very strong and forceful personality. She was an active participant in the unrest of those dark years alongside her husband, Rory, who was murdered. Now her son Tim is a politician, whose marriage is in free-fall and has developed an over-dependence on drink so she is looking to Gabriel to continue the name of the Ford family. Gabriel is engaged and on the verge of marriage when he crosses paths with Karina Harper, a woman who literally steals his heart away after one unexpected meeting.
Karina Harper had been a visitor to Germany before the war took hold and had fallen deeply in love with a German writer whose work was now under scrutiny by the Nazi regime, due to its unflattering content. Now as the Nazi flags fly higher, Karina is attempting to get him out of Berlin but this is proving a very difficult task. Karina is prepared to do anything it takes to rescue her lover but at what cost?
A. O’ Connor provides some wonderful insights into this period of history. With passionate characters on all sides, some with more controversial views than others, he brings life to the pages of this story. Ireland remained neutral during these terrible years, yet many left her shores to fight alongside the British forces, fighting an enemy that had a determination to conquer everything and anyone in its path. Using actual events and real people, A. O’ Connor knits fact and fiction effortlessly, making the story so much more authentic and believable.
As I have stated in the past I always end up down a research rabbit-hole when reading historical fiction and my fascinating discovery this time was Hitler’s Irish connection. His older half-brother, Alois Hitler, worked in The Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin. In 1909 he met a young Irish woman, Bridget Dowling. They eloped to London the following year, where they married and had a son, Patrick (Paddy) William Hitler, born in 1911. By all accounts, Hitler was not a fan of Paddy Hitler, but they did meet and the connection was there…..
A Telegram from Berlin beautifully captures the lives and fear of a generation caught between parental approval, breaking the rules and of society’s expectations. Karina Harper and Gabriel Ford both have stirring histories. Their present has been permanently overshadowed by their past. A very complex and twisty road lies ahead but ultimately it is their choice which path they take. A. O’ Connor’s depiction of these years, from more of an Irish viewpoint, is very fascinating, providing the reader with an alternative perspective. The characters are all complex figures, with very personal agendas but in particular Cynthia Ford. She is a tough matriarch, a force to be reckoned with, a woman who expects to get what she wants and who expects the world to bend to her ways. She is living in a past and struggles to see the wider picture beyond the borders of Ireland. She is fabulously portrayed as a woman basking in an old glory and will fight hard to stay on her perceived pedestal.
A Telegram from Berlin is a sumptuous read, a sweeping tale that captures a time and place with a remarkable awareness that I have come to expect from A. O’ Connor. The era comes alive as the pages turn, totally immersing the reader and providing that much needed escapism that we all are craving.
A gorgeous story of drama and passion, A Telegram from Berlin is a captivating, intense read, a glorious interpretation from more than one perspective, a truly fascinating story.
Purchase Link ~ A Telegram from Berlin
[ Bio ]
A. O’Connor is the bestselling author of fifteen novels, including The Armstrong House trilogy which, as well as being one of Ireland’s favourite series, has been translated into German and Russian and is an Amazon bestseller.
After the success of By Royal Appointment, a fictionalised account of the relationship between King Edward VII and Irish actress Nellie Cliffden, O’Connor turned his attention to the remarkable and little- known relationship between two of Ireland’s icons – Michael Collins and Lady Hazel Lavery. Published last year, A Great Beauty, is a fascinating account of a love and a relationship that both shocked and had deep political implications for Ireland at the time.