Friday 27 September 2019

Read in 2019 - 19: Die Spur der Stachelbeeren

Die Spur der Stachelbeeren
by Ulrike Ladnar

A young woman who wants to live her life the way she chooses, not have things decided for her by others, is the heroine of this book, set in my hometown Ludwigsburg at the time of the first World War.

Back then, Ludwigsburg was a Garrison, with plenty of military around. Lynn works as a nurse in a military hospital and learns more from her patients about the real state of things than what the average citizen gets to read in the paper.

She has two brothers, and their childhood and youth are touched several times in the story, portrayed as idyllic with loving parents and a beautiful home. Their mother is dead by the time the book sets in, and Lynn runs the household for her grieving father and brothers with the help of an elderly woman who is more family member than staff.

Close by lives her best friend with her father, a strict military man; his wife has taken her own life many years ago.

Lynn's older brother would much prefer university to war, but he has to join the army. His letters stop coming all of a sudden, and nobody seems to know where he is; Lynn hears rumours that he may have deserted the army and is in hiding, or has become a spy for the enemy, or both.

The younger brother changes from a carefree, playful youth to an almost fanatic war supporter; he for his part can't wait to be old enough to go to war.

Their father is helpless, and the only way he deals with the situation is to retreat more and more into his own world.

Then, Lynn is kidnapped and held prisoner in a hut in the woods. At first, she does not understand why her kidnapper has done what he did, and what it all has to do with secrets of the past. But eventually, after many twists and turns, secrets are revealed, justice is done, missing friends and family members return home, and... well, more or less all is well that ends well.

There is a lot more to the story than what I have briefly summarised here: romances, betrayals, politics; Lynn's mother was from England, and so she and her family are considered almost enemies by some, now that the countries are at war.
It was a good read; not great, but good. I doubt I would have read this book if it had not had my hometown as its main setting, and I doubt I am going to look for more of this author. Her style is easy to read but sometimes a bit wooden (that is the best term I can think of), not as if the words ran from her pen (or keyboard) easily.
There are also a few geographical flaws in her description of the town and its surrounding area, but these do not take away from the story; I merely found them a little irritating. (The author did not know Ludwigsburg at all when she was asked to write a historical novel set here; she obviously did a lot of research and came to visit several times.)

Since I don't think this will be available in English, I do not expect any of you to look out for this book; I have written the review mainly for myself so that I can keep track of what I have been reading.


  1. The trail of gooseberries? It's annoying when you know an author has not done the research properly. I do wish I'd paid attention to the 2 years of German I did at school. I struggled with all those genders and cases. With a bit of application I might have taken it further and been able to read books in German. Typical English!

    1. The trail of gooseberries is right.
      Most of what the author says about Ludwigsburg's roads and buildings is correct, but even allowing for some things being different now than what they may have been 100 years ago, one of her main errors is simply that, an error.
      German grammar is complicated, and I am glad I didn't have to learn it as a second language!