Librarian Laura’s Review
Fifteen Words is set in 1930’s Nazi Germany. Recently married to his fellow physician and sweetheart, Erika, German soldier and doctor, Max Portner, is ripped from his happy days as a newlywed and sent off to the front lines to serve as a doctor for the German army during WWII. About the only bright point of being involved in such an ugly war is the fact that two of his best friends and fellow physicians are by his side, Horst and Edgar. Then Max and his comrades are rounded up by the Russian enemy and made prisoners of war in a frozen work camp in Siberia called Gegesha, with little to no comfort, decency, or sustenance. Max is allowed to leave the camp for short periods of time, walking a long trek to a nearby village to serve as doctor to other Russian commanders and their wives. After returning from a rather eventful trip where he had to deliver a baby to a Russian officer’s wife, Max is accused wrongly by Volkov, the camp commanding officer. He is thrown into solitary confinement in a cage for six weeks for no apparent reason other than the brutality and hatred of Volkov for the German army.
Meanwhile, while Max is spending long, painful days as a POW, his young wife Erika travels with her father-in-law Karl to safety in another village after being thrown out of their household. Little known to Max, Erika is pregnant. Once her daughter, Netta, is born, Erika decides to start practicing medicine, as she has no clue when or if she will ever see her husband again. With the help of her father-in-law, Karl, and the handsome handyman Rodrick, Erika sets up a surgery unit in their home and begins seeing patients. Erika struggles to raise their daughter without Max present and while her home is destroyed by war.
The only communication between Max and Erika during the four years he is a POW in Gegesha is through brief, mundane messages, as the Russians only allow prisoners to send fifteen word messages to loved ones. As Max and Erika are kept apart, they each grow closer to and are tempted by others, threatening their own marriage.
Told in alternating points-of-view, Max and Erika’s daily lives unfold for readers. Though the couple is kept apart for over four years, while they each flashback to times they shared together. This is a love story, but also a story of survival during times of great trial and turmoil. Fans of both romance and historical fiction will enjoy this novel. The ending begs for a sequel, which Jephcott Thomas has written, called The Watcher.
About Author Monika Jephcott Thomas
Monika Jephcott Thomas grew up in Dortmund Mengede, north-west Germany. She moved to the UK in 1966, enjoying a thirty year career in education before retraining as a therapist. Along with her partner Jeff she established the Academy of Play & Child Psychotherapy in order to support the twenty per cent of children who have emotional, behavioural, social and mental health problems by using play and the creative Arts. A founder member of Play Therapy UK, Jephcott Thomas was elected President of Play Therapy International in 2002. In 2016 her first book Fifteen Words was published.
Website – http://monika-jephcott-thomas.com/
Q&A With Monika Jephcott-Thomas
1. How did you get started as a writer?
After my parents death I looked through all their papers, letters , photos and documents they left behind and decided they would be a good foundation for a novel.
2. How many hours a day do you write?
I don’t write daily, as writing is my hobby and not my main job, which is training adults who work with children in play therapy to alleviate their emotional, behavioural and mental health problems and enable their potential. See www playtherapy.org.uk
3. What is your favorite under-appreciated novel?
4. What is your favorite childhood book?
5. Do you have a special room or place that you prefer to write?
Yes, in our house in France looking out into nature.
6. How do you select the names of your characters?
In my novels they came from German characters that I thought would fit.
7. What is the most difficult part of being a writer?
Having the inspiration at the time when I need it.
8. What is your favorite/most valued work that you have written?
My autobiography, Under the Pear Tree.
Special thanks to Clink Street Publishing and to Author, Monika Jephcott-Thomas for being a special guest at librarianlaura.com today. I hope you enjoy Monika’s novels as much as I have!