The Wish Child (PB)
Catherine Chidgey’s The Wish Child is a stunning portrayal of war-time Germany through the eyes of two children, Sieglinde, from a middle-class family in Berlin, and Erich, from a farm near Leipzig. Theirs is a story of secrets, fear and overwhelming loyalty – for both the right and wrong reasons – a story that plays out in an atmosphere of paranoia and loss. Yet there is beauty in the small details and the happenstance relationship between Sieglinde and Erich. Chidgey’s novel is reminiscent of Jenny Erpenbeck’s End of Days; it’s beautifully crafted, building tension and foreboding and never letting the reader off the hook. The narrator’s voice is one of haunting sadness, all-telling yet allusive.
At the heart of Catherine Chidgey's extraordinary new novel is an enigmatic voice that tells the story of German families caught up in a nation's dream. It's 1939. Two children watch as their parents become immersed in the puzzling mechanisms of power. Sieglinde lives in the affluent ignorance of middle-class Berlin, her father a censor who cuts prohibited words such as love and mercy out of books. Erich is an only child living a rural life near Leipzig, tending beehives, aware that he is shadowed by strange, unanswered questions. Drawn together as Germany's hope for a glorious future begins to collapse, the children find temporary refuge in an abandoned theatre amidst the rubble of Berlin. Outside, white bedsheets hang from windows; all over the city people are talking of surrender. The days Sieglinde and Erich spend together will shape the rest of their lives. The Wish Child is a profound meditation on the wreckage caused by a corrupt ideology, on the resilience of the human spirit, and on crimes that cannot be undone. I am the wish child, the future cast in water. I am the thrown coin, the blown candle; I am the fallen star.
Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize Winner - Ockham New Zealand Book Awards 2017.
Catherine Chidgey's previous novels are In a Fishbone Church (1998), Golden Deeds (2000), and The Transformation (2003). Some of her honours include Best First Book at the New Zealand Book Awards and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize (South East Asia and South Pacific), a Betty Trask Award (UK), the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Award, and a longlisting for the Orange Prize. Golden Deeds was chosen by Time Out magazine (London) as a book of the year, and was a 2002 Best Book in the LA Times Book Review and a 2002 Notable Book in the New York Times Book Review. In 2001 Catherine spent time in Menton, France as the Katherine Mansfield Fellow, and in 2002 she won the inaugural Prize in Modern Letters. She lives in Ngaruawahia.