Sunday, 8 February 2015

Yesterday’s Sandhills by Rita Baltutt Kyle.

Subtitle: Wolf Children in Germany at the End of World War II 

The story of Rita Baltutt and her sisters had me totally engrossed and fascinated from beginning to end. It is plainly yet beautifully written even though it must have been an emotional undertaking. The author gives a clear insight into life of the time and country and the changes in government rule and domination during World War II.

 The story begins with delightful childhood memories. Memories of the author’s childhood home in East Prussia with a loving family and the sand hills where she played.
It continues into the uncertainty of war, change in countries that govern and dominate their homeland then flight from their home with the arrival of the Russian soldiers.

Separated from their parents when they are taken as forced labour by the Russians the four little girls use all their courage just to survive; living like wild animals scrounging food and shelter wherever they can. 

Finally the war ends and the girls live briefly in an orphanage until they are separately fostered out; each experiencing very different lives in war torn East Berlin.

Rita bravely recalls all the horrible things she and her sisters experienced – murder, rape, forced labour of prisoners at a time when no one, no government, no nation cared about four little girls battling to survive on their own.

As the daughter of a British airman who served in WWII, I learnt very little about how people lived and survived life “on other side of the war”.  This book is a reminder that war has a terrible impact on innocent citizens regardless of whether we consider them our allies or our enemies at that point in time. A reminder that for the average citizen life was difficult on both sides.

This is not only one of the few books that tell the other side of living through war it is probably even more special being from a child’s perspective.

In addition to the beautiful yet simple authorship there are several things that make this book very readable. 

The historic details in the book demonstrate she has also done additional research putting her experiences into the context of the war being fought around her. She takes time to explain words and phrases that may be unfamiliar to the reader and even does conversions to add relevance for the reader eg 10,000 German Marks would be the equivalent of $66,000 in 2013 . 

I look forward to reading the companion book Bones of My People.

This book was provided to me for free for an honest and unbiased review.

My rating 5*