Title: Tears Of Amber
Author: Sofia Segovia
Translator: Simon Bruni
Genre: Historical Fiction
First published: April 17th 2018
Finished reading: May 11th 2021
(Originally published in Spanish: ‘Peregrinos’)
“Time neither listens to reason, nor obeys orders, nor forgives carelessness.”
*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and AmazonCrossing in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***
After loving The Murmur Of Bees back in 2019, there was simply no way I was going to be able to resist a newly translated story by this author. Add the simply stunning cover and the fact that Tears Of Amber is WWII historical fiction and I was even more convinced I simply HAD to add it to my shelves… And I’m glad I did, as I ended up having an excellent time with this story.
Tears Of Amber can be seen as a family saga where we follow two different Prussian families as they have to face the struggles of war. The story starts in 1938 before the war begins, to show part of Hitler’s rise to power as well as the initial reactions of the people to his promises. Afterwards, the story spans the whole war as well as the first two years after… Giving us the full picture of what it was like for the common people in Prussia during and after the war; both farmers and their families. To give us a more multi-dimensional picture even, Tears Of Amber uses a multiple POV structure where we follow not only the two children Arno and Ilse, but also other members of the family as well as the Polish laborer Janusz who has to ‘work’ for Ilse’s family. This might seem like a lot of characters and POVs to keep apart, but the chapter beginnings let you know who’s turn it is to lead the story and the development of the characters is such that they are memorable and easy to keep apart.
I personally loved that this story is based on true events and that Arno and Ilse really existed (Ilse told her story to the author herself). It shows that the author has investigated the topic extensively and while Tears Of Amber is essentially still a piece of historical fiction, the story does feel authentic as a result of the many descriptions and details. The writing itself is once again splendid, and the translation really feels flawless as you won’t be able to recognize this story as such. I really liked the incorporation of German, Polish and Russian words and small phrases, as they added another level of authenticity to the story. Their meaning is easy to deduct from the context too, so no dictionaries needed either.
My only complaint would be that the pace was a tad too slow to my taste and the story did feel a bit overlong. True, Tears Of Amber is a mostly character driven story and the pace always tends to be slower in this type of stories… But still, I found that certain parts of the plot (especially those relating to the daily activities of the characters) made the story drag a little and I feel that the story would have flowed better without them. That said, if you see this story as a family saga first and WWII fiction second, the execution itself is splendid.
In short, if you enjoy well written WWII historical fiction with a lot of dept and focus on a big cast of characters and don’t mind a slower pace, Tears Of Amber is an excellent choice.