(2 customer reviews)
Publication Date: 28 Jan 2022
Categories: HistoricalISBN: 9781914471025
It is summer of 1938, in the Czech spa town of Karlovy Vary.
Life for the Dusek family – and their six-year-old son Jan – has been stable, unhurried, and full of promise.
But times are changing. An idyllic childhood gives way to impending invasion and looming war. Jan’s parents choose to leave everything behind, to face an uncertain future.
A following vivid and hazardous journey across Europe is often seen by Jan as an adventure rather than a danger. The family settle in England just two weeks before the start of World War Two, ready to put the past behind them as they build a new life in a new land.
It is summer of 2019, as Jan returns to Karlovy for the first time in 80 years.
An International Film Festival is in progress. How much more has the world changed? What remains the same? What other timeless and terrible challenges will bring about further immigration, settlement and belonging? Can the only strengthening shield be the power of love?
Štêpán Novák was born in Karlovy Vary, in the mid-Europe of the early 1930’s. Later, this Czech boy and his parents arrived as ‘friendly aliens’ in England, two weeks before the start of World War Two and the Blitz. An English primary education in state and public school followed, the latter funded by the Czech Government in UK exile. Further years of study led to Štěpán’s qualification as an architect. A glad debt to his adopted country was then completed via two years of National Service as 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers, British Army of the Rhein. A parallel lifetime of Architecture and Academia then began. While Štěpán designed buildings in the UK, his students went on to work all over the world. Štěpán’s teaching carried him to Japan, to mainland Europe, and to America, where he tutored semesters in the universities of Arkansas and Yale. He became Head of the School of Architecture and Design, University of Brighton, retiring as Professor Emeritus. Further years of architectural creativity followed, side by side with the writing of his debut novel.
Andy Francis (Guest Review) - 19 Jan, 2022
A compelling read from start to finish. If anyone is still unsure about the negative effects of war then read this book. If describes in amazing detail how the life of one family was devestated by the German invasion of the then Czechoslovakia. It also leaves you in no doubt about the strength and resiliance of the human spirit. Through the central character, Jan, you get to know this family and empathise with them, sharing their ups and downs as they come to terms with life in a foreign country and as they flourish. You cheer as Jan eventually finds his niche in life and you share his sadness as he revisits him homeland after a long absense.
Read it, you will enjoy it!
Jon Polak (Guest Review) - 29 Oct, 2022
After a visit to the Czech Republic in August 2022, which included several days in the beautiful city of Karlovy Vary, I found this book on Amazon and was compelled to read it. It was a very moving recount of a Czech Citizen who had a life very similar to that of my father. Both the author and my father had to escape the country when the Nazis took over in 1939. After receiving his medical degree at Maseryk University in Brno my father also emigrated to London like Jan and became a British doctor. I found very many parallels in the book with Jan's life and his. I also very much enjoyed reading about the sights of Karlovy Vary, the beautiful architecture, the ride to the top of the Diana funicular, drinking the mineral water and soaking in the spas, eating Oplatky wafers, as well as the descriptions of places in Prague such as Wenceslas Square, the old town area and the Hradcany castle district, all of which we just experienced on our trip.
The book is a well-written heartfelt journey of a life that experienced some of the worst atrocities that mankind has ever committed on a population. I lost my father to cancer when I was a very young man so I never had the opportunity to hear much of his version of the events that he lived through and never spoke about, including the loss of his entire family during the war. If you have any family history that had to experience these awful times in central Europe you will definitely enjoy this book.