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BACK TO BACK by Julia Franck


by Julia Franck

Pub Date: Dec. 3rd, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-8021-2167-7
Publisher: Grove

A devoted brother and sister suffer their mother’s pitiless love and the even harsher treatment of the state, East Germany in its formative years, in a relentlessly dark second novel from a prize-winning Germany writer.

After the international success of her bleak yet striking English language debut (The Blindness of the Heart, 2010), Franck returns with another brutal vision of history glimpsed through the family, this time set behind the Iron Curtain. Ella and Thomas are two of the neglected children of a sculptor who is passionate about the poor and her art but callous toward her own brood, whom she neglects, abandons for weeks at a time, criticizes and humiliates. Although the strong bond between Ella and Thomas helps them endure, their futures are doomed. Ella is raped both by her stepfather and the lodger, a State Security officer, is hospitalized and never fully recovers. Thomas, sensitive and intelligent but denied the education and freedom he craves, is sent to labor in a quarry where the abuse and bullying nearly destroy him. Later, working in a hospital, he meets and falls in love with a nurse whose life is as impossibly painful as his own. Through intense, impressionistic, often beautifully detailed strands of narration, Franck spins a terrible sequence of damage and unhappiness.

Poetic and sensuous, but so unrelievedly grim that it borders on the unendurable.