Book Review – Shadows Over Paradise by Isabel Wolff

Posted February 20, 2015 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015 / 2 Comments

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review – Shadows Over Paradise by Isabel WolffShadows Over Paradise on February 10th 2015
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository


A childhood mistake. A lifetime of regrets.

Jenni is a 'ghost': she writes the lives of other people. It's a job that suits her well: still haunted by a childhood tragedy, she finds it easier to take refuge in the memories of others rather than dwell on her own.

Jenni has an exciting new commission, and is delighted to start working on the memoirs of a Dutchwoman, Klara. As a child in the Second World War, Klara was interned in a camp on Java during the Japanese occupation – she has an extraordinary story of survival to tell.

But as Jenni and Klara begin to get to know each other, Jenni begins to do much more than shed light on a neglected part of history. She is being forced to examine her own devastating memories, too. But with Klara's help, perhaps this is finally the moment where she will be able to lay the ghosts of her own past to rest?

Gripping, poignant and beautifully researched, Ghostwritten is a story of survival and love, of memory and hope.

‘This was Polvarth, a place I’d vowed never to return to, yet which I saw, in my mind, every day.
It was my idea.
I closed my eyes as the memories rushed back.
We did it all by ourselves.’

Jenni Clark is a ghostwriter that takes the ghosts of a person’s past and molds them into a story. Her most recent commission is Klara, a woman that survived after being confined as a child in a camp in the midst of World War II. Klara currently resides in a town called Polvarth, a town that Jenni spent time there and where the ghosts of her own past currently reside. The opportunity presented to her in this job though is enough to make her willing to finally face those ghosts after all these years.

Jenni has run into trouble in her relationship with Rick; he wants to have children and she does not. The two agree that maybe this trip to Polvarth will give each of them a chance to reflect on their lives together and hopefully help them to work things out. The issue behind her refusal to have children stems from a childhood incident that she’s never told him or anyone for that matter. The tragedy is one she blames herself for and it isn’t until Klara shares her own story does she realize how similar the two are, and how both women need to find it in their hearts to finally forgive themselves in order to truly move on. Jenni’s story may have been mostly a side-story but it was still a vital piece of the whole story that was interwoven and resolved beautifully.

Stories about World War II, especially when they are centered around a concentration camp, are some of the hardest stories for me to read yet I’m completely incapable of passing one up. They are typically all stories about general devastation but Klara’s story adds a piece of history to WWII that I didn’t previously know much about concerning the Japanese invasion of the Dutch colony of Java where Klara grew up. The natives of the island were left in peace but any and all European residents of the island were forced into concentration camps. Her story details being separated from family, the incessant degradation, the backbreaking work, the hunger, the sickness, and inevitably the death. They were constantly forced to travel on foot to new camps which were generally worse than the camp they left behind. Even after the war was finally over and they were no longer being held against their will in the camps, they were forced to stay when the natives wished to cause them harm for what happened to their country at the hands of the Japanese. It was of course incredibly painful to read but Shadows Over Paradise did a brilliant job at bringing this unforgettable time in history to life.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys {Purchase}
A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff {Purchase}
Night by Elie Wiesel {Purchase}

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