#BlogTour #BookReview #Extract - The Watcher by Monika Jephcott Thomas

It’s 1949 when Netta’s father Max is released from a Siberian POW camp and returns to his home in occupied Germany. But he is not the man the little girl is expecting – the brave, handsome doctor her mother Erika told her stories of.

Erika too struggles to reconcile this withdrawn, volatile figure with the husband she knew and loved before, and, as she strives to break through the wall Max has built around himself, Netta is both frightened and jealous of this interloper in the previously cosy household she shared with her mother and
doting grandparents.

Now, if family life isn’t tough enough, it is about to get even tougher, when a murder sparks a police investigation, which begins to unearth dark secrets they all hoped had been forgotten.

It's my pleasure to be hosting the blog tour for The Watcher today, many thanks to the author, publishers and Rachel Gilbey at Authoright for inviting me to take part and for my advance copy received in return for my honest review.
Before I share my thoughts however, I have also very kindly been given an extract to share with you which focuses on Max's wife, Erika and her struggles to relate to the stranger her husband has become (both physically and mentally) since his return from a POW camp.

Erika heard the floorboards creak outside the bathroom. It was Karin the housekeeper. Her room was in the attic too, opposite Erika and Max’s. She had heard them both descending the stairs and came to see what was going on; see if she could offer any assistance.
The door was ajar and Erika saw Karin peering in at Max slumped awkwardly in the tiny bath. Erika was speared with jealousy in that instance. Not because Karin was younger and thinner than Erika – no, the girl may have been only nineteen, but she was unhealthily thin, and her short brown hair and the dark circles round her eyes gave her the appearance of a boy rather than a female rival. It wasn’t anything physical. It was the way she looked at the unseeing Max right then through the gap in the door with such sympathy. The kind of sympathy Erika found it so difficult to show. And who could blame her? This man was meant to be her brave military doctor, back from the war, undefeated by internment. The wonderful specimen she had shown photographs of to little Netta as she tried to get her off to sleep at night; to whose image they sang:
 "If I were a little bird and had wings, I would fly to you…"
Whom she desperately wanted back – not just because she loved him, not to dampen her urges towards Rodrick even, but to help her share the unexpected and undeniable burden that being a parent was.
Erika put herself in the gap between door and frame, ostensibly to protect her husband’s privacy, but actually to obscure her own lack of connection with the man in the bath.
‘Is everything all right?’ Karin had the voice of a mouse. ‘Can I help at all?’
‘It’s all right, Karin,’ Erika said, reminding herself and the housekeeper who was the boss here. ‘We don’t need you. You can go back to bed.’

I hope that little taster has whetted your appetite for this involving story, please keep reading for my review.
I didn't realise before starting The Watcher that it's the sequel to Monika Jephcott Thomas' previous book, Fifteen Words. Although having a more detailed knowledge of what Max suffered in the POW camp would have added an extra layer of understanding to the story, I still enjoyed this book as a standalone novel.
Set in postwar Germany, this is a country under Allied Occupation and having to tentatively discover its place in the world. Its citizens have to come to terms with not only their own wartime experiences but also the knowledge that many of their compatriots supported at least some Nazi ideology, with some having partaken in the worst of the atrocities committed prior to and during the war. For Max Portner, however, such philosophical considerations are further exacerbated by the mental and physical affect of his brutal incarceration in Siberia. He is suffering from what we understand today as PTSD but his symptoms are dismissed by a fellow doctor when he does try to seek help,
"What are you?" As he spoke Siskin always rubbed beneath his nose with the length of his fountain pen, as if he had a little itch, to compensate for the lack of facial hair there. "Eh? What are you Dr Portner? A man or a mouse?"
 Meanwhile Erika is struggling to come to terms with the man she married coming back home as a very different person, and their young daughter, Etta's life is thrown into turmoil by this strange man.
Although a relatively short book, there is plenty of drama in The Watcher. A shocking murder may be the catalyst for dark secrets to come to light but it's actually the fractured relationship between Max, Erika and Etta, and ultimately another tragedy that provides the most poignant moments. The characters in the book are all sensitively brought to life, it's young Etta though who is truly the heart of the novel. As others attempt to come to terms with their own memories they overlook her confusion and anguish, her suffering is perhaps most symbolic of the pain of a young nation trying to rebuild after the war.
I really don't want to give too much away here, suffice to say The Watcher is a beautifully written book, I fell in love with this family and was desperate for them to find their way back together after facing so much hardship. There is anger, bitterness and sadness here, The Watcher is an honest and raw look at the psychological effects of war, imprisonment and torture, and forced separation; there is also love, humour and hope within its pages. I recommend this book to anybody who enjoys thoughtful and emotional historical family dramas, I look forward to reading Fifteen Words very soon.

The Watcher is published by Clink Street Publishing and is available as an ebook or paperback now from Amazon.

About the Author

About the author: Monika Jephcott Thomas grew up in Dortmund Mengede, north-west Germany. She moved to the UK in 1966, enjoying a thirty year career in education before retraining as a therapist. Along with her partner Jeff she established the Academy of Play & Child Psychotherapy in order to support the twenty per cent of children who have emotional, behavioural, social and mental health problems by using play and the creative Arts. A founder member of Play Therapy UK, Jephcott Thomas was elected President of Play Therapy International in 2002. In 2016 her first book Fifteen Words was published.
Monika's website can be found here.

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