The Gathering Storm by Alan Jones #BookReview #BlogTour


The Gathering Storm: Book 1 in the Sturmtaucher Trilogy, a powerful and compelling story of two families torn apart by evil. 

‘Kiel, Northern Germany, 1933. A naval city, the base for the German Baltic fleet, and the centre for German sailing, the venue for the upcoming Olympic regatta in 1936. 

The Kästners, a prominent Military family, are part of the fabric of the city, and its social, naval and yachting circles. The Nussbaums are the second generation of their family to be in service with the Kästners as domestic staff, but the two households have a closer bond than most. 

As Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party claw their way to power in 1933, life has never looked better for families like the Kästners. There is only one problem. 

The Nussbaums are Jews. 

The Sturmtaucher Trilogy documents the devastating effect on both families of the Nazis’ hateful ideology and the insidious erosion of the rights of Germany's Jews. 

When Germany descends ever deeper into dictatorship, General Erich Kästner tries desperately to protect his employees, and to spirit them to safety. 

As the country tears itself apart, the darkness which envelops a nation threatens not only to destroy two families, but to plunge an entire continent into war.’ 

I'm delighted to be hosting the blog tour for The Gathering Storm today, huge thanks to Alan Jones and to Anne Cater from Random Things Blog Tours for inviting me and for my advance digital copy of the novel.

The Gathering Storm shares its title with Churchill's first volume of his extensive memoir of the Second World War and although Alan Jones' series doesn't run to six titles, it is still a trilogy of epic proportions. This first novel of The Sturmtaucher Trilogy documents the years between 1933 and 1940 in Germany as Hitler and the NSDAP rise to power leading eventually to the outbreak of another war in Europe.
With the heartbreaking benefit of hindsight, we already know the terrible outcome of National Socialism in Germany, particularly for the Jewish population across the whole of Europe. It's natural to wonder how such an atrocity could have occurred and why so many ordinary people stood by and encouraged what would become known as the Final Solution; Alan Jones explores how and why this happened and it makes for sombre, salutary reading. 
Much of the novel is set in Kiel and the sense of place throughout is excellent but the vivid descriptions of various sailing trips and races  - General Erich Kästner might be an army man but he loves the water - are particularly fascinating. They clearly reflect the author's own love of sailing and also give the book its clever double-edged title.
The Kästners and Nussbaums have a long history together; the latter might be their domestic help but Erich and Yosef were boyhood friends and that bond persists despite their different social standings in the naval town. Kästner is one of the few people to voice any concerns about the National Socialists in 1933. We are reminded of the devastating effect the Treaty of Versailles had on the people of Germany, not just economically and in terms of territory loss but on how the country viewed itself. In the earlier chapters of The Gathering Storm, the General is often a lone voice as Hitler seduces the population with his promise to make Germany great again. 
It's harder to excuse or understand the increasingly brutal treatment of Jews, beginning with the gradual abolition of their rights and the loss of their citizenship before the violence of Kristallnacht, removal to concentration camps and forced emigration to Poland and Eastern Europe.  The Simon Wiesenthal quote, 'For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing' is noted at the start of the chapters which detail what happens in Kiel and beyond in 1936 and it's a damning indictment not just of the Germans who stood by but also the international governments who did too little, too late. However, despite being a harrowing read - particularly knowing that much worse is yet to come - the reasons why people didn't speak up and even supported the erosion of Jewish rights are tragically comprehensible.
If Erich Kästner and at least two of his children allow us some belief in humanity, his wife Maria is a more difficult figure to like. She might not be actively anti-Semitic and has been friendly to Yosef's wife, Miriam until now but she isn't prepared to risk her name or status, especially as she is impressed by many of Hitler's achievements and doesn't share the General's fears for the future. 
A book of this size and scope allows readers to really get to know both families as we follow them through the years and although it's inevitable that our fears will mostly be for the Nussbaums, there are ominous hints that life will become harder for the Kästner family too. This is a necessarily difficult story; you can't read about the cruelty of teachers towards their Jewish pupils, the cruel destruction of Jewish shops and synagogues and the sickening treatment of Jewish victims of the SS without feeling upset and angry but this is clearly a book borne out of devotion to the subject. The depth and breadth of research is evident throughout and it ensures that The Gathering Storm is never an exploitative read. Any fictional treatment of the Holocaust must remain true to what really happened, regardless of our innate desire for heroism and solace. For all Erich Kästner's attempts to protect his friends and to warn others of the imminent danger for the Jewish community, we are never left in any doubt that he is doomed to fail; evil will flourish and the extent of suffering will be almost beyond the capacity of our worst imaginations.
This outstanding novel is an honest, comprehensive account of one of the worst periods of history and I have no doubt that the following books in the Sturmtaucher Trilogy, Flight of the Shearwater and The Turn of the Tide will be equally as magnificent. Please don't be put off by its length, The Gathering Storm is immersive historical fiction at its absolute finest.  An unmissable read.

The Gathering Storm can be purchased from Amazon UK and Amazon US

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.

About the Author
Alan Jones is a Scottish author with three gritty crime stories to his name, the first two set in Glasgow, the third one based in London. He has now switched genres, and his WW2 trilogy will be published in August 2021. It is a Holocaust story set in Northern Germany.
He is married with four grown up children and four wonderful grandchildren.
He has recently retired as a mixed-practice vet in a small Scottish coastal town in Ayrshire and is one of the RNLI volunteer coxswains on the local lifeboat. He makes furniture in his spare time, and maintains and sails a 45-year-old yacht in the Irish Sea and on the beautiful west coast of Scotland. He loves reading, watching films and cooking. He still plays football despite being just the wrong side of sixty.
His crime novels are not for the faint-hearted, with some strong language, violence, and various degrees of sexual content. The first two books also contain a fair smattering of Glasgow slang.
He is one of the few self-published authors to be given a panel at Bloody Scotland and has done two pop-up book launches at the festival in Stirling.
He has spent the last five years researching and writing the Sturmtaucher Trilogy.


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