Flight of the Shearwater by Alan Jones #BookReview


Flight of the Shearwater: Book 2 in the Sturmtaucher Trilogy, a powerful and compelling story of two families torn apart by evil.

With Poland divided between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Union of Soviet Republics, the increasingly confident Third Reich flexes its military muscles northwards into Denmark and Norway, while the rest of Europe watches anxiously over its shoulders.

General Erich Kästner, in his key role in the Abwehr, is fast becoming aware of the mass expulsion of Jews and other minority groups from Germany and from northern Poland, to the new ghettos of the Generalgouverment area of southern Poland, and has an inkling of what the National Socialists' have in mind for Europe's Jews.

As Holland and Belgium fall, and the British are routed at Dunkirk, barely escaping across the channel, the seemingly impregnable France collapses under the Wehrmacht Blitzkrieg, sealing the fate of millions of Jews, now trapped under Hitler's rule.

The Nussbaums, thwarted in their attempts to escape to Denmark, desperately seek other routes out of Germany but, one by one, they are closed off, and they realise they have left it all too late...

I'm thrilled to be sharing my review of Flight of the Shearwater today. Huge thanks to Alan Jones for sending me an advance digital copy of the novel.

At over 800 pages long, the second book in the Sturmtaucher trilogy, Flight of the Shearwater is even longer than The Gathering Storm, and yet I feel bereft now I've finished it. For a few days, I lived and breathed this exceptional novel and even when I wasn't reading it, my thoughts were dominated by the plight of the Nussbaums and Kästners.
This is a story of incredible courage but it's also a visceral, uncompromising account of evil and as such, there were points in the book where I found it almost too painful to read. I was already invested in the lives of these families after The Gathering Storm but with life becoming even more dangerous for Jews living under the Third Reich - and those who help them - I read most of Flight of the Shearwater with my heart pounding and a terrible sense of foreboding. 
Desperate times call for desperate measures and as the noose tightens still further around Kiel's Jewish residents. there arises an opportunity to offer a means of escape to at least some members of the Nussbaum family. To be separated from loved ones, particularly during such dangerous times is utterly heartbreaking to read about and although this is fiction, it's impossible not to consider that this was the reality for millions of people. Families were torn apart, either in an attempt to save themselves or because they were transported to ghettos and concentration camps. Alan Jones describes the devastating uncertainty as to the fate of relatives and friends with piercing empathy, made even more unbearable because hindsight means we know that unimaginable numbers of families were never reunited. The escalating sense of fear that is evoked throughout the book intensifies at times as near-misses and unquenchable hatred ensures that we are never in any doubt as to the risks the Kästners and Nussbaums are taking here - or that they have any other choice.
The level of research that informs a book of such authenticity as this is apparent throughout as is the author's knowledge of sailing. There are several chapters set at sea which are so consummately and powerfully described, I felt as if I was right there with them. Der Sturmtaucher and the North Sea almost become characters in the novel such is their importance here and as with the rest of the book, the sense of place is never less than immaculate.
Flight of the Shearwater is a commemoration of extraordinary bravery and resourcefulness, recognising not just the more audacious undertakings but also the sheer courage of merely trying to survive. However, it is also a sobering reflection on the nature of evil, exploring how some people are empowered and fanaticised by the brutal treatment of others, while more are willing to turn a blind eye. While General Erich Kästner's moral fortitude can never be doubted, his wife Maria is further damned by her actions here. It was already made clear in The Gathering Storm that she isn't willing to risk her social standing to protect the Nussbaums but as she becomes increasingly angered by her husband's staunch support of their staff, it becomes harder to excuse her refusal to acknowledge the evidence before her or to ignore that the complicity of the masses is ultimately just as shameful as the extreme acts of violence inflicted by the Gestapo and SS.
Flight of the Shearwater is a remarkable novel; the nerve-wracking, dramatic storyline is riveting from start to finish and the characters so vividly brought to life that it's easy to forget they're (mostly) fictional but throughout Alan Jones remembers the millions of  real-life victims of the Holocaust and he ensures that this harrowing, moving book bears testimony to their suffering and honours their memory. With the final chapter of the trilogy, The Turn of the Tide still to come and with it, the heinous acts carried out as part of Hitler's 'Final Solution' I have no doubt that this outstanding series will conclude with the same searing honesty and principled authenticity and will be just as memorably compelling.

Flight of the Shearwater is independently published and can be purchased from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

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.