Review: The Other Me by Saskia Sarginson

The Other Me by Saskia Sarginson

The Other Me had a lot of elements I enjoyed: multiple narrators, interesting historical question, complex family dynamics, romance. But it also had aspects that I struggled with: slow building plot, confusing characters (at the beginning). I was hoping I’d like it more than I ended up liking it, but I did enjoy the latter half of the book more than the beginning.

Klaudia is the daughter of a German man growing up in England in the 1980s. She attends a school where her father is the custodian, and everyone knows he used to be a Nazi. Klaudia’s father, Otto, never talks about his time in the war, and neither does her mother, so she doesn’t know what to believe. But she endures bullying from her classmates. When she’s old enough to go to university, she leaves her hometown near London to attend school in Leeds. There she reinvents herself as Eliza Bennett (after Elizabeth Bennett of course), an orphan with no ties to Germany or WWII. Her worlds collide midway through the book when tragedy strikes.

Interwoven with Klaudia/Eliza’s tale is her uncle, Ernst, story of growing up in Germany before and during the war. Through his eyes we learn the truth about Klaudia’s father. There is also the mysterious element of the man she says she has to kill at the outset of the novel.

I really enjoyed Ernst’s chapters, and I loved the idea of wondering what it would be like to be the daughter of a Nazi soldier. The beginning of this book was a little confusing for me. I knew right away that Klaudia and Eliza were the same person, but I was having a hard time keeping the dates straight, and at first I didn’t know who Ernst was. This book was slow moving for me even after I got the characters straight in my mind. I struggle with plots that could be resolved by just telling the truth. I wanted to shake Eliza and make her be honest with her friends in Leeds. Waiting for the inevitable shattering of her facade was hard to do. I enjoyed this book, but I didn’t love it.

Rating: 3 Stars

The Other Me
Saskia Sarginson
Flatiron Books
January 12, 2016

THE OTHER ME spans from 1930s Germany to 1990s England as Saskia Sarginson explores whether our identities are tied to where we came from, and if it's possible that sometimes history doesn't get the story right.

1986, London - Klaudia is about to start high school. She's embarrassed by her German father, never knowing what he may or may not have done during the war.

In 1995 Leeds, Eliza is a young woman in love - with her life as a dance student, and with her boyfriend Cosmo. But Eliza is living a lie, running away from a past of which she was always ashamed. But when her mother dies and she is called home, she can no longer deny her roots, even if it will cost her everything.

And woven throughout the novel is Ernst's story - Ernst is one of two brothers growing up in Nazi Germany. One rallied for the Fuhrer, one held back. One dedicated his life to the Nazi regime, one did not.

When Eliza learns a long-buried family secret, it will completely change how she views her past and her future.

By exploring identity, memory, and history, Saskia Sarginson deftly shows that it is the people we think we know the best who sometimes surprise us the most.

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