At the heart of Catherine Chidgey’s extraordinary new novel is an enigmatic voice that tells the story of German families caught up in a nation’s dream.
It’s 1939. Two children watch as their parents become immersed in the puzzling mechanisms of power. Sieglinde lives in the affluent ignorance of middle-class Berlin, her father a censor who cuts prohibited words such as love and mercy out of books. Erich is an only child living a rural life near Leipzig, tending beehives, aware that he is shadowed by strange, unanswered questions. Drawn together as Germany’s hope for a glorious future begins to collapse, the children find temporary refuge in an abandoned theatre amidst the rubble of Berlin. Outside, white bedsheets hang from windows; all over the city people are talking of surrender. The days Sieglinde and Erich spend together will shape the rest of their lives.
The Wish Child is a profound meditation on the wreckage caused by a corrupt ideology, on the resilience of the human spirit, and on crimes that cannot be undone.
I am the wish child, the future cast in water. I am the thrown coin, the blown candle; I am the fallen star.