Rhidian Brook is an award-winning writer of fiction, television, and film. His debut novel, The Testimony of Taliesin Jones, won the Somerset Maugham Award, a Betty Trask Award, and the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award. His stories have appeared in The Paris Review and New Statesman. He lives in London with his wife and two children.
Country of final manufacture:
Excerpt from book:
“We’ve found a house for you, sir.”
Captain Wilkins stubbed out his cigarette and placed his yellowed finger on the map of Hamburg that was pinned to the wall behind his desk. He traced a line west from the pinhead marking their temporary headquarters, away from the bombed-out districts of Hammerbrook and St. Georg, over St. Pauli and Altona, towards the old fishing suburb of Blankenese, where the Elbe veered up and debouched into the North Sea. The map—pulled from a pre-war German guidebook—failed to show that these conurbations were now a phantom city comprised only of ash and rubble.
“It’s a bloody great palace by the river. Here.” Wilkins’s finger circled the crook at the end of the Elbchaussee, the road running parallel to the great river. “I think it’ll be to your taste, sir.”
The word belonged to another world: a world of surplus and civil comfort. In the last few months, Lewis’s tastes had narrowed to a simple checklist of immediate and basic needs: 2,500 calories a day, tobacco, warmth. “A bloody great palace by the river” suddenly seemed to him like the demand of a frivolous king.
Lewis had “gone off ” again; off into that unruly parliament inside his head, a place where, more and more, he found himself in hot debate with colleagues.
“Isn’t there someone living in it already?”
Wilkins wasn’t sure how to respond. His CO was a man of excel- lent repute with an impeccable war record, but he seemed to have these quirks, a way of seeing things differently. The young captain resorted to reciting what he had read in the manual: “These people have little moral compass, sir. They are a danger to us and to them- selves. They need to know who is in charge. They need leadership. A firm but fair hand.”
Lewis nodded and waved the captain on, saving his words. The cold and the calories had taught him to ration these.
“The house belongs to a family called Lubert. Loo-bear-t. Hard ‘T.’ The wife died in the bombings. Her family were bigwigs in the food trade. Connections with Blohm and Voss. They also owned a series of flour mills. Herr Lubert was an architect. He’s not been cleared yet but we think he’s a probable white or, at worst, an acceptable shade of grey; no obvious direct Nazi connections.”
Lewis had not eaten all day and had taken the short leap from “flour mill” to bread without thinking; the bread he pictured in his head was suddenly more present, more real, than the captain stand- ing at the map on the other side of the desk.
“Go on—the family.” Lewis made an effort to look as if he was listening, nodding and setting his jaw at an inquisitive tilt.
Wilkins continued: “Lubert’s wife died in ’43. In the firestorm. One child—a daughter. Freda, fifteen years old. They have some staff—a maid, a cook and a gardener. The gardener is a first-rate handyman—ex-Wehrmacht. The family have some relatives they can move in with. We can billet the staff, or you can take them on. They’re clean “Rhidian Brook’s arresting novel brings vividly to life a little-told aspect of World War II: its aftermath. His story—energetically and authoritatively told—is unsettling and compelling, suffused with suffering and, mercifully, some hope.” —Claire Messud, author of The Woman Upstairs
“Brook’s masterly novel . . . wrings every drop of feeling out of a gripping human situation, and his vignettes of war-ravaged Hamburg are superb.” —The Mail on Sunday
“Brook’s beautifully written novel ponders issues of decency, guilt, and forgiveness . . . Profoundly moving.” —The Independent
“Reading The Aftermath, one can’t help but wonder if this is the sort of literary memorialization (albeit from a British author) that Sebald might have wished for.” —Washington Post
“Superb . . . Conjuring surprise after surprise as it shows how the forces of politics and history penetrate even the most intimate moments of its characters’ emotional lives . . . The house on the Elbe [is] akin to Hamlet’s Elsinore.” —The Guardian
“A moving, always enthralling journey into the dark and light of history. Rhidian Brook has written a brilliant novel.” —Joseph O’Neill, author of Netherland
“Brook is wonderful at evoking the atmosphere of this forgotten time and place . . . There is much to think about here.” —The Times (London)
“Brook’s excellent novel [is] a captivating tale of love among the ruins but also of treachery and vengeance . . . It does what all good novels should do: it poses many complex questions and resists neat, topped-and-tailed answers.” —Literary Review
“Brook addresses weighty themes—forgiveness, familial loss—with a light touch . . . Brings to mind no less a novel than J.G. Ballard’s Empire of the Sun.” —Financial Times
“Rhidian Brook takes a piece of history I thought I knew well and breaks it open; The Aftermath is a compelling, surprising, and moving novel.” —Sadie Jones, author of The Uninvited Guests
From the Hardcover edition.