Like the transient denizens of Casablanca in the film of the same name, this novel’s characters live from day to day, waiting. Though the Second World War has just ended, these German-speaking Jewish refugees living in North London in 1945 are uncertain of their future and are largely helpless to do anything about it. Subsisting on irregular, menial work, they constantly seek out news of lost relatives, fearing the worst but hoping against the odds that a few might have survived.
Even as those troubling events unfold, these likable people hold on to their optimism, and as 1945 ends, their collective and individual futures come into view. The hopes of expectant parents, a young survivor’s tentative steps toward love, and a mysterious Egyptian’s secret mission make this story emotionally affecting as well as historically resonant. Martin Fletcher writes with particular authority about this time and place: his own parents lived in circumstances much like the ones he describes.