Kuhstedtermoor – Helen Waldron

Kuhstedtermoor by Helen Waldron is certainly a book that is different than what I would normally read. At least I thought so at first. I was unsure what to expect when reading a story set in Germany, with some German words and dialect thrown in, as I am not familiar with Germany, per-se.

Kuhstedtermoor in the Winter. Courtesy of Helen Waldron.
Kuhstedtermoor in the Winter. Courtesy of Helen Waldron.

I was very pleasantly surprised as I was at the beginning of the story, and kept saying to myself, “just one more chapter!” It pulled me in right from the start, and it took some chaotic Christmas holiday events and personal family issues to make me put the story down for more than a day.

This story is written in the first-person, but you also get to experience the intertwining lives of the people in this small German town on a very personal level. On the outside, it appears as any regular run-of-the-mill small town where everyone knows everybody, including their secrets. But not all of their secrets.

Each character is intertwined with the next, but it did not feel cluttered or complicated. It felt like I was observing the people of Kuhstedtermoor from the outside, looking in. A silent watcher of the personal triumphs and tragedies of the townspeople, like seeing someone on the wrong path that you know you cannot help.

My almost-strict rule of no spoilers holds true for this story, but I will give you the scenario. A woman, new to Kuhstedtermoor, slowly gets to know the residents, even though she feels like an outsider; so very different from everyone else who lives there. As one young girl goes missing, the town gathers to search for her. With no trace or clues, the woman continues to watch, observe, and try to fit in. Gossip is idle, and contagious, and then girl #2 disappears.

You hope for the best, while expecting the worst, and will be turning pages until you get to the ending! At 22 chapters, this is a quick read (minus any personal-life interruptions!) and you will be glad you spent your time getting to know the residents of Kuhstedtermoor.

Kuhstedtermoor is the first part of The History Lovers trilogy and Helen Waldron’s first novel.

Helen Waldron Portrait light 6

Helen works as an English Language Coach in Hamburg and has created a blog about the day-to-day business of two such language professionals which can be found here: http://speakeasyandwritewell.wordpress.com/.

O Holy Night: The Peace of 1914 – Michael Snow

No one wants to think about war when they are trying to focus on Christmas. Generally, I would hope no one likes to think about war at all, although for some it is their life’s work and career to pay attention to just such things.

O Holy Night Cover

So what was going on in the year 1914 at the time and season of Christmas? War. A war that had French and German troops in trenches, on French land, hiding from the other while they at the same time hoped to have to opportunity to destroy them; for most for no other reason than it would save their own life.

It may not be 100% clear who first called for the truce between the troops, but the story tells us that the initial singing of Christmas carols came from the German trenches, and was able to completely silence the other noises of the war-torn night unlike anything else. ‘Silent Night’, sung in German, did just that.

Numerous letters were sent to loved ones from the men who were in these trenches on this Christmas Eve night. Men who were glad to put down their guns, climb out of the trenches, and approach the enemy to shake hands and trade souvenirs. As the first few made those frightening first steps toward the enemy, the others began to do the same, seeing that they were indeed safe in their endeavors. Games were played, food and drink were shared, and mementos traded amongst the soldiers, all who commented to others that the ‘enemy’ was quite alright after all.

This story shares the narrative of these soldiers, as well as some of the letters that were sent home. This is a wonderful story; both comforting as well as something that makes you realize what has been sacrificed for the freedoms we have.