Dec 7, 2017

The Watcher by Monika Jephcott Thomas Review

The Watcher
By Monika Jephcott Thomas
Release Date: October 10th, 2017
Clink Street Publishing
Source: ARC provided by the publisher

It’s 1949 when Netta’s father Max is released from a Siberian POW camp and returns to his home in occupied Germany. But he is not the man the little girl is expecting – the brave, handsome doctor her mother Erika told her stories of. 
Erika too struggles to reconcile this withdrawn, volatile figure with the husband she knew and loved before, and, as she strives to break through the wall Max has built around himself, Netta is both frightened and jealous of this interloper in the previously cosy household she shared with her mother and doting grandparents. 
Now, if family life isn't tough enough, it is about to get even tougher, when a murder sparks a police investigation, which begins to unearth dark secrets they all hoped had been forgotten.

*ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest and unbiased review*

The Watcher is the story of a young  German family, set just after the second world war, in an allied controlled area of Germany, where the father Max, is suffering from PTSD, after managing to survive 4 years in a Russian Concentration Camp; the mother Erika, is trying to get past a indiscretion, raise her daughter, be a doctor, and take care of her in-laws at the same time. And then there is Netta, their daughter, who is struggling to know her father, deal with the changes to the family. But when their housekeeper is murdered, the family falls under greater scrutiny, but Netta is just trying to survives this new normal, and find out who is watching the house?

This book is… WOW! This book is fascinating, confusing, thrilling, addictive, and then at the end, when everything falls into place, and the truth behind all the characters truths are exposed to the reader, some things fall in to place, and some are just left a mystery! The Watcher is not a "tied up with a neat bow" type of story, but a gritty, realistic, work of incredible fiction, that honestly leaves you feeling like you have run a marathon…but in a good way. The story crawls inside your mind, and you are left wanting to know about this little family, and how they overcome such pain?

If you are wanting a HEA romance, The Watcher is not for you, BUT, if you want a book that will stick with you, give you a different perspective, and make you crave more! Then The Watcher is perfect!

I give The Watcher 5 stars! And is definitely on my MUST READ list for 2017!


Cara's Book Boudoir would like to thank the wonderful Monika Jephcott Thomas for taking time to answer these questions, and for giving us the opportunity to get to know her.

Q1. Please introduce yourself and your new book.
I’m Monika Jephcott-Thomas. I grew up in Dortmund Mengede, north-west Germany. In 1966 I moved to the UK, married and raised three children. After a thirty-year career in education, I moved into the therapeutic world. In 2015 I decided to write my first novel Fifteen Words.
In the book two German lovers, both newly qualified doctors, struggle to reconcile their different political and religious views in Nazi Germany until World War Two separates them for four years, Max trying to survive the barren cruelty of a Siberian POW camp, whilst Erika watches her beloved Germany destroyed as she tries to raise their daughter alone. And it’s not just the physical dangers of war but also the temptations of new companions that threaten to keep them apart forever.
Max’s faith takes a battering on the gloomy edge of the Arctic as he loses friends to the climate and his captors.
Erika’s faith in the F├╝hrer gets severely redefined as she witnesses the destruction her leader has brought to her country.
It is the story of their struggle to reunite, both geographically and spiritually speaking after the extraordinary experiences of war which make it almost impossible for them to be ordinary again, much as they try.

Q2. What inspired you to write this book?
We’ve all sorted through dusty boxes in attics full of photos of our parents in their salad days, letters they sent to each other, memories they shared, perhaps even secrets they kept. For those of us over forty those memories, no doubt, are often coloured by the Second World War. It was whilst doing just that in my own parents’ trove of memories that I discovered stories that were the thrilling, gripping, emotive stuff of novels, which is why I decided to turn them into one.
I think it is safe to say, all writers want their novels to be a critical and commercial success, so writing a novel in English about two young Germans struggling to survive the war in Nazi Germany may seem to be commercial suicide when there has been a tendency in recent years to decry any depiction of the German perspective of the war as revisionist in the pejorative sense. But Fifteen Words doesn’t seek to suggest a moral equivalence between the Axis and the Allies, or to minimize Nazi crimes, or deny the Holocaust. On the contrary. I felt compelled to write the book in an age when Europe is once again seeing how war can displace and tear apart the lives of families from so many different countries at the same time, just as it did in World War Two. And although it seems almost too obvious to state, it clearly still needs to be stated: not all Germans were Nazis, not all of them supported what Hitler was doing.
But I think my aim with Fifteen Words was to write a human story first and foremost. A story about two people in love, struggling to reconcile their different opinions, being swayed by all the powerful forces vying for their faith, be that friends, parents, religion or political parties; the kind of things anyone around the word can relate to.

Q3. What is your hardest scene to write?
Many of the scenes in the POW camp were hard, because one has to strike a balance between describing the extreme horrors that occurred there without turning the reader off or seeming to sensationalize it all. After a lot of work I think I’ve struck that balance.
The last chapter of the book is always hard to do too and in this case I had to strike the balance between satisfying the reader and honoring the truth of a story that can have no ending tied up neatly in a pretty bow.

Q4. What scene/character did you edit out of this book and why?
In the first draft there was a sequence in which Erika as a child escapes from her father’s house, where she feels restricted and ignored, and she goes to explore the grounds of his factory where she bumps into the caretaker and his wife. Being a young child her imagination runs wild and she sees these old benign folk as giant talking eagles in a fairy tale! As entertaining as it was to me, and although it was imbued with some (rather obscure) symbolism, I realized it was not helping move the story forward at all and so it was cut and the book is stronger for it.

Q5. What research did you do for this book?
The book is heavily inspired by own parents’ lives during the war, which they, luckily for me, recorded in some detail on tape and on paper. I also had lots of conversations with them while they were still alive about the extraordinary paths their lives took; the extraordinary paths that many people took and take in times of war.
I would also pore for hours over photos found in archives, on the internet and in my family’s own collections. Luckily, the age of photography was still reasonably young in the early-mid twentieth century, so the photos I saw could not have been doctored; and as such they are often the most honest and objective interpretation of the past we can find. Photos are so full of stuff to inspire your imagination; full of details that can populate your descriptions as a writer.
Private letters are similarly useful, as they can help you imagine the voices of your characters, the vocabulary they might use, the turns of phrase they might employ. Private letters often can tell us what kind of issues occupied the minds of people during the eras you are writing about. For example, nearly all of the letters in Fifteen Words are near transcriptions of genuine ones I found in archives. I would match a letter to the appropriate character, or sometimes a letter I stumbled across inspired a whole new turn of events in the book.

Q6. If you were not an author, what job would you do?
Play Therapy still keeps me very busy indeed. By 1998, along with my partner Jeff, I had established the Academy of Play & Child Psychotherapy, became a founder member of Play Therapy UK, and in 2002 I was elected President of Play Therapy International. Together with Jeff our work culminated in the official recognition of the play therapy profession by 2013, an endorsement of our devotion to help the twenty per cent of children in the world who have emotional, behavioural, social and mental health problems by using play and the creative Arts.
This professional experience and my own personal memories inform my next book The Watcher, which continues the story of Max, Erika and their daughter Netta.

Monika Jephcott Thomas grew up in Dortmund Mengede, north-west Germany. She moved to the UK in 1966, enjoying a thirty year career in education before retraining as a therapist. Along with her partner Jeff she established the Academy of Play & Child Psychotherapy in order to support the twenty per cent of children who have emotional, behavioural, social and mental health problems by using play and the creative Arts. A founder member of Play Therapy UK, Jephcott Thomas was elected President of Play Therapy International in 2002. In 2016 her first book Fifteen Words was published.

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