All the Broken Places

Books on Tape. Nov. 2022. 12:42 hrs. ISBN 9780593676820. $95. F
Kristin Atherton and Helen Lloyd narrate a harrowing tale of a woman who wants to escape her past. Paris, 1946: After her father, a commandant in the Reich, is hanged for war crimes, 16-year-old Gretel and her mother flee to the city with new identities, vowing never to reveal their former ones. London, 2022: 91-year-old Gretel, long settled into a quiet life, becomes involved in a not-so-cozy mystery when new neighbors move into the downstairs flat. The closer she is to uncovering the truth about the family, the more likely it is that her former identity will be discovered. Atherton’s haunting performance as young Gretel captures the complexities of the character as she goes from a sullen teen who wishes Germany won the war to a depressed and guilt-ridden young woman. Meanwhile, Lloyd’s elder Gretel could easily fit in as a grande dame from Downton Abbey. Her interactions with other characters bring out a delightful sarcasm comparable to the Dowager Countess of Grantham.
VERDICT While scenes from the past and present are rough to hear, both narrators skillfully keep pace without losing sight of the characters. Listeners will pity young Gretel but want to invite the elder Gretel over for tea.
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