Paris, 1958. After a chance encounter, Ralf and Elsa begin a love affair that will mark their lives. Both already bear scars from their continent's violent upheavals. The end of the war brought Ralf to Paris, where he feels he can hide from the past. Elsa meanwhile tries to hide not just her past from Ralf, but her present too. As they fall more deeply in love they face aParis, 1958. After a chance encounter, Ralf and Elsa begin a love affair that will mark their lives. Both already bear scars from their continent's violent upheavals. The end of the war brought Ralf to Paris, where he feels he can hide from the past. Elsa meanwhile tries to hide not just her past from Ralf, but her present too. As they fall more deeply in love they face a dilemma: can you really love someone without giving yourself away?In a Paris recovering from the Second World War but riven by protests and discontent as the old world order falls away, Ralf tries desperately to hold on to the only person he has ever felt he belongs with, while facing the prospect of a reality where love might not be enough. Deeply moving and sweeping in scope, Alex Christofi's second novel is an unforgettable love story as well as a profoundly affecting study of the personal cost of Europe's bloody twentieth century....
|Title||:||Let Us Be True|
|Number of Pages||:||320 Pages|
|Status||:||Available For Download|
|Last checked||:||21 Minutes ago!|
Let Us Be True Reviews
From the Winner of The Betty Trask PrizeLet Us Be True, by Alex Christofi, ‘charts the lives of two extraordinary characters through an era of great uncertainty, from the war and its aftermath through to the deadly unrest of 1960s Paris.’Just published by Serpent’s Tail, can I just say from the outset that I loved this book...stunning.My Review:Elsa and Ralf.Paris 1958.Two people whose paths cross accidentally, but whose lives will forever be entwined…Let Us Be True is their story…Ralf, born in Hamburg, fled to the UK with his mother and fought during the war on the British side. During demobilisation, Ralf made a decision ‘when the time came to board his train for England, he remained on the platform. England and Germany seemed, however unfairly, part of the grey continuum of sadness and arbitrary cruelty, whereas Paris was a city of possibility, glimpsed from a train window, standing near whole among the ruins of Europe.’Ralf settled well enough in Paris enjoying the daily chats with the local people. He lived a very simple life in academia, making occasional friendships but he never found true love. His father had passed away tragically when he was younger and this event remained heavy in his heart at all times. With just his mother now living in the UK, Ralf never really felt the desire to return.Elsa is rather an unusual character. Also born in Germany, Elsa lived through quite a formidable youth, where the rules of Hitler were strictly adhered to. After the war ended, Elsa saw an opportunity to escape the hardship and relocated to Paris. Elsa is quite an elusive character. As a reader, it’s very difficult to get inside her head, making her a bit of an enigma. She is very protective of her past yet Ralf is an open book.A chance meeting of the two of them in a Parisian bar sees the beginning of something very special, something very fragile.Let Us Be True is an historical document in many ways. Paris, after the war was a place where many refugees of all nationalities took refuge and it is among these that Ralf finds himself in the company of. One of his friends, Fouad, is an immigrant who left Algiers in search of a better life for himself and his wife, Fatima.‘I became aware of a certain distant planet called France. They were our invaders, our oppressors, yes, but we used their own language to curse them, the only language they spoke. And while I heard about the daily injustices we all suffered, the experience on my doorstep was that the French brought money… 1945…people really thought France must now understand. We had won victory over Germany together, we had fought together for liberation’But, as history shows us to be the case, trouble was imminent on the streets of Paris, as the Algerians demonstrated for their independence. The city was in turmoil and Alex Christofi gives the reader an insight into this disturbing time in French history.In parallel with this, Ralf and Elsa’s story continues.Their relationship is fraught with difficulty from the beginning. Elsa flits in and out of Ralf’s life, yet he wants more from her. He envisions a life where they both grow old together with their children to accompany them into their senior years. He dreams of a life that neither of them seem able to grasp.Elsa and Ralf, both uprooted from their homeland, are refugees in Paris. There is a feeling of loss always present in their lives. As Ralf attempts to find out more about Elsa, he makes a decision that would reverberate through the rest of their lives.Let Us Be True is an exquisite novel, both inside and outside.Alex Christofi writes with magic in his words. His love for the city of Paris is evident in the obvious research that went into every page. I was completely transported to another world. I have read and loved Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels and this captivating book, Let Us Be True, reminds me very much of how I felt on completing them….bereft yet hopeful.In the words of Ralf..‘How rare and lucky it was to have felt joy and pain, fear and love, to have eyes that could know the shape of everything along an unbroken line, ears that could read the ripples of particles miles away, and to able to express it to one another, and to create a new life together.’An enthralling novel that I highly recommend…..just beautiful..
I have to say, right up front, that Let Us Be True was so much more than what I was expecting. A love story, yes, but more than this; a deeply philosophical narrative of identity delivered with elegance and poignancy. Ralf and Elsa are Germans in a post WWII Europe. Ralf is ‘sort of Jewish’ and Elsa is the very picture of Aryan womanhood: ‘biologically valuable’. They were both adolescents during the rise of Nazi Germany, and while Ralf was relocated out of Germany into England before the war, Elsa only left Germany five years after the war’s conclusion. Each of them are now adrift, no longer able to call Germany home but feeling like interlopers everywhere else. It’s such an interesting concept to explore and one I will admit to giving little thought to. A war ends, but what happens to those ordinary citizens, the ones who believed whole heartedly in the ideology of their nation and its leader:‘They had all been prepared to suffer and be ruthless in service of a grand vision of the future, without seeing that all one is left with, in the end, is the past.’ To begin again is not so simple. People remember and they still hate the enemy; the suggestion of forgiveness is offensive. They detect accents, assess appearances, pass judgement; unrest remains. For Elsa, who married a Frenchman and left Germany for good, her history was still inside her, permanently marking her, preventing her from living her life with ease:‘She had been a different person once. She knew unutterable words, could see the faces of these men shaved and bound up in the square with signs around their necks, had lived above a stolen shop, praised for not being them. But they lived on as evidence that a complete crime was impossible, that you cannot create a new world, only set new conditions. What would the world have been like without this? These bakeries, these men with hats and ringlets, brothers, husbands, sons, who stepped onto the road to let her pass in safety.Say they had been a corrupt people, and it was possible to extinguish them. The act of killing tainted the purity of the vision. One could not separate what one was from what one did; one did not accept the truth from a liar. She herself had helped to shoot down planes, the pilots burning in their shells. Some might call her a murderer. What would be done with her and people like her in the coming decades, the damned, silent mass?’ I was particularly moved by Elsa and her story. Her life in Nazi Germany was recounted with a natural ease that made the horrors of everyday living within Germany more pronounced. With Elsa, Alex Christofi has demonstrated how impossible it is to leave your past, that ‘other self’, entirely behind. Elsa didn’t always act in a way that inspired admiration, but once you’ve read this novel to its end, her choices along the way make much better sense in hindsight. I developed a great deal of empathy for Elsa over the course of this novel. The weight of a nation’s atrocities must have sat heavily on many shoulders after WWII. Ralf has a different history, but is no less displaced or weighted down by it. Not knowing Elsa’s past – since she refuses to disclose it – he fails to ever truly understand her, yet still loves her for his entire life, a love story to set your heart sighing. He spends much of his life not knowing who he is, where he belongs, or what he believes in. Later in his life, he goes out of his way to make kindness to strangers his main call of duty, and I love this path of redemption. Ralf is a complex character, permanently shadowed by the loss of his father at such a young age:‘Ralf looked hard at her. “No, this is not my life. We may struggle one way but we are all being dragged another by our heritage, by history.”’He could never truly shed his past and claim his own identity, not until the very end of the novel, when life finally deals him a good hand. Alex Christofi has a beautiful turn of phrase. He conveys so much through Ralf’s and Elsa’s reflective backstories, concisely depicting both horror and glory with ease and compassion. Let Us Be True is a novel that has imprinted onto my conscience and will stay with me for a long time. If you have an interest in stories about WWII, I highly recommend you add Let Us Be True to your reading list.Thanks is extended to Profile Books via Allen and Unwin for providing me with a copy of Let Us Be True for review.
“When he was six years old, he had been taught that compassion was the only quality of any consequence, and tonight he had tied a knot along the smooth train of his life, and it would trail behind him, snagging over rough ground, staring back at him when he stopped to look, no matter how far he tried to pay it out.”Let Us Be True, by Alex Christofi, is a love story – not a romance but rather a story of survival and its toll. The protagonist is Ralf who meets the beautiful Elsa in a run-down Parisian bar and embarks on an affair.Ralf was born in Hamburg, the son of Emil – an academic who researched eugenics. Ralf and his mother fled to London as Hitler rose to power.Elsa, a child of loyal Nazi sympathisers living in Berlin, carved out a life for herself in the aftermath of the conflict. She now seeks excitement but is loath to risk all she has achieved, even for love.“They had all been prepared to suffer and be ruthless in service of a grand vision of the future, without seeing that all one is left with, in the end, is the past.”The couple’s backstories provide insight into the life of ordinary Germans between the world wars. Given current events this makes for sobering reading. Emil’s story in particular moved me – a man who produced scientific evidence that nobody was willing to hear.After serving with the British in the war, Ralf stayed in Paris rather than return to his mother in London. She wished for him to find a wife and raise a family, not appreciating how displaced he felt. In Paris he befriended Fouad, an Algerian Muslim suffering discrimination that the war should have proved indefensible. Fouad’s story is just one tragedy of many told here.“We may struggle one way but we are all being dragged another by our heritage, by history.”Ralf falls passionately in love with Elsa but she tells him little of her history or circumstances. When he surreptitiously follows her and discovers the truth it comes at a cost. He descends into a destructive spiral, becoming involved in student agitation, eventually emerging to return to London following the death of his mother.The writing is poetic in its stark beauty, the phraseology adept and poignant, evoking a past that has been lived, futures lost. The denouement rises from a settling tenebrosity whilst avoiding compromising the preceding character development. Life goes on.An affecting narrative of studied elegance that seduces the reader despite its dark core. This, his second book, places the author amongst those whose trajectory I will now closely follow. Literature lovers, you want to read this book.My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Serpent’s Tail.
This read brings a sense of nostalgia with it and an aura of hidden emotions and unfulfilled desires. It is so much more than just a love story. It is about fractured identities and the trauma of war.It is often hard for non-nomads or people who stay in one place their entire lives to understand what it is like to not feel as if you have a home or a country that feels like home. Being uprooted and becoming a displaced person can rock the very foundation of your existence.I believe Elsa and Ralf share this feeling of not belonging and loss. Their home country and country of birth is their common denominator, despite their completely different paths in life.Ralf doesn’t even feel at home in his surrogate country, and he also refuses to maintain a relationship with his mother. His landlord has become his family, a port of call in dire situations and France has become his safe haven.Elsa is a survivor, albeit one from the other side of the battlefield. Her experiences have made her emotionally unresponsive, which is why she finds it hard to connect with her child and why she struggles to find a sense of peace in her life. It is also the reason she accepts certain negative aspects of her marriage including the occasional bouts of violence.I wonder if Elsa believes her guilt is something that would eventually come between them. A secret she can never reveal and perhaps never completely move on from.Overall Elsa gives off a sense of detachment, a cold and hard face she presents to the world. It’s easy to forget her age at the time of her crimes and her complicity. Her trauma is no more than a footnote in history, although it is ultimately what steers and directs her sense of unhappiness.In that sense the two of them share another bond in the form of very specific trauma. One could argue that his will always be greater because of the historical implications, however I would argue that trauma cannot be measured by what outsiders think.France, like many other countries are often guilty of revisionism, especially when it comes to history. They like to forget and hide their guilt and crimes, and the part they played in some of the bloodiest and politically disruptive times in the twentieth century. They like to sweep a lot of uncomfortable truths under the carpet of national charm.This is a love story taking place during some of those periods in time, so it isn’t just about two broken people finding a safe haven in each other, it is also about shining a light on the past. A past that is in danger of being repeated as we speak.The author brings a maturity, insight and wisdom to the pages. He writes as if he has experienced decades of longing, pain and heartbreak. He is an author I will be revisiting. Oh and kudos to him for the Vélodrome d’Hiver part of the story. It’s a very significant and poignant part of history. A small moment in the book, but those are the ones that count.*I received an ARC of this book courtesy of the publisher.*
This is not only a love story between Ralf and Elsa, but also a portrayal of the human cost of the tumultuous Second World War and its aftermath. The characters move across Europe as time passes across the decades. The book is very well written with three dimensional characters, looking at the effect of world changing events on individuals with a poignancy and clarity that brings the characters into sharp focus.
Difficult to rate this one. Between 2 and 3 stars. I found no sympathy with the characters. The writing seemed forced at times, there was no flow, no drawing me into the story.