Title: The Dark Meadow
Author: Andrea Maria Schenkel
Publisher: Quercus Books
Date of Publication: 7 August 2014
Number of Pages:
Rating: 5 stars
Disclaimer: Copy provided free by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
Summary: Bavaria, Germany, 1947 – At the end of the war, Afra Zauner returns to her parents’ cottage on the edge of Mauther Forest. Unmarried, and pregnant. As she struggles to raise her child, her father’s shame, her mother’s fury and the loud whispers of the neighbours begin to weigh upon her. She doesn’t believe in her sin. But everyone else does.
And someone brings judgement down upon her.
Many years later, Hermann Müller is throwing a drunk out of his tavern. A traveller, who won’t stop ranting about a murder left unsolved, about police who never investigated. Out of curiosity, the file is reopened. And in the cold light of hindsight, a chilling realisation creeps upon the community.
No-one ever atoned for Afra’s death. But her story is waiting to be told. (Goodreads)
Review: I consider myself lucky to have been given, by Quercus Books, both The Dark Meadow and The Murder Farm by Andrea Maria Schenkel to review in the last twelve months. At a time where so many authors are described as unique in their writing, Schenkel truly is everything this word means. I am reading the English translations of her work so credit must also be given to Anthea Bell for aiding the storytelling.
In my review of The Murder Farm I wrote “a reader…must approach this book in a different fashion to most crime novels – it is unconventional and therein lies its cleverness. The story is linear but fragments around multiple narrators, each unique voice telling their part and how they connect with the murder victims” and in The Dark Meadow this statement holds. From the outset, Schenkel sets up a timeline where different characters interact and overlap. While it is quite clear the characters know each other to varying degrees and will be present at the conclusion, the state of anticipation is ever present.
The misinterpretations of evidence, the misunderstanding of actions and comments all paint a painfully real picture which could be from a front page headline. A murdered mother and child, an elderly father suffering with what is recognisably dementia or alzheimer’s, a young policeman who wanted to be a butcher and a lawyer prosecuting his first case.
Within all of the emotions in this book, warm, cruel, heartless and grieving, the most striking is the nothingness of the last sentence. Trust me. You want the last sentence but do not cheat. You will regret it.