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Book Review

The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Ozi was orphaned in the wake of World War II and the bombing of Hamburg. He leads a small group of children as they scavenge the city’s rubble and beg for cigarettes and anything else they can trade for food. They are hunting a black beast, attempting to kill it before it can kill them. The beast escapes, however, and they return to scavenging.

After WWII, Germany was divided into sectors with different Allied countries overseeing the reconstruction of each. Captain Lewis Morgan is the English senior officer for the reconstruction of Hamburg. Lewis’ wife and son are due to join him in Germany within the next month, so he must find suitable accommodations for them.

One of his captains locates a large house on the river owned by a wealthy German family. The captain suggests displacing the current occupants, a widower and his teenage daughter, so the Morgans can move in. German families were often displaced to make room for the occupying soldiers, either moving in with relatives or being placed in ramshackle, under-supplied camps.

Lewis has qualms about removing the family, but drives to the other side of Hamburg to see the house. On the way, a group of orphaned children jump in front of the car, forcing it to stop. Lewis’ driver gets out of the car and begins to beat one of them, but Lewis stops him and gives the children food and cigarettes, which they can trade for other essentials.

When Lewis and his driver arrive at the house, Herr Lubert greets them. Lubert is pleasant and hospitable, hoping that if he can win Lewis’ sympathy, Lewis will be more careful with Lubert’s belongings while occupying the house. Lubert’s daughter is filled with anger and refuses to greet Lewis. Nevertheless, Lewis is won over and proposes that the two families share the house.

Meanwhile, Lewis’ wife, Rachael, and son, Edmund, are on a ship headed for Germany. The British government provided them with pamphlets, which instructed them on how to interact with the German people. Edmund reads aloud that they are to avoid socializing with Germans. The pamphlet warns that though the Germans may look similar to the British, they are really quite different.

Rachael is comforted by this message as she blames the Germans for the death of her 14-year-old son. Rachael, Edmund, and her other son, Michael, were living in the English countryside to avoid the bombings in more populated parts of England, but a German plane on its way home dropped an unused bomb, which destroyed the house and killed Michael.

While on the ship, Rachael befriends several other army wives heading to Germany, including Mrs. Burnham, whose husband works with Lewis. Lewis and Rachael are both filled with apprehension about their upcoming reunion. They have not seen each other for several years, with the exception of a few days for Michael’s funeral. Rachael is filled with affection when she finally sees him, but is taken aback by his distant greeting. Lewis takes his wife and son out for dinner where he explains that they will be sharing a home with the Luberts. Rachael is angry and upset, viewing the Luberts as part of the enemy who killed her son.

Lewis drives his family to the new house and introduces them to Herr Lubert. Lubert’s daughter, Freda, still refuses to interact with the Morgans. After the introductions and Rachael’s tour of the house, she confronts Lewis about his choice to allow the Luberts to stay, accusing him of not feeling the pain of Michael’s death the way she does. He states that his responsibilities have not allowed him time to mourn.

The next morning Freda leaves for school, only to find the school closed. The military police tell her that she can either head home or help with the rubble clearance in exchange for food vouchers. She joins a line of workers clearing bricks and begins talking to a young man named Albert.

She explains that she and her father live with a British governor, and Albert invites her back to his house. Albert explains that he belongs to a resistance movement still fighting for the Nazi party and asks for her help. Freda blames the English for the death of her mother and believes she is falling in love with Albert, so she agrees to bring him any information she can obtain on the governor.

Edmund spends his morning playing in the house before venturing outside. He finds a meadow just beyond the edge of the Luberts’ property where he meets Ozi and the other orphans. They bond by teaching each other swear words in their respective languages. Before they say goodbye, Ozi asks Edmund to bring them cigarettes that they can trade for food.

Meanwhile Rachael is attempting to settle into the house, rearranging it to her taste. Mrs. Burnham comes to visit and notes an unfaded patch of wallpaper in the shape of a picture frame. She speculates that it was probably a portrait of Hitler. A few days later Rachael sees Lubert covering the patch with a portrait of a German lady. She confronts him about it and accuses him of being a Nazi. He explains that he is a German nationalist but not a Nazi and challenges Rachael’s prejudice against the Germans. After this conversation, Lubert impulsively kisses her. He states that he and Freda will prepare to move out, but she allows them to stay.

A few days later, Rachael hosts a dinner party for a few officers and their wives, but Lewis is called away due to some protesters at a factory being shot. During the party, Maj. Burnham gets extremely drunk and begins destroying some of Lubert’s belongings. Lubert comes into the room with a gash on his forehead and is filled with anger at Burnham’s behavior. Rachael intervenes, sending her party guests home before a fight can break out. Rachael cleans and bandages Lubert’s injury while he explains that he was at the protest where the shooting broke out. Rachael and Lubert kiss again.

After dealing with the shooting at the protest, Lewis is summoned to the office of the general who supervises him. The general wants to send him to a remote location for a few weeks to oversee the destruction of Germany’s remaining weapons of war. Meanwhile, Freda is able to steal a folder of classified information from among Lewis’ belongings and deliver it to Albert. She also meets Ozi, who is Albert’s little brother.

Lewis is gone over Christmas, so Rachael and Edmund celebrate with the Luberts. After an evening of movies and games, everyone goes to bed except for Rachael and Lubert. He confides in her that the empty space on the wall held a picture of his wife Claudia. Rachael sympathizes with his loss and is comforted to finally have someone she can mourn with. They kiss once again before going up to Lubert’s room and spending the night together.

In another part of Hamburg, Ozi trades the cigarettes from Edmund and some valuable items that Freda brought to Albert for a gun. Albert told him the gun was for hunting, but Ozi worries that Albert will use it to hurt Edmund’s family. He tries to convince Albert to forgive the English and move on with his life, but Albert refuses to listen.

Lubert and Rachael continue their affair while Lewis is away. They plan to take a trip to Lubert’s hometown, Lubeck, but before they leave, Lewis’ second-in-command brings a box of files to the house. One of the files reveals that Lubert’s wife is alive and in a nearby hospital. She has amnesia from the bombings and so has not been able to return home. Another file reveals that several officers and their families have been looting the German homes that they are staying in. The Burnhams appear among the list.

Rachael decides to travel to Lubeck as planned, but tells Lubert the news as soon as they arrive. She ends their affair, saying that they were united by their losses. She also reveals that her feelings for her husband are returning, and she hopes that their relationship can be restored. The two return together — Lubert to find his wife and Rachael to wait for her husband’s return later that day.

Lewis’ second-in-command drives him home, but as they near the house, Lewis hears a gunshot, and the car careens into a ditch. Lewis discovers that his friend was shot in the head and leaps from the car to chase the man who is responsible: Albert. Albert runs onto a frozen river, but the ice begins to crack. He falls through the ice and begs Lewis for help. Lewis lets him drown.

Lewis returns to the house heartbroken at the loss of his friend. He breaks down in tears, finally able to mourn. Rachael finds him in the living room and recognizes that his tears are also for his son. She apologizes for her previous coldness and their relationship is restored.

When Lewis goes into work the next day, he discovers that Freda has been arrested for conspiring with Albert. Lewis believes that Freda’s choices were spurred by her anger at losing her mother and wants to give her a second chance now that he knows her mother is alive and well. Burnham is the officer in charge of prosecuting her, however, and wants to see her punished. Lewis is forced to use the information about Burnham plundering German houses to convince him to let her go. Freda is reunited with her parents and has Albert’s child a few months later.

Christian Beliefs

Lewis observes the ruins of a bombed-out church, noting that the only congregation is the wind. Rachael went to church before Michael’ death, but afterward she stopped praying and began to wonder if God was even there. A reverend tries to comfort her by stating that God has also lost a son, but she snaps that at least He got His back after a few days. She states that there will be no resurrection for Michael. When Lewis asks her if she has been going to church, she says no. She knows that Lewis will not infer that she has stopped believing in God because He allowed Michael to die.

Ozi and some of the other orphans live in a church for a short time and burn the hymnbooks to keep warm. The orphans talk about the paintings on the walls. They say that one depicts Jesus, the Savior of the world, but are confused about the dove landing on His head. Ozi states that Jesus lived on a boat full of animals but especially loved birds. One of the orphans asks why Jesus was killed and another answers that it was because He was a Jew. Lubert states at one point that Hitler attempted to destroy God himself.

Other Belief Systems

None

Authority Roles

The military officers occupying Germany show varying degrees of concern for the German citizens. Lewis genuinely cares about them and wants to help rebuild Hamburg. He is shown attempting to reunite families that were separated by the war and often gives food and cigarettes to impoverished children and families. He shows compassion for the Luberts and allows them to stay in their home though the law would have allowed him to displace them. Many officers view the Germans as less than human and treat them as such. At first, Lewis is distant from his family.

Lubert loves his daughter but doesn’t know how to deal with her hurt and anger, so he chooses to ignore it. Rachael is too wrapped up in her grief over Michael to pay much attention to Edmund, though she does love him and feels guilty for leaving him largely to fend for himself. Albert physically and verbally abuses his little brother and the other orphans.

Profanity/Violence

The f-word appears frequently throughout the novel. Ozi makes a joke about the fuhrer’s balls. P--- is used a few times. D--n, b--tard, a--, s---, h--- and b--ch also appear. C--t is used once, and British swear words bloody and bugger are used semi-frequently.

Ozi wants to kill the beast, which is later revealed to be a panther. He shoots at it, but the bullet misses. Lewis’ driver beats one of the orphans that stopped the car on the way to Lubert’s house. He holds the child by the neck with one hand and beats him viciously with the other. Rachael remembers seeing Michael’s dead, broken body. Edmund tells an embellished version of the bombing to some of his friends, saying that the bomb threw his mother 30 feet and killed his brother. Edmund also tells the story of his father throwing a grenade at a German sniper to save two men trapped in a riverboat.

When Edmund and Rachael arrive in Hamburg, Lewis drives them through the worst part of the ruins and explains that the English dropped more bombs on Hamburg in a weekend than Germany dropped on London during the entire war. During her job running rubble, Freda finds two dead bodies, charred from the bombs.

Ozi remembers his home being destroyed by a bomb. He says his eyes nearly burned out of his head, and he saw the walls of houses falling. Later he remembers people being stuck in melted asphalt and his mother’s hair catching fire. He remembers people’s brains dribbling out of their noses and split temples. He also defends the English officers by saying that at least now Germans can speak their minds without getting their heads blown off.

When Edmund first meets the orphans, one of them attacks him. He claws at Edmund’s face with his fingernails and tries to put him into a headlock. Edmund is able to pin the boy, and Ozi offers him a stick and gestures that Edmund should kill the boy with it. Edmund releases the boy instead. Albert physically abuses Ozi and the other orphans, grabbing Ozi’s face in his hand and threatening to burn another boy’s eye with a cigarette.

Lubert remembers the protest while Rachael bandages his head. The workers were outside of the factory when a British staff car tried to get through to the gates. The workers were unable to get out of the way in time, so they began banging on the car, eventually tipping it onto its side. Lubert heard a rifle being fired and something hits his forehead gashing it open. He sees his blood on the white snow.

Albert uses a cigarette to burn the symbol of the resistance into Freda’s forearm. Freda imagines her mother burning to death while he brands her. Lewis’ German interpreter tells him that she once saw Russian soldiers raping an old woman and then beating her to death. Ozi says that Albert saw one of his friends turn inside out. Ozi carries a burnt skeleton around in a suitcase because he thinks it is the body of his mother.

When Albert shoots Lewis’ second-in-command, Lewis sees a bullet hole in the man’s forehead and notices blood and tissue spattered on the back seat of the car. Lewis’ hands get covered in blood. Lewis is also forced to examine the body later in a police station. Lewis wants Albert to die but refuses to shoot him. When Albert breaks through the ice and falls into the river, he begs Lewis for help, but Lewis watches him drown without making any attempt to save him. Ozi finds the panther with its head inside a dead deer and prepares to shoots it but changes his mind.

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Before Rachael arrives in Germany, Lewis tries to remember what it was like to have sex with her. He remembers her feeling smooth and curvy. Mrs. Burnham jokes about needing to make up for lost time when she sees her husband again and hopes that their house will have a large comfortable bed. Rachael worries that having sex with Lewis will feel awkward and unnatural after so long apart. Lewis remembers taking naked swims in the bay with Rachael when they were newly engaged.

Rachael watches Mrs. Burnham and Maj. Burnham share an open-mouthed kiss at the train station. Lubert remembers taking his wife to a beach house and using the sounds of dinner being prepared below to mask the creaking of their bed and their cries of pleasure. He remembers smelling her scent on his hands later that day. He becomes aroused by this memory and masturbates, afterward noting a clump of semen on his belly. He wonders if Rachael and Lewis make love uncovered like he and Claudia used to or if they stayed beneath the bedsheets.

The charred bodies that Freda finds are positioned as though they were having intercourse when they died. Rachael is hesitant to have sex with Lewis, so he undresses slowly before bed hoping that she will initiate. When she doesn’t, he openly asks her if they are going to have sex. She asks if he has a condom, and they begin to undress. Lewis hopes that she doesn’t notice his erection. They kiss, and as she begins to put the condom on him, he ejaculates.

When Freda goes to Albert’s house, he kisses her and pushes his tongue into her mouth. She remembers being kissed and touched at a Hitler Youth camp where a boy pushed his fingers inside her while his friends watched. Mrs. Burnham tells Rachael that she and her husband have been like rabbits, and she asks Rachael if she has been making up for lost time with Lewis. Mrs. Burnham also comments that the Englishwomen need to keep themselves well groomed to keep their husbands from straying.

Lewis leaves a pack of condoms, entirely unused in the past three months except for one, out for Rachael to see, hoping that she will want to improve the record. The picture that Lubert chooses to cover the patch of wall where the portrait of Claudia used to hang depicts a nude woman, which Lubert notes is on the verge of being erotic. After they argue about the painting, Lubert gives Rachael a quick kiss.

Lewis remembers stopping a fellow officer from having sex with a barmaid. He remembers the girl on the bed with one leg over the bedsheet. He describes her as milky, soft and inviting but states that he only had eyes for his wife. Rachael remembers that when she and Lewis were first married, they would go to bed naked with no barriers between them. Rachael and Lewis have a flirtatious encounter, and he asks her again if they are going to have sex. She states they will have to be quick and heads to the bedroom while he takes a brief phone call. When he enters, the room he sees her wearing nothing but a necklace and her underwear. He has to leave to deal with the aftermath of the riot, however.

Rachael kisses Lubert briefly but tenderly after she cleans the wound on his head. Ozi tells Freda that he saw her with Albert and mimes a sexual act with his hands. Freda and Albert have sex. She feels his erection pressing against her as he takes off her skirt. She states that his pleasure makes her feel powerful, and then she begins moaning in pleasure as well. She says they stay pressed together for a few moments after they finish.

After celebrating Christmas Eve together, Lubert and Rachael kiss deeply, and he invites her up to his room. Once there, they begin kissing and undressing each other. They have sex, and she cries out loudly with pleasure. She states that she feels the evidence of the act spreading throughout her body. They lie there together naked. Afterward. Lewis’ interpreter sees an older women being raped. Edmund sees Freda stretching and looks up her skirt. He begins to fantasize about touching her thigh and moving his hand up toward her knickers.

Lubert takes Rachael to a hunting cabin where they kiss and cuddle before having sex again. Rachael states that they kept most of their clothes on this time due to the cold. When Lubert and Rachael meet at the train station to go to Lubeck together, he kisses her passionately. He kisses her again when they arrive at the hotel, but she breaks away and begins to hug him instead.

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Crudity: When the Morgans first move in, Freda leaves a chamber pot full of pee in Edmund’s room. When Edmund meets Albert and Albert tries to burn the boy’s eye with the cigarette, Edmund pees his pants in fear.

Smoking/drinking/drugs: Several characters, including Freda and Albert, smoke cigarettes. Major Burnham is depicted as a drunkard with violent tendencies. Lewis drinks to cope with the death of his friend. Albert uses methamphetamine several times, saying that he needs to stay alert so he can continue to fight for the resistance.

Stealing: The Burnhams steal from the Germans whose house they are occupying. Edmund steals cigarettes from his father to help his friends. When his father catches him, he affirms his desire to help but states that he should have just asked for them.

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Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

18 and up

Author

Rhidian Brook

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

Alfred A. Knopf

Released

On Video

Year Published

2013

Awards

Unknown

Reviewer

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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