Author: Anne Raeff
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published by: Counterpoint Press
Published on: February 13, 2018
Pages: 304 [hardcover]
A GINORMOUS THANK YOU to Counterpoint Press for sending me a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review!
“It was terrible, the winter of 1945. If she believed in God, Ulli would have had to believe that God felt they had not been punished enough, that Europe needed more battering, more misery for its uncountable sins. By the end of the war, after hundreds of air raids, almost half the residents of Berlin had abandoned the city…” (Raeff 39)
BERLIN, ~1945: In the aftermath of World War II, a young German woman, Ulli, is squatting in an abandoned apartment and making a living as an interpreter between Berlin-based soldiers and the local women.
Leo and Isaac are unlike the other soldiers Ulli has encountered: they are gentlemen. Instead of looking for women to bed, they are more intrigued by their friendship with Ulli.
Leo and Isaac move in with her. Ulli and Leo are infatuated with one another, and Isaac is content being the third wheel. Together, they share an abundance of vodka, banter, and laughs; a three’s company, if you will.
“Welcome to the Hotel Atlas.” (Raeff 7)
MOROCCO, ~2005: Ulli now runs a hotel and Isaac has shown up to visit her, unannounced. They are elderly and it quickly becomes apparent that they have been estranged for some time. They quiver at the mention of Leo.
Nearly six decades have passed since that brutal winter of 1945. They reminisce and their lifelong journeys unfold through eloquent story telling.
Winter Kept Us Warm is a melancholy story, alternating past and present, about survival, desperation, identity, friendship, balancing success and family, and the repercussions of war.
The characters are paradoxical and unforgettable.
Ulli is full of energy and culture.
She is ambitious yet quiet, courteous yet self-centered, damaged yet strong.
Isaac is a true gentleman.
He is soft spoken yet confident, driven yet selfless, damaged yet strong.
But what has become of Leo?
That is where the mystery lies.
Raeff takes readers on a poignant journey, not only through the characters’ reflections, by also through radical time periods set in Berlin, New York, Russia, California, and Morocco
“It’s always warming when it’s snowing,” Isaac said. (Raeff 57)
For war aficionados, history buffs, and anyone who appreciates storytelling at its best, this novel is a riveting must-read.