Author(s): Catherine Chidgey
Moving away from Munich isn't nearly as wrenching an experience for Frau Greta Hahn as she had feared. Their new home is even lovelier than the one they left behind, and best of all - right on their doorstep - are some of the finest craftsmen from all over Europe, prepared to make for her and the other officers' wives living in this small community anything they could possibly desire: new curtains from the finest silks, furniture designed to the most exacting specifications, execute a fresco or a mural even.
The looming presence of the nearby prison camp - lying just beyond a patch of forest - is the only blot to mar what is otherwise an idyllic life in Buchenwald.
Frau Hahn's husband, SS Sturmbannfuhrer Dietrich Hahn, has taken up a powerful new position as camp administrator. The job is all consuming as he wrestles with corruption that is rife at every level, inadequate supplies, and a sewerage system under ever-growing strain as the prison population continues to rise.
Frau Hahn's obliviousness is challenged when she is forced into an unlikely alliance with one of Buchenwald's prisoners, Dr Lenard Weber. A decade earlier he invented a machine - the Sympathetic Vitaliser - that at the time he believed could cure cancer. Does the machine work? Whether it does or not, it might yet save a life.
Catherine Chidgey's novels have been published to international acclaim. Her first, In a Fishbone Church, won Best First Book at the New Zealand Book Awards and at the Commonwealth Writers' Prize (South East Asia and South Pacific). In the UK it won the Betty Trask Award and was longlisted for the Orange Prize. Her second, Golden Deeds, was a Notable Book of the Year in the New York Times Book Review and a Best Book in the LA Times Book Review. Catherine has won the Prize in Modern Letters, the Katherine Mansfield Award, the Katherine Mansfield Fellowship, the Janet Frame Fiction Prize, and the Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize for The Wish Child. Catherine has a degree in German literature and lived in Berlin for three years during the 1990s. She now lives in Ngaruawahia, and lectures in Creative Writing at the University of Waikato.