At the heart of Catherine Chidgey’s extraordinary new novel is an enigmatic voice that tells the story of German families caught up in a nation’s dream.
It’s 1939. Two children watch as their parents become immersed in the puzzling mechanisms of power. Sieglinde lives in the affluent ignorance of middle-class Berlin, her father a censor who cuts prohibited words such as love and mercy out of books. Erich is an only child living a rural life near Leipzig, tending beehives, aware that he is shadowed by strange, unanswered questions. Drawn together as Germany’s hope for a glorious future begins to collapse, the children find temporary refuge in an abandoned theatre amidst the rubble of Berlin. Outside, white bedsheets hang from windows; all over the city people are talking of surrender. The days Sieglinde and Erich spend together will shape the rest of their lives.
The Wish Child is a profound meditation on the wreckage caused by a corrupt ideology, on the resilience of the human spirit, and on crimes that cannot be undone.
I am the wish child, the future cast in water. I am the thrown coin, the blown candle; I am the fallen star.
About the author
Catherine Chidgey’s previous novels are In a Fishbone Church, Golden Deeds, and The Transformation . Some of her honours include Best First Book at the New Zealand Book Awards and at the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (South East Asia and South Pacific), a Betty Trask Award (UK), and BNZ Katherine Mansfield Award, and a longlisting for the Orange Prize. Golden Deeds was chosen by Time Out magazine as a book of the year, and was a 2001 Notable Book in the New York Times Book Review. In 2001 Catherine spent time in Menton, France as the Katherine Mansfield Fellow, and in 2002 she won the inaugural Prize in Modern Letters. The Wish Child was the winner of The Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards in 2017.
She lives in Ngāruawāhia, New Zealand.
Restrained, honest and moving, written with a keen intelligence.