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The Element of Water

by Stevie Davies

I found this book immensely moving, it provides though-provoking stuff with a tender love-story, and I was attracted by both. Isolde Dahl is a young teacher from Wales who falls in love in 1950s’ Germany. The subtle uncovering of the Nazi past, and the moral choices posed by the anti-semitism and institutionalized cruelty of an English boarding school, make for a tense, engaging read. And the language and landscapes are haunting.

Extract

‘I suppose,’ Mama said, tucking wisps of pale hair behind her ear, her voice small in defeat, ‘you are looking for roots.’
The terribly blond man in the photos flashed into Issie’s mind: she had picked up a discharge of pure fear from her mother, as clear as a radio signal.
She replied gently, ‘Honestly, no. I’ve got roots. Too many roots. I’m all root. I’m leguminous. All the antis. Mam-gu. Tad-cu. You and Owen.’
‘You do not go with my blessing’, Renate stated, recovering.
‘Okay. I understand that.’
‘Okay is American slang, not correct Queen’s English.’

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