Firstly I wish to thank Rachel Kennedy of Penguin Random House for inviting me on the blog tour for The Prisoner’s Wife by Maggie Brookes
‘Deeply moving and compelling … an epic journey not only across war-torn countries but deep into the heart of what it is to be human. A heart-rending story beautifully told.’ JUDITH ALLNAT, author of The Poet’s Wife and The Silk Factory
Their love is a death sentence. But can it keep them alive?
Czechoslovakia, 1944. In the dead of night, a farm girl and a British soldier creep through abandoned villages. Secretly married and on the run, Bill and Izabela are searching for Izabela’s brother and father, who are fighting for the Czech resistance. They know their luck will not last.
Captured by the German army, it seems they must be separated – but they have prepared for this moment. By cutting her hair and pretending to be mute, Izabela successfully disguises herself as a British soldier. Together, they face the terrible conditions of a POW camp, reliant on the help of their fellow POWs to maintain their fragile deception.
Their situation is beyond dangerous. If Izabela is discovered, she and Bill – and all the men who helped them – will face lethal consequences.
A novel set in war-torn Czechoslovakia amid the extreme privations of a prisoner of war camp, based on a true story of passion, heroism and a love that transcends overwhelming odds.
HERE IS AN EXTRACT FROM THIS INCREDIBLE STORY, WHICH IS BASED ON A TRUE EVENT
Everything was quiet and still, apart from the light crunch of our boots as we crept down the deserted street. The sliver of moon disappeared behind a cloud and we slowed our pace, barely able to make out the way ahead.
That was when we heard the dogs. Only one bark at first, carrying in the quiet of the night. We clutched each other’s hands and stood still for a moment.
Then another bark. And another. Not muffled by the walls of a building, but out in the night, like us, out in the streets. Instinctively we moved away from the sound, and the buildings glowered at us, closing in. My heart was drumming and my breath came fast. We walked more quickly. The dogs were barking, closer, echoing off the buildings – perhaps two of them, perhaps three. We turned to see if they were in sight, but the darkness was too absolute. We were acutely aware of the noise of our boots on the cobbled road.
And then there were shouts behind us: men’s voices, excited to have something to do in the boredom of the night-watch, egging on the dogs, eager for the hunt. Whichever way we turned, the dogs and the men grew closer and our boots clanged louder.
It became a town of sounds: our breath, the pounding of our own blood in our ears, the clatter of our boots on the road, the dogs barking, men running and calling, closer, closer. Perhaps we could have stopped, knocked on a door and begged for help, but we didn’t. We just kept going, faster and faster, running, Bill
dragging me with him. I was breathless to keep up, my kit-bag banging awkwardly against my legs.
At last there was an opening in the terrace, an archway leading into a narrow arcade lined with dark shops. Towards the end of the alley was an even darker place that looked like another turning, but it was only a wide doorway, up two steps, set back and hidden until we drew level with it.
Now the dogs were almost upon us, and Bill pulled me up into the doorway, threw his arms around me, squeezed me very hard and whispered, ‘I’m so sorry’ into my hair. Then he pushed me away from him, so we wouldn’t be found touching. I shut my eyes and waited for the dogs’ teeth, hoped it would be over quickly.
Everything seemed to happen at once: the dogs, the men, a searchlight in my face. I raised my arm to cover my eyes and heard the panting breath of the men, the loudness of their voices. My teeth were chattering and I had to clamp them shut. The voices behind the light became one disembodied shout in German
from the senior officer. ‘Hands up! Against the wall!’
We stumbled down the two steps. Bill went to one side of the doorway, and I to the other. I raised my hands and leaned my face against the wall to stop myself from falling, feeling the roughness of the brick against my cheek.
Behind the wall I sensed the people who lived there scurrying like mice, listening with excitement and maybe – who knows? – with pity. I bit my lips, determined not to sob, not to let it end this way.
HERE IS A LITTLE ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maggie Brookes is a British ex-journalist and BBC television producer turned poet and novelist.
‘The Prisoner’s Wife’ is based on an extraordinary true story of love and courage, which was told to her in a lift by an ex-WW2 prisoner of war. Maggie visited the Czech Republic, Poland and Germany as part of her research for the book, learning largely forgotten aspects of the war.
‘The Prisoner’s Wife’ is due to be published by imprints of Penguin Random House in the UK and in the US in May 2020. Publication in other countries, including Holland, Italy, Portugal, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic will follow.
As well as being a writer, Maggie is an advisory fellow for the Royal Literary Fund and also an Associate Professor at Middlesex University, London, England, where she has taught creative writing since 1990. She divides her time between London and Whitstable, and is married with two grown-up daughters.
She has published five poetry collections in the UK under her married name of Maggie Butt. Poetry website: http://www.maggiebutt.co.uk