Kingdom of Twilight by Steven Uhly Review

I was sent this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Kingdom of Twilight is an epic, expansive WWII historical fiction spanning decades and many lives translated from the original German. WWII historical fiction novels are some of my favorite, but I’ve never read one quite like KoT. I was surprised by the scope alone, but also how much time focused on after the war and the continued effects felt by the characters and the world. I wasn’t expecting to see so much of their lives once the war had ended, but it was a pleasant and eye opening read. Usually, I think these types of books end with some tragedy or when the war has officially ended, but this book dove much deeper into the effects of the war and displacement of people and their struggle to survive despite the worst of it being over. They still struggled to find somewhere to live, were still starving, and were still suffering terribly. This novel, with its many points of view, gave an incredible look at the different sides of life in post-WWII Europe for Jews, Germans, and even Nazis. 

The characters in this novel were so well written. Despite the expansive feel of this novel, we get to know each of them really well and really get stuck in their heads with them. They were emotional, understandable and real. I felt connected to them and needed to continue reading to see how their stories ended. 

Throughout the novel, the writing had high and low moments. In general, I’d say it was a very well written book with emotional, gripping narration and prose that really puts you in the mind of the characters as well as descriptions that painted clear images of where they were in my own mind. At times, though, it delved way into the characters’ minds and there would be long paragraphs of their somewhat rambling, repetitive thoughts. It was effective writing, but I didn’t like it even though I saw what he was going for. I sometimes got lost because things were thought or referenced that hadn’t been explained to us and I wasn’t sure what was meant by it. Also, with all the back and forth between characters and time periods, I got confused as to what was going on with each character at certain points. I couldn’t understand, and was confused by, the fact that a few characters’ timelines seemed to be progressing very quickly and was years ahead of the others’ timelines. In the end it made sense but for a long time I was unsure of what was happening. Sometimes the timelines were mixed together without clear distinction between them. We’d be in the 60s and before you realize, the story is being told as if it’s the 40s again and they’re in a camp. I also didn’t like the many instances when dialogue was included in the regular narration without quotes. There were some grammar mistakes throughout the novel and some sentences just didn’t seem to make sense. That, along with the innumerable run on sentences that covered way too many points for one sentence, made me think it perhaps was a problem of translation from German to English, but I’m not sure. 

I was invested in the story from the start, but at times my interest did wane. I’m not sure I can pinpoint an exact reason, but sometimes I just didn’t feel as into the story. I think it was partly because of just how much time we spent in characters’ heads. The book is 535 pages long and somewhere around 300 pages in, I stopped having the moments where I wasn’t as interested and felt fully invested for the rest of it. I really enjoyed this book. It was everything you’d expect from a good WWII fiction novel—touching, emotional, evocative, gripping. So much happened in the characters’ lives, and though it moved slowly sometimes, I was always being surprised at the turn of events. Near the end, several things really shocked me. The back and forth with characters and timelines, while confusing at times, made sense in the end and kept the story gripping and engaging. 

This was a fantastic novel. It stretched generations and told me stories of the hardships still felt by Jewish and displaced people even after the war was over and during the formation of Israel. I loved watching their lives unfold and witnessing their highs as well as feeling something of what they felt during the lows. The way characters connected was always a surprise and was satisfying. Relationships were painfully realistic, my favorites being Frau Kramer with Lisa and Peretz with Anna—for very different reasons. I loved the book and recommend it to all historical fiction fans. 



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