Author(s): Catherine Chidgey
Winner of the New Zealand Book Award for Fiction
Germany, 1939. Two children watch as their parents become immersed in the puzzling mechanisms of power. Siggi lives in the affluent ignorance of middle-class Berlin, her father a censor who excises prohibited words ('promise', 'love', 'mercy'). Erich is an only child living a lush rural life, 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. The days they spend there together will shape the rest of their lives. Watching over Siggi and Erich is the wish child. He sees what they see, he feels what they feel, yet his is a voice that comes from deep inside the wreckage of a nation's dream.
~ Catherine Chidgey says that she finds writing difficult, but after reading this book you will be glad she persevered. I have a deep respect for Chidgey's talent. I was moved, saddened, and often humoured by this story. The Wish Child follows the lives of two children - Sieglinde and Erich and their respective families growing up in Germany from 1939. They begin WW2 beguiled by the glorious vision Adolph Hitler sells his people and as the war progresses they become increasingly disillusioned with the Nazi regime and begin to feel lost in their own country. Chidgey respectfully portrays the fear that many Aryan Germans lived with in the last part of WW2, as they too were under suspicion and surveillance at all times. Although The Wish Child covers topics that are by their nature horrific and desperate, Chidgey treats them with a delicate fresh touch. Metaphor is utilised beautifully in this novel and many have stayed with me since finishing. The ending of this book is profound, and left me feeling that the story carried a greater power than I had initially realised. If you loved Everyone Brave is Forgiven,The Book Thief, and All the Light We Cannot See, this book must be your next read!
Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize Winner - Ockham New Zealand Book Awards 2017.
Catherine Chidgey's previous novels are In a Fishbone Church (1998), Golden Deeds (2000), and The Transformation (2003). Some of her honours include Best First Book at the New Zealand Book Awards and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize (South East Asia and South Pacific), a Betty Trask Award (UK), the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Award, and a longlisting for the Orange Prize. Golden Deeds was chosen by Time Out magazine (London) as a book of the year, and was a 2002 Best Book in the LA Times Book Review and a 2002 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. She lives in Ngaruawahia.