The Uncommon Life of Alfred Warner is a very special book. We meet an elderly Alfred as he is sitting in a railway station waiting for his granddaughter Brynja to pick him up. He has never met Brynja, doesn’t even really know what she looks like except from a photo she has sent him. As he sits and waits, he is befriended by Julia who is worried about the old man and takes him to her home. For reasons I’m not going to mention here, it isn’t possible for Alfred to meet Brynja properly at this time but he has a story he must tell her, a story he feels will save her life. Alfred is also convinced that he will die in six days so tells his story to Julia so she can then pass it on Byrnja.
I absolutely loved this book. It is really unusual in its structure. Some chapters are told from Julia’s point of view over the six days she listens to Albert’s story. Some recount Alfred’s extraordinary life from an orphaned child in German, through being in the German army, being held a prisoner-of-war in Scotland then his life with his wife and child. Alfred’s life story is told chronologically. Brynja’s chapters by contrast, work backwards through her life, from just before when she is about to meet Alfred. This was really interesting as both she and Alfred share a family secret (which again I’m not going to reveal to you!) but are affected by it in very different ways. For Alfred, it is a very positive influence in his life but for Brynja, it is the opposite and affects her mental health badly.
This is a book which had me enthralled as I lived Alfred’s life with him through all the amazing experiences he had. It was a book which made me feel profound sadness for him at times but also great joy. Juliet Conlin is a natural storyteller and it almost felt as though Alfred was talking directly to me. His story was incredible not just because of all he had seen and done but because of what influenced him throughout his life. Alfred is a wonderful character who you will take to your heart. Brynja was harder to like initially, though I could understand why she was as she was. Julia has a more minor role but was a character I really became fond of. It was heart-warming that she would take a complete stranger into her home, look after him, listen to him and, more importantly, believe his almost unbelievable tale.
Alfred most definitely has had an uncommon life and his story is one which had me glued to the pages, keen to find out what had happened to him, what would happen to him and whether his story could indeed help Brynja. It is a memorable tale of hope and shows that being a little bit different isn’t always a bad thing.
My thanks to Black and White Publishing for my copy of this book. It was released in paperback and as an e-book on 23rd February. You can order a copy online by clicking here.
From the back of the book
Approaching 80, frail and alone, a remarkable man makes the journey from his sheltered home in England to Berlin to meet his granddaughter. He has six days left to live and must relate his life story before he dies…
His life has been rich and full. He has witnessed firsthand the rise of the Nazis, experienced heartrending family tragedy, fought in the German army, been interred in a POW camp in Scotland and faced violent persecution in peacetime Britain. But he has also touched many lives, fallen deeply in love, raised a family and survived triumphantly at the limits of human endurance. He carries within him an astonishing family secret that he must share before he dies… a story that will mean someone else’s salvation.
Welcome to the moving, heart-warming and uncommon life of Alfred Warner.