Today I’m stepping outside my normal genre to share my thoughts on a book that everyone must read, The Gathering Storm, by Alan Jones.
Before I share my thoughts, here’s what the official blurb says:
Kiel, Northern Germany, 1933. A naval city, the base for the German Baltic fleet, and the centre for German sailing, the venue for the upcoming Olympic regatta in 1936.
The Kästners, a prominent Military family, are part of the fabric of the city, and its social, naval and yachting circles. The Nussbaums are the second generation of their family to be in service with the Kästners as domestic staff, but the two households have a closer bond than most.
As Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party claw their way to power in 1933, life has never looked better for families like the Kästners. There is only one problem.
The Nussbaums are Jews.
The Sturmtaucher Trilogy documents the devastating effect on both families of the Nazis’ hateful ideology and the insidious erosion of the rights of Germany’s Jews.
When Germany descends ever deeper into dictatorship, General Erich Kästner tries desperately to protect his employees, and to spirit them to safety.
As the country tears itself apart, the darkness which envelops a nation threatens not only to destroy two families, but to plunge an entire continent into war.’
Everyone who knows me, knows that my go to genre is crime/psych thriller and I am not known as a history buff, however, every now and then something comes along that takes you out of your comfort zone and begs you to read it.
The Gathering Storm was that book for me. At 800 pages long, it may cause a “gulp” for potential readers, but honestly, do not let those page numbers put you off because as other reviewers have said, you fly through the pages.
It is the first book in the Sturmtaucher Trilogy, and the Amazon tag line describing it as “a powerful and compelling story of two families torn apart by evil.” does not lie. I’m not lying when I say it is probably one of the most compelling novels I’ve read in a long time. Documenting the lives of the Kästners, a prominent Military family, and the Nussbaums, who are in service with the Kästners, under Hitler’s rule.
Alan Jones takes his readers on a journey leading up to World War Two, he shows how the bonds between families and friends are slowly broken as Germany plunged into a dictatorship and ordinary people turned on those they had lived with.
This book has everything, it is both factual and emotional, the research that has gone into this work is second to none; fans of both military and social history will be blown away with the authenticity.
For me, The Gathering Storm, was about the people and the evil that pervaded as Hitler’s ideology slowly crept into acceptance. Parts of the book told through the lens of the children was particularly terrifying, the brainwashing of young people through the Hitler’s Youth Movement.
My pain was palpable as I watched the fear slowly worm its way into people’s lives; the belief that the good German people would come to their senses and reject Hitler and the anguish as the opposite happened was heart-breaking. I will never be able to understand the mind-set of that time. It is a harrowing read but throughout there is a sense of hope as amongst the evil there were people willing to do good. I couldn’t help but find myself lost in thoughts of how life must have been at that time: it was a painful place to take myself.
When I wasn’t reading it, I found myself thinking of the families, especially the Nussbaums. What they went through, is expertly documented; it demonstrates how easy it was for Hitler’s ideology to work its way through the country, how easily people accepted this new way of life and an open hatred for the Jewish community and anyone who did not fit into the Nazi’s idea of the perfect Aryan race.
I read with horror and sadness about the legislation imposed by Hitler, around enforced sterilisation along with a slow erosion of the rights of the Jewish community and as I read, desperately wishing it was fiction and that there was going to be a happy ending.
I could almost feel the weight bear down on the shoulders of the Jewish community as law after law was introduced banning Jews from all areas of life; the pages seemed to sag in sympathy. Particularly difficult was the relationship between the Kästners and the Nussbaums. The families had grown up together, their children had played together and that was being torn apart. As the Nussbaum’s grew wearier and more afraid, General Kästners wife grew more bitter at the support her husband was showing the family; her need to hold onto her social standing overrode all sensibilities, allowing her to be led by Nazi hatred.
The atrocities grow increasingly brutal and there are some distressing scenes as the book progresses, but the inclusion of such scenes are absolutely necessary for this book for we can never forget, or underestimate what horrors were committed by those in power. This is a story that must be told and re told.
The Gathering Storm is emotional, it is heart-breaking and it is a stark reminder of how easy it is for evil to take over when good people stand back and do nothing. This review will never do the justice this book deserves. I urge you, please go and read it. Now.
The Gathering Storm is available to purchase via
About the author
Alan Jones is a Scottish author with three gritty crime stories to his name, the first two set in Glasgow, the third one based in London. He has now switched genres, and his WW2 trilogy will be published in August 2021. It is a Holocaust story set in Northern Germany.
He is married with four grown up children and four wonderful grandchildren.
He has recently retired as a mixed-practice vet in a small Scottish coastal town in Ayrshire and is one of the RNLI volunteer coxswains on the local lifeboat. He makes furniture in his spare time, and maintains and sails a 45-year-old yacht in the Irish Sea and on the beautiful west coast of Scotland. He loves reading, watching films and cooking. He still plays football despite being just the wrong side of sixty.
His crime novels are not for the faint-hearted, with some strong language, violence, and various degrees of sexual content. The first two books also contain a fair smattering of Glasgow slang.
He is one of the few self-published authors to be given a panel at Bloody Scotland and has done two pop-up book launches at the festival in Stirling.
He has spent the last five years researching and writing the Sturmtaucher Trilogy.