Book Review: The Survivors – Kate Furnivall

The Survivors - Kate Furnivall

About The Book

‘ Directly I saw him, I knew he had to die.’ 


Germany, 1945. Klara Janowska and her daughter Alicja have walked for weeks to get to Graufeld Displaced Persons camp. In the cramped, dirty, dangerous conditions they, along with 3,200 others, are the lucky ones. They have survived and will do anything to find a way back home.


But when Klara recognises a man in the camp from her past, a deadly game of cat and mouse begins.

He knows exactly what she did during the war to save her daughter.

She knows his real identity.

What will be the price of silence? And will either make it out of the camp alive?

My Review

Oh Kate Furnivall, how talented you are. The Survivors is another wonderful historical fiction novel which explores the resistance of the human spirit against extreme adversity. Klara Janowska and her young daughter Alicja are living in Graufeld, a displaced person’s camp in Germany in the aftermath of the Second World War. They feel safe there and are awaiting their transfer papers when one day Klara spots a man from her past, and all of a sudden the house of cards she has built around herself come tumbling down. They both did unimaginable things during the war to survive and their shared history makes them a danger to one another.

Kate Furnivall excels at writing extraordinary women in extraordinary situations. Klara is a compelling and multi-layered protagonist who is revealed to us in increments. First she is a woman in a forest with her young daughter, they are running but we don’t know where from or where to. Then she is black market smuggler providing spectacles, mirrors and thread to her fellow campmates.  Then she is a mother to the parent-less children in the camp and a fierce and fearsome woman who is unafraid to stand up to those who threaten those she loves. But, she is hiding something, we just don’t know what.

I love books that are set during and after World War 2 and especially love books set in Germany so The Survivors ticked lots of boxes for me. It is really interesting to read what life was like in the months and years after the war and this book is a stark reminder that things did not go back to normal when peace was declared. The descriptions of conditions in the camp are unflinching and brutal; some blocks are off-limits as the inhabitants are dangerous, food is scarce, nobody wants to go to the medical block as infection is rife and former enemies are living alongside each other with long-held resentments simmering away. It is a pressure cooker waiting to blow and I could feel the tension seeping from the pages.

It is very cleverly plotted, with enough of Klara’s past dropped into the narrative to keep me on the edge of my seat. I had to know what had happened and what she was like before the war and as I learned more about her the more I fell in love with her. This is a book about revenge and redemption and as I unpicked Klara the clearer the reasons became. There is a rawness and brutality mixed with sensitive depictions of humanity which makes this compelling read.

I can’t review The Survivors without mentioning Alicja who is plucky, brave and wise beyond her years. My heart broke for this young child whose short life has been so affected by horror and terror. Her chapters were some of the most beautiful in the book and I was frequently moved by this girl and the love that shines out of her. It really is a lovely book which is rich in history and features well-rounded characters that draw you in.

My thanks to the publisher Simon & Schuster and Netgalley for an advanced copy of The Survivors in return for an honest review. The Survivors is out now in both hardback and ebook and is published in paperback on the 29th November.

8 thoughts on “Book Review: The Survivors – Kate Furnivall

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