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The End and the Beginning

About The Book

A stunning tour de force of a novel based on the true story of a fourteen-year-old boy’s harrowing experience fleeing a Hitler youth camp with his best friend in the last days of the Second World War—perfect for readers of All the Light We Cannot See and The German Girl.

At the start of the war, eight-year-old Max Bernot lives with his sister and parents in Lauterbach, Saarland, a narrow strip of territory between the French and German defence lines. His German father, Anton, and his French mother, Marguerite, do their best to shield Max and his sister, Anna, from Nazi violence, but in late 1944, their beloved godfather is executed in their garden by the SS, and Max, now thirteen, is conscripted in the Volkssturm. Less than a month later, Max flees a Hitler Youth camp in Bavaria with his best friend, Hans. His mission: to return home and tell his mother the truth about his godfather’s murder As he escapes, he sends postcards to his family that trace his fraught journey across a country in its death throes.

Unbeknownst to Max, his mother is trapped in the German interior, coerced into working for a fanatical Nazi officer. Desperate to escape and reunite her family, Marguerite must first protect Anna from the sinister attentions of their captor, who could hold information on Max’s whereabouts even as Allied planes circle closer.

Deftly interweaving the wartime stories of Max and Marguerite, The End and the Beginning maps the loss of innocence of a generation of children raised in the shadow of the Reich and follows the fate of one family, neither wholly French nor entirely German, who find themselves on the wrong side whichever way they turn.

About The Author

K.J. Holdom is a New Zealand writer who lives in Auckland. A former journalist, she holds a master’s in creative writing from the University of Auckland, where she won the 2018 Master of Creative Writing Prize for best manuscript. The End and the Beginning is her first novel.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (November 5, 2024)
  • Length: 352 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781668045466

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Raves and Reviews

“This masterfully told story about the resilience of the human spirit in the face of unspeakable evil left me in tears.”
ELINOR FLORENCE, bestselling author of Wildwood and Bird’s Eye View

The End and the Beginning is a rare tale, beautifully told, of a chapter in history that had to wait its turn to be written. As German forces rolled over their presumed enemies, they rolled over their own people too, many of them innocent, many of them children. This is the story of a family shattered, never to be made whole again, either physically or emotionally. K.J. Holdom has given us a powerful—and today, especially contemporary, especially poignant—reminder that war has no victors. An extraordinary and brilliant achievement.”
JOSEPH KERTES, winner of the National Jewish Book Award

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