Synopses & Reviews
A mesmerizing and dramatic memoir of the author’s search for her father’s secret life during and after World War II as his homelands were taken over by the Nazis and then the Soviet Union.
For Annette Kobak, there was always something mysterious about her father, something dark. But for forty-five years the reasons for his silence–the sources of his hidden pain–were left unspoken. _ With astonishing bravery and clear-sightedness, Kobak delves into her father’s past, hoping to find answers that will in turn set her free. His story is gripping: born on the border of Czechoslovakia and Poland, he fled east from the Nazis when war broke out only to find the Red Army moving in. Arbitrarily imprisoned by the Russians, he ended up fighting with the Polish forces in France before finally escaping to Britain, where he spent the rest of the war listening to Soviet messages for the Allies in London.
In uncovering this story, Kobak also lets us reexperience, close-up, the shocking history of what the Allies did–and didn’t do–for the small countries of Europe that were desperate for their help. _ Written from her own travels in her father’s footsteps, and from extended conversations with her father and others whose lives were also touched by this odyssey, Joe’s War is about the inner costs of conflict and the redeeming power of truth telling. It is the work of an immensely gifted writer.
"[T]he book violates genre boundaries but it is precisely this lack of affectedness, couched in graceful, perceptive writing, that makes it such an engrossing and informative work." Publishers Weekly
"[Kobak's] appealing voice, for a time, disappears. Until she and her father return to center stage near the end, her tale sags with unnecessary weight. What could have been a first-rate shorter work is instead a second-rate longer one." Kirkus Reviews
"Even though Joe's story is insignificant compared to those who suffered atrocities, Kobak ably employs his history to revisit the unconscionable treatment of Czechs and Poles by the hapless and cynical Great Powers." Frank Sennett, Booklist
"This reviewer wished for more details about ordinary life from the father (whom Kobak interviewed at length) or other sources. Still, this is an interesting story about one lucky person surviving a hellish time." Library Journal
In this dramatic memoir, the author searches for her father's secret life during World War II, and after, as a refugee from Hitler. Kobak also makes it possible for readers to witness, close-up, the shocking history of what the Allies did, and didn't do, for the small countries in Europe in need of their help.
About the Author
Born in London, Annette Kobak studied modern languages at Cambridge University and creative writing at the University of East Anglia. She has written an acclaimed biography of the nineteenth-century traveler Isabelle Eberhardt and translated her novel Vagabond from the French. She presented the series The Art of Travel on BBC Radio 4 and reviews travel books and fiction for the New York Times Book Review and The Times Literary Supplement. She is currently the editor of the magazine The Cut.