The Lost Café Schindler by Meriel Schindler

I’m increasingly conscious of the narrowness of history. Growing up in Britain in the nineties meant that our history was a very specific thing. You would have been forgiven for thinking that Britain had historically hopped from period to period; romans! tudors! victorians! the! modern! day! everything else in between just sort of happened! (Or, perhaps, that we had all stood still for a good hundred years until the Next Thing On The Curriculum had occurred). I think one of the reasons I’m so interested in historical girls fiction is that it covers the stories we don’t hear from, the stories that are told by voices that are marginal(ised) to begin with and thus become slowly and steadily erased from history. And yes, that bolding there is deliberate…

The Lost Café Schindler was mentioned to me by somebody on Twitter (thank you!!) and I was instantly intrigued, not just in that it promised to illuminate early -mid twentieth century Innsbruck – an area that features heavily in a beloved book series of mine – but also in how it had a café at the heart of it all. Food matters in history. It’s a point of connection. It’s a point of entry to a story because even if you don’t understand anything else about that story, you can understand what it means to eat something. What it means to feed your family. Or, in the case of the Lost Café Schindler, what it takes to make the original sachertorte...

The Lost Café Schindler is out in May. It’s moving, innovative, and endlessly fascinating. I even reactivated my long dead Netgalley account for it…

The Lost Café Schindler by Meriel Schindler

The Lost Café Schindler: One family, two wars and the search for truth by Meriel Schindler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was intensely grateful when somebody mentioned this book to me because it covers a lot of areas I’m interested in. I collect a series of books set around Innsbruck and during many of the periods that The Lost Café Schindler covers, and I also write books with a lot of cake and food references in them. The story of an Austrian café and the lives that had wrapped about it was all very much up my street – and indeed it was. There’s something rather moving and unusual here, and I’d recommend it in a heartbeat.

What also interested me here was the way in which this is written. Schindler hovers somewhere between family history and personal memoir, literary non-fiction and present day travel guide. It’s an intriguing, intoxicating mix of form and style and sometimes it hits rather deeply. There is a lot here to read and reread in the hope that you read it wrong first time round and then, when you realise that you haven’t, you read it again because you still can’t quite believe it’s true. Schindler’s research is meticulous and rich, giving as much of herself to the story as she does with the information that she founds out, and you can almost feel her reactions in the archives or the reading rooms as she comes across something new. It’s as much a journey into the present as it is into the past and that rather works for me.

My thanks to the publisher for access to the early copy via Netgalley.

View all my reviews

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