Review: ‘The Watcher’, By Monika Jephcott

The Watcher Cover

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing

Publication Date: (10 Oct. 2017)

Format: Paperback

Price: £8.99

ISBN-13: 978-1912262021


It’s 1949 when Netta’s father Max is released from a Siberian POW camp and returns to his home in occupied Germany. But he is not the man the little girl is expecting – the brave, handsome doctor her mother Erika told her stories of. Erika too struggles to reconcile this withdrawn, volatile figure with the husband she knew and loved before, and, as she strives to break through the wall Max has built around himself, Netta is both frightened and jealous of this interloper in the previously cosy household she shared with her mother and doting grandparents. Now, if family life isn’t tough enough, it is about to get even tougher, when a murder sparks a police investigation, which begins to unearth dark secrets they all hoped had been forgotten.

Amazon UK –

About the author: Monika Jephcott Thomas grew up in Dortmund Mengede, north-west Germany. She moved to the UK in 1966, enjoying a thirty year career in education before retraining as a therapist. Along with her partner Jeff she established the Academy of Play & Child Psychotherapy in order to support the twenty per cent of children who have emotional, behavioural, social and mental health problems by using play and the creative Arts. A founder member of Play Therapy UK, Jephcott Thomas was elected President of Play Therapy International in 2002. In 2016 her first book Fifteen Words was published.


Website –

My Review

Dr Max Portner has finally been released from the Siberian prison camp where he spent four years following capture by the advancing Russian army. Returning to Mengade, Dortmund, and his wife, daughter and parents, Max is a changed man, haunted by his experiences of war and imprisonment, suffering from PTSD and struggling to adapt to life in a peaceful, if occupied, country.

Netta, his young daughter, six, when her father returns, small for her age and struggling with her breathing in the polluted air, doesn’t understand what’s happening around her. Her father is a stranger to her, and frightening. He shouts, suddenly becomes violent, silent and distant. Her mother has changed too, as her focus turns from little Netta to her gaunt, suffering husband.

The narrative follows the Portner family through grief and joy; and through it all there’s the mystery of their housekeeper’s death.

I liked this book; the author brings Germany in the late 1940′ and early 1950’s to life and the experiences of the characters are vividly written. I was quite affected by Max’s experiences and the family’s road to recovery. The novel is easy to read and although I spotted the odd typo, it wasn’t distracting.

The author aptly shows us how trauma can pass through the generations, whether that trauma is caused by war or abuse. Children aren’t stupid, they pick up on what is going on around them and pass it on to the next generation as they grow up. Without a conscious effort to address the trauma, it harms each generation.


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