“Visually horrifying and yet strangely affecting...An original way of looking at things, reminiscent of The Reader and is certainly just as harrowing.” Broo Doherty (Literary Critic)
Otto Brandt is not Otto Brandt. He is Ernst Frick, a former Nazi War Criminal. With his stolen identity, he flees Europe in search of a new life in Australia, where he secures highly paid engineering work on the Snowy Mountains scheme and buys a run-down farm. He soon meets the locals who welcome him into their community.But their trusting friendship makes Brandt’s deception unbearable. Worse is to come when, to his horror, he finds that his new Shangri La is haunted by terrifying spectres and images from his Nazi past. He is at breaking point when he receives a desperate plea for help from Alan Gilbert, a vulnerable boy he had taught to swim on the long sea voyage to Australia. Alan is a victim of the infamous scheme to relocate homeless British children to Australia.
Brandt drives to a remote Catholic mission and is outraged to find that a brutalised, starving Alan has been sexually abused. After a violent altercation with Alan’s tormentor, he brings the boy back to live with him on the farm.His legal adoption of Alan, aided by his friends, Peggy and Milo, give Brandt a raison d’etre. Before the war, Peggy had worked at the London Library, collecting ‘orphaned leaves’, the lost pages from rare books and restoring them to their rightful volumes. When she compares these orphaned leaves with the gaps and secrets in people’s lives, Brandt retreats into a darkening void of guilt and shame.
He accepts that remorse for his crimes will never be enough. How could “owning up” be reconciled with his new responsibilities to Alan, and a community which has come to accept him as one of its own?