by Benedict Wells
“A difficult childhood is like an invisible enemy. You never know when it will strike.”
Eleven-year-old Jules and his siblings, Marty and Liz, live sheltered, seemingly idyllic lives in Munich with their devoted mother and father. Until, that is, both parents are killed in a catastrophic road accident while motoring in France and the children are sent to a grim state boarding school, where they rapidly drift apart.
Jules changes from a fearless, vivacious boy into a withdrawn teenager who writes stories and lives through his imagination. The only person able to reach him is the equally damaged Alva, whom he comes to love, but they are divided by a misunderstanding after leaving school.
Many years later they are given a chance to make amends, but their relationship has never been straightforward – grief shadows both their lives.
Seven years in the writing, The End of Loneliness is German author, Benedict Wells’ first novel to be published in the UK. Prior to translation it won the European Union Prize for Literature, was on the German bestseller list for over 18 months, and was translated into 26 languages.
Born in Munich in 1984, Wells writes from experience. He attended three separate Bavarian boarding schools from the age of six, and like his protagonists, suffered acute loneliness during this period. He moved to Berlin after graduating in 2003, but decided against attending university, opting instead to focus on his writing while earning his living by holding down a variety of jobs. He lived in Barcelona for a period but has recently returned to Berlin.
Superbly translated by Charlotte Collins (award-winning translator of The Tobacconist), The End of Loneliness is a book you fall into from the first page. It is a poignant exploration of the past told through the ruptured lives of the siblings: a moving tale of loss, longing and familial love. Wells has produced an outstanding piece of writing, one that will linger in your thoughts long after the story ends.
“If you spend your life running in the wrong direction, could it be the right one after all?”
Many thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for providing an advance review copy of this title.