Secrets and Shadows is a novel about how the events of the Second World War can re-verberate into the future. Silman uses the fall of the Berlin Wall to explore the long marriage and divorce of her protagonists, Eve and Paul. When Eve agrees to accompany her former husband to Berlin, Paul recalls and narrates the past he has never been able to share with his wife. Eve begins to see how Paul's hidden childhood in Nazi Germany, shaped and influenced their marriage, and how his trauma exacted a price in their relationship. The novel is about the complexities of guilt, anger, love and lust, and above all forgiveness as Eve and Paul help each other confront a bitter past and move forward in their lives.
Alternating between 1989 and WWII, Silman’s moving, intricate family saga delves into horrific childhood trauma and how it reverberates for years. As the Berlin Wall is brought down in 1989, New York lawyer Paul Bertram returns to his birthplace, Berlin, with his American ex-wife, Eve, to confront the horrible secrets from his past as a Jewish child hiding from the Nazis. Paul was the son of a wealthy jeweler; his parents believed they would be protected from deportation because of their large Nazi clientele, but Paul’s family was eventually forced into hiding in their attic, protected by Hjalmar (best friend and employee of Paul’s father) and Marga Friedmann. But teenage Paul chafed under Marga’s domination over his family and raged when she threatened to turn them in, leading his family to hide in barns in rural Germany. As Paul revisits childhood places as an adult, he relates to Eve, flashback-style, the atrocities he witnessed and a traumatic betrayal from those years. With the exception of Paul’s memories, much of the story is Eve’s—how Paul’s professional success and their blissful, early married years were followed by his lies and womanizing, and her post-divorce life on Martha’s Vineyard. Silman delves into a marriage fraught with love, loss, and remorse, and Paul is a complex and flawed character. Readers looking for the intersection of the historical and the personal will be rewarded. (BookLife)