66 pages 2 hours read

John Boyne

All the Broken Places

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2022

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The Indelible Impact of History and Trauma

Content Warning: This section of the guide discusses child and domestic abuse, gaslighting, suicidal ideation, self-harm, and grooming. It reproduces, via quotations, outdated language about race and sexuality.

Gretel can’t separate herself from history and trauma—even in modern-day Winterville Court, where Gretel enjoys an “ordered world” (13), people continually remind her of her history. Heidi notes the chance that Jews might move into the building, and Madelyn mentions that she once played Sally Bowles in Berlin. The mention of Jews takes Gretel back to the Holocaust, and Bowles returns Gretel to Berlin. As these places represent trauma, Gretel tries to deflect them. She doesn’t reply to Heidi’s comment about Jews, and she gives a terse one-word response to Madelyn, “Indeed” (78). The appearance of Henry advances the indelible impact of history. Henry reminds Gretel of Bruno and her traumatic past. Alex also links to Gretel’s past, as she frequently connects his predation to the brutality of Nazis.

Earlier in life, Gretel’s trauma follows her to Australia. About moving there, Gretel says, “I wanted to get as far from Europe as I possibly could” (171). She’s on another continent, but the history and trauma she went through in continental Europe don’t go anywhere.