The Book Shelf

Over the Threshold

A novel by Wolfgang E. Franke

ISBN 0-9680290-2-7
Available from Wolfgang E. Franke
302 Ellerslie Avenue, Willowdale, ON M2R 1B7

By Sue Potvin

If your viewpoint of what happened in some parts of Europe at the end of World War II is that seen through the eyes of Canadians, Americans and Englishmen, you will find this new viewpoint intriguing.

Wolfgang E. Franke was an officer in the German Navy who, at war's end, was swept up with many thousands of his countrymen and forced into a death march to the Balkans. Torture, starvation and terror were the norm as he languished in prison camps there for several years, often nearer to death than life. The Geneva Convention seemed to be unknown in this part of the world and life could and was snuffed out at the drop of a pin.

Over the Threshold is an autobiographical novel that should be on everyone's reading list. Through the hero of the book, the multi-talented Lieutenant Commander Hans Berger, Franke tells of his own experiences and how he survived them. You will feel Berger's pain and you will rejoice with him when he finally reaches the freedom he never thought to see again.

Like Franke, Berger could not get work in post-war Germany and he found himself emigrating to Canada where he sought to pioneer in the north. From humble beginnings the day after his arrival, Berger's career blossomed, leading to employment as a high school principal and, from there, to college president.

Like many good books, this one has a touch of romance as well, and the hero is rejoined with his beloved Italian sculptress in Canada.

Having been so moved by the horrific prison experiences of Mr. Franke, I could not resist phoning him. It was wonderful to hear his joy as he spoke of his life here in Canada, and his pride in his children and grandchildren. He has written five novels, many short stories and essays, even poems, of his experiences; and he is his own printer in Willowdale, Ontario.

Here, indeed, is a man who, having seen the face of death, now chooses to see every second of life as a precious gift. He wastes not a moment.

Mr. Franke began his series of books with Goldenrod. This thought-provoking novel of two young lovers touches on problems of education and cultural relationships. Subtle and sensitive, it moves swiftly towards a surprise ending.

The author's personal experiences contributed to the strong storyline in The Baltimore Connection. The protagonist is ordered to take on the identity of a dead American airman having, strangely, the same name. The plot is masterfully woven and the characters intriguing.

Clone F, dealing with the cloning of humans, is his most recent English-language book. There are others which he has written in his native German language.

For further information and a list of the author's other books, visit his website at http://www3.sympatico.ca/wfranke/