08 August 2011

those who come after

by Elisabeth Holdsworth

Picador. Australian, history. Hardcover RRP $29.99

Juliana Stolburg is an Australian woman who has travelled the world as an intelligence specialist for NATO. She has now come to the end of her amazing career and looks forward to what will follow. Juliana’s life has been eventful and drawing from her colourful family background, past and present, she relates to the audience how she has arrived at where she is now.

From Middelburg in the Netherlands to a farm outside of Goulburn, the life of this diplomat has come to a fork in middle age. Juliana is looking at living with her husband, Oscar, on his mother’s farm in Goulburn – that is until Oscar meets Frederick. Her last living relative, Lady Katrien, has died and Juliana is left the surviving family jewels and a small castle, Buitenrust, surrounded by German bunkers in Middelburg. She must travel back to her ancestral home to sort out the paperwork and decide what is to be. Oscar and Frederick decide to tag along.

Juliana is the narrator of her story and we meet her titled famous family and travel along with them on their journey through two wars, floods and droughts - her Jewish mother who is tortured in Dachau and survives to live a strange existence; her eccentric father who loves his daughter and wife but also his motorbike and his job. When Juliana’s father’s parents die he decides the best course of action is to take his precious family to Australia, a warmer place, a place where they can mend their bodies and minds.

those who come after is slow to start but soon you are caught up in this marvellous mismatched group of characters and the surprises keep happening. There is no hero or heroine. There is no suspense. Instead there is one wonderful woman’s story.

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