Helene’s idyllic childhood in rural Germany comes to an abrupt end on the outbreak of the First World War. Her father is sent to the Eastern Front, returning home only to die, and her Jewish mother withdraws into confusion to escape the neighbours’ hostility. Helene calls her blind in the heart, and fears her mother’s growing coldness, as she hardly seems to notice her daughters any more. Helene wants to study medicine, an unusual dream for a woman at the beginning of the last century. After her father’s death, she and her sister Martha move to the Berlin of the roaring twenties, and while Martha meets up with her beloved Leontine again, Helene meets Carl. When he dies shortly before their engagement, she loses all sense of existence. She buries herself in her work and hopes to survive life. A certain Wilhelm introduces himself at a party, an enthusiastic engineer who wants to build autobahns and marry Helene. The fast-failing marriage takes Helene to Stettin, where her son is born. The love that her son demands, the closeness he needs become increasingly unbearable for her, and she soon can’t stop thinking about escape. Then she makes a colossal decision.Two world wars, hopes, loneliness and love – and the realisation that all can be lost. Julia Franck tells the story of a life caught up in the machinery of a terrible age. An unusual family novel, a forceful epos and the story of a fascinating woman.