Tessa Lorant Warburg

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Tessa Lorant Warburg

Based on a real family, this saga spans the twentieth century
Set in North Germany, the United States, Austria, England and France
Presented as a trilogy of novels of approximately 150,000 words each
"The hand life deals you is a given; what counts is how you play the game." Ernst Julius Dohlen

The Villa
Built in 1908, now the Council House for the city of Cuxhaven, North Germany
* * * * *
                       Book 1:  THE DOHLEN INHERITANCE

       Based on a real family's history this first book in The Dohlen Inheritance trilogy spans the years 1913-1932. It tells the extraordinary stories of Gabriele, Emil and Dorinda Dohlen as they make their way from Germany after the Great War to Prohibition America.

       Haunted right from the start by the legacy their German mother leaves them the Dohlen orphans try to control their destiny by following in their pioneering father's footsteps. They each create fascinating and very different lives as their fortunes rise and fall. Prejudice and cruelty, greed and bigotry make their days hell as the children fight to break away from the domination of corrupt relatives, a bungling guardian — and each other.
       Misunderstanding and tragedy overtake the young Dohlens as fate pulls them back to Germany, where the threat of Adolf Hitler's policies eventually leads them to an unexpected realisation of their true inheritance.

Book  1: THE DOHLEN INHERITANCE, Tessa Lorant Warburg, The Thorn Press 2009

Amazon UK              £18.99
Amazon US              $32.95
Amazon Germany      €22.99 

Amazon UK              £11.99
Amazon US Pb          $17.95
Amazon Germany      €15.99
Also available from good bookshops
* * * * *
                     Book 2:  HOBGOBLIN GOLD
     Based on a real family’s history Hobgoblin Gold spans the years 1932-1948. It tells the extraordinary
stories of sisters Gabby and Doly as they try desperately to escape the legacy of their traumatic childhood
and to build new lives for themselves. Haunted by the past, quarrelling among themselves, they squander
the enormous fortune their father left them in different and spectacular ways.
     As Hitler comes to power the sisters abandon their German heritage. They spend WWII in the countryside
south of London, struggling to survive without the wealth they took for granted.
     Can the two young women, finally, take full responsibility for themselves?

     This second book in The Dohlen Inheritance trilogy can be read on its own. 

Book  2: HOBGOBLIN GOLD, Tessa Lorant Warburg, The Thorn Press, August 2010
Amazon UK              £11.99
Amazon US Pb          $17.95
Amazon Germany      €15.99
Also available from good bookshops
* * * * *



  The Dohlen sisters, Gabby and Doly, deprived of husbands, property and income, have to cope in a tough post war-world.
  Both sisters survive byusing their wits and resorting to unique and entertaining solution to their problems, but in entirely different ways.
Gabby, a born operator, triumphs spectacularly while Doly enjoys a rural idyll, supported by friends but lacking cash.
  The sisters' breathtaking exploits, often wickedly funny, reveal their true inheritance - the Dohlen inheritance, which we can all aspire to.
 This third book in The Dohlen Inheritance trilogy can be read on its own.                  
Book  3: LADYBIRD FLY, Tessa Lorant Warburg, The Thorn Press, September 2011 
Amazon UK              £11.99
Amazon US Pb          $17.95
Amazon Germany      €15.99
Also available from good bookshops



When Ernst Dohlen returned from America in 1907 to retire to his native North German village, Schwanenbruch, he built a landmark house which dwarfed everything but the church. The story of the humble wheelwright’s son who worked his passage to the United States and returned a millionaire is the American dream come true. It is a firm favourite at the Schleuse Inn, close to the dyke protecting Schwanenbruch from the North Sea.

The marshy moorland which borders the Elbe estuary is a mysterious, cruel land of extremes, very different from the rest of continental Europe. Living on land reclaimed from the sea, protected only by man-made dykes, the locals cope with disaster as a way of life. They are used to der blanke Hans — the foaming North Sea — blasting ferocious gales which bring devastating tidal floods. These can, and do, destroy whole communities. It has made the Schwanenbruchers rugged determined survivors against all odds.




This is the background to the engrossing stories of Gabriele, Emil and Dorinda Dohlen.

Old Emil did not marry until his sixties. His young wife Emma died giving birth to a fourth, stillborn child. When the old man dies the three orphans are left to the untender mercies of Emma’s half-sister Hannah.

The novel, both domestic and epic, shows how childhood trauma, together with the great upheavals of the twentieth century — the first world war, Prohibition, the thirties’ depression, the rise of Hitler, the second world war, the women’s movement, the spread of communications and advances in medicine — profoundly affect the characters and their lives.

The distant past is another potent influence on the young Dohlens. Until quite recently villages like Schwanenbruch were utterly isolated. The children spoke the local Plattdeutsch as readily as conventional German. The dialect has its roots in the language of the ancient Angles and Saxons who swooped down from Scandinavia and imposed their culture on the local marshmen. Thus the stories the young Dohlens grew up with are steeped in the unique and fascinating legends of the region. These are astonishingly pertinent tales, virtually unknown outside the area. Many eerily echo the latter day Dohlens’ lives.

The book is threaded with a number of these myths. There are enchanting tales of beautiful mermaids, and gruesome stories like that of the dykeman, the merchant from Hamburg walled-up alive in a breach of the dyke. Because, the Schwanenbruchers insisted, the dyke would not hold unless a live stranger was buried in it. His cries, threatening revenge, can still be heard whenever the wind blows hard, and der blanke Hans — the stormy North Sea — foams up in fury.



Emma Dohlen and her children

The three children come into old Dohlen’s money at an early age. But that is not their only, nor even their most important, inheritance. Their father’s ruthless drive and determination, their mother’s genetic affliction, their harsh upbringing, their ‘Aryan’ heritage and the local folklore all leave a searing imprint.


Gabriele, the eldest, is a bright, resourceful girl in an age when women were discouraged from enterprises which didn’t involve housekeeping or child rearing. Unable to cope without the social crutch of marriage, she accepts the first suitable man who offers himself. Her new status gives her the courage to involve herself in politics. She is horrified by the rise of National Socialism and becomes a political activist. She loses everything she owns and learns to live on her wits as a refugee in war-time England.

In spite of her achievements she doesn’t completely escape the domination of a male world until middle age. When she does, she becomes the highly successful businesswoman she always sensed she should have been, true daughter of her father.


Emil Junior, the only boy, yearns to be as successful as Emil Senior. But his nature is very different. Instead of using diligence and thrift he tries to muscle in on quick money. He plunges into the gangster-infested waters of the New York underworld of Prohibition days. Outnumbered and outwitted, he manages to lose the family fortune which his sisters entrusted to him.

Forced to start from scratch again, young Emil finally understands what his father always preached: a good deal is one which leaves both parties satisfied.


Dorinda, beautiful from the day she is born, is reckless to the point of folly. A strong bi-sexual nature leads her into chaotic love affairs which brand her as a whore in a prudish age. She eventually finds her prince — the caddish son of a British Army family. He absconds with funds raised on the dream cottage Dorinda bought with the last of her father’s money, leaving her and her baby son destitute.

Dorinda doesn’t lack courage or determination but, unlike her pragmatic sister Gabriele, she has a poetic nature. This inspires loyal friendships and, eventually, true love. What's more, in spite of her apparent helplessness, she manages to pay off the mortgage raised by her ex-husband, and turn her primitive Tudor bothy into a valuable country cottage.



The Dohlen children’s arrival in New York, 1919

The North German setting of the opening chapters changes when the Dohlen orphans are forced to leave their native land. They have to adapt to the often strange and unfamiliar environments of, in turn, the United States, Austria, England and France.

Their background has prepared them well for this. The stories in the book deal not only with the Dohlens’ personal ups and downs - their lives are interwoven with the turbulent times, their adventures go beyond the everyday, their characters are tested by alien customs. The irony which runs through the books brings unpalatable events into sharp relief and highlights the inane foibles of all humanity.

This is, indeed, a family saga, but it is also a story of the dispossessed, rootless through no fault of their own. Like so many other outcasts from Europe, Asia and Africa, the Dohlens have to be flexible enough to adapt to their new surroundings. The only alternative is to diminish into mere existence.

Gabriele, Emil Junior and Dorinda Dohlen share the family inheritance, the elemental threats from the North Sea, local folklore, childhood experiences, world events. Yet they react in very different ways, and forge their own, unique lives. As old Emil Dohlen was fond of repeating: “The hand fate deals you is a given. What counts is how you play the game.”


THE DOHLEN INHERITANCE books are in the tradition of Ursula Hegi, Rachel Seiffert and, more recently, Irene Nemirovsky’s SUITE FRANÃ�AISE, but also, on another level, that of GONE WITH THE WIND. The added ingredient of little-known, authentic myths and legends of the North German setting provides a glimpse into past German culture. These stories give an insight into the devastating nature of Nazism on the German nation itself, not just on those unfortunates it persecuted. The portrayal of some of the consequences of genetic inheritance on personality are also pertinent now that the human genome is being unravelled.

Compulsive, beguiling and deliciously long reads, these gripping books appeal, like all major novels, on a number of levels. Each reader will take something different from them. Featuring some of the great upheavals of the past hundred years and their effects on very individual characters, THE DOHLEN INHERITANCE trilogy could well represent an illuminating backward glance at western Europe in the twentieth century.


Short Biography
Tessa Lorant, a young child living in Vienna when Hitler annexed Austria in March 1938, joined her mother and stepfather in England later that year. She was educated in convent and grammar schools, then read Mathematics both in England and the United States. She worked as a computer programmer in New York, later as a graduate assistant at the University of Wisconsin. She returned to England when she married Jeremy Warburg, the youngest son of the publisher Fredric Warburg. She has a daughter and twin sons, and took up writing after her children left home. She has published eighteen non-fiction books, A VOICE AT TWILIGHT (Peter Owen 1988, OddFellows Social Award 1989), three chillers (Headline) and the first book in THE DOHLEN INHERITANCE trilogy.

The main characters in trilogy are based on several of Tessa Warburg’s deceased family members. It took considerable research into family letters and diaries to bring to life many of the events related in the book. However, the overall concept remains fictional.


              Cuxhavener Nachrichten,
              February 2010



Copyright © Tessa Lorant Warburg 2011