Author: Armando Lucas Correa
Published: May 7, 2019
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 3 stars
BERLIN, 1939: The dreams that Amanda Sternberg and her husband, Julius, had for their daughters are shattered when the Nazis descend on Berlin, burning down their beloved family bookshop and sending Julius to a concentration camp. Desperate to save her children, Amanda flees toward the south of France, where the widow of an old friend of her husband’s has agreed to take her in. Along the way, a refugee ship headed for Cuba offers another chance at escape and there, at the dock, Amanda is forced to make an impossible choice that will haunt her for the rest of her life. Once in Haute-Vienne, her brief respite is interrupted by the arrival of Nazi forces, and Amanda finds herself in a labor camp where she must once again make a heroic sacrifice.
NEW YORK, 2015: Eighty-year-old Elise Duval receives a call from a woman bearing messages from a time and country that she forced herself to forget. A French Catholic who arrived in New York after World War II, Elise is shocked to discover that the letters were from her mother, written in German during the war. Despite Elise’s best efforts to stave off her past, seven decades of secrets begin to unravel.
I’m so sad about this book. I wanted to love it and I’d been looking forward to reading it for quite a while. I know that reviewing WWII/Holocaust books can be tricky, especially when the review isn’t completely positive. The premise for this book held so much potential. The characters also had great range of emotions and I easily sympathized with them. However, the main thing that didn’t work, and I hope no one misinterprets what I’m saying, is that everyone was so melodramatic.
Some books don’t convey the horrors of war or of the Holocaust and I try to call them out on it. But this book almost had a parallel, yet still opposite effect. It wasn’t like reading a history book, it was like watching a soap opera version of WWII/Holocaust stories. I tried to see the emotions underneath everything, but if the writing had its nose up in the air any higher, it would have drowned when it rained. I sincerely doubt that those who were arrested by the Nazis spent so much time poetically identifying their feelings. It all just felt so over the top, in a not good way at all.
Plus, I felt like a whole half of the story wasn’t being told. I wanted to hear about Viera’s life in Cuba. Everyone else got to be so emotional, why didn’t she? I wanted so badly to love this story and the characters, it just all fell flat. However, I will say that it did hold my attention, and for such lofty writing, it was very easy to read. Overall, this is not my favorite WWII/Holocaust literature, but I don’t want to write it off completely. It was by no means a bad book, it just isn’t for me.