*Please note: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.
Nutshell blurb: It’s 1940 and Abigail Nussbaum, along with her family and many other Jews, are evicted from their homes and moved to a ghetto in Warsaw. This is the story of their lives from that point.
As per my usual style, I’m going to jump right in and tell you the things that I had problems with first so that we can get those out of the way.
There were a few things that jarred me out of my immersion of the story. I am very analytical when I read and I don’t like it when I come across a passage that makes me have to think about why it doesn’t sound right. I don’t feel that I should have to think about the phraseology when I’m neck deep in a story.
My first problem was that this family is a Polish family but as I read the dialogue, I thought that they sound distinctly English. It took me a while to work out how to explain that, but I figured out that it’s because there are contractions that only native English speakers would use such as “that’d” and also the sentences don’t always start at the beginning. For example, “Anything exciting happen while we were out?” rather than “Has anything exciting happened while we were out?”. It seems like a nit-picky thing, but I think that it’s very important as there were several times when it pulled me out of the story. I don’t think that it’s necessary to be formal with language and it’s ok to use contractions, but I think that it’s important to pick the appropriate ones.
And just so you know, I’m struggling with this in my own writing and that is probably why I picked up on it so quickly.
The other problem that I had was that Abigail’s brother seemed to keep doing things that scared her, even though he loved her to pieces and would never hurt her. This seemed to be a device used to increase the suspense of the situation, but it happened repeatedly. There was also an overuse of the term ‘German trick’ as everyone was paranoid that anything good that happened was a German trick. While I can appreciate the need to build suspense, I found that these two things were bit overused.
On to the good things.
If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll know that the most important aspect of a story to me is characterisation. It is of paramount importance. I will put down a book the instant that I find out that the characters aren’t realistic or if they’re superficial. The characters in this story were spot on. They were well thought out and and felt as though they could be people that you know. It was the relationships between the protagonists that I liked the most.
Abigail is such a sweet little girl, but not overly sweet. She’s resourceful even while maintaining a childlike innocence. She was very believable and I could relate to her as I’ve always been a daydreamer living in my own little world. Leo was a fantastic big brother who loved and wanted to protect his family. I could also relate to him as he was angry about the way people were being treated and he was completely helpless to stop it.
The points of view were interesting as Mr. Cargill frequently change the pov throughout the chapter. At first, I wasn’t sure whether or not I liked it, but as I read further I found that it made perfect sense and worked quite well. It was nice to know what the other characters were thinking and added to their believability.
I always hesitate before reading books about the Jews during this time period because I never know what I’m in for. Which is funny and a bit ridiculous because I love horror, zombies and anything of an apocalyptic nature. But unlike those genres, this stuff really happened and it’s more difficult to read because it could have actually happened to someone. Sometimes that’s a bit hard for me to read. It sounds a bit silly, I know.
I was pleased to read that the subject was handled extremely well and without gratuitous violence. Any bloody moments in the story served to move it forward and paint a picture of a specific time in the lives of these people.
Overall, I thought that this was a really sweet and touching story.