Thursday, February 9, 2012
Henry Holt and Company, 2010
Originally published in Australia, 2008
Due to some poor noticing on my part, I did not realize that this is technically the second book in a series, the sequel to Once. I was worried about how that might affect my enjoyment of this book but I need not have. While reading Once would certainly have added to my experience, I don't feel like it was necessary.
This book opens with a jolt as Felix and Zelda escape from a Nazi train on its way to a concentration camp in the unfamiliar Polish countryside and must figure out a way to survive. Although Zelda's parents were Nazis, Felix is Jewish and circumcised, a very obvious indication of religious background. But they are determined to be family now and are fortunate enough to be taken in by Genia who disguises them as her relations. They struggle to provide enough food for themselves in the face of encroaching Nazi troops. There are potential enemies all around from the Hitler Youth to anti-Semites among the villagers and the dangers are very very real.
This is a very short book with sweet characters and fine writing. When it ends, it leaves you reaching for another installment (Now) as the ending is inconclusive. However it did suffer as I read it on the heels of the The Berlin Boxing Club, a longer book, which allowed for more time with the characters. And I again, I would have been enriched by knowing the full story and having a greater understanding of Felix and Zelda.
Overall: A short book with a different premise for the time period; if you've read Once, you will surely went to turn your attention to Then next.