Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Historical fiction; Literary fiction; Non-fiction (in places)
The Synopsis [taken from Waterstones.com]
This book is the literary equivalent of those photographs.
It’s a snapshot of a tragedy that allows you to forget the statistics and remember that those catastrophic numbers were made out of individuals and families who had their own worries, their own battles and their own hopes. Daniel’s story is a tiny part of a huge attrocity. I think that too often authors attempt to convey the magnitude of the Holocaust and try to impress their readers with the horrifying numbers. In the end, though, most of us can’t really imagine it or understand it. Or at least, I can’t. What we can understand, however, is Daniel’s sense of loss and hope, his physical and emotional torment and his daily fight to survive.
The story is told very simply, as you would expect for a book narrated by a prisoner in a concentration camp. Daniel is a wonderful character and I’m sure there’s something in him for most readers to identify with, which I took to be part of the point. And in case you were concerned that this would be too introspective, his fictional endeavours are painted against a backdrop of fact. Indeed, on one of the first pages of the book is the statement:
These excerpts are extremely well chosen and timed and the balance of Daniel’s emotional narrative with terrifyingly clinical documents is perfect. Because of this elements, I think that it would be nigh impossible to read this book without having at least one moment where you flinch/look away/sneak away to guiltily remind yourself how lucky you are – I know that I did and it was part of what made the book such a powerful one for me.
In a way, because of the strengths of the book, I was disappointed by the ending. I know that sounds strange given the subject matter so I won’t say any more than that. I wouldn’t want to ruin it for anybody that wants to pick this up and it could well just be me. Don’t let it put you off and do let me know if you read this and have any particular thoughts on the matter.
Overall: There isn’t much more to say; only that, despite the vocabulary and sentence structure being relatively basic, this book is obviously not an “easy read”. It is a short book that I think will stick with me for a long time and one I would certainly recommend.
|Plaque at Auschwitz-Birkenau|