Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Those Who Save Us

Those Who Save UsThose Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I bought this book because it was on a “buy two, get one free” table at Borders. Borders should be the signal word to cue how long ago I bought this book. I chose it in part because the cover and the premise intrigued me immediately. World War II fiction is like catnip to me – one whiff of that era, and I’m a goner. Years later, I finally got into this book because my book club was reading it. And now that I’ve read it, I almost wish I hadn’t.

Blum’s approach to the Holocaust is unconventional considering that she tells the story from the perspective of a German woman who becomes the mistress of a Nazi and from the woman’s daughter, born of a love affair right as the conflict is beginning in Europe. Blum’s themes and historical detail are thought provoking and haunting, but neither of her main characters is very likeable. I recognize that my love of The Great Gatsby proves that it is possible to love a book despite its characters. Nevertheless I cannot fully understand the characterization of Trudy, the daughter, and so much of her storyline is lost on me. The story also is graphic – not so much in its depiction of the violence going on around Anna and Trudy, but the sexual abuse experienced by Anna from the Nazi commandant. Blum does manage to make real the depth of a mother’s love for her child during the war years, but then there is a major breakdown in that portrayal once the war is over.

And so, I don’t know what to tell you. People in my book club loved this book. Others were frustrated by the characters or how the story ended. I think this book is supposed to make you uncomfortable and to take a fresh look at the war, but I’m not sure this is one I would recommend. How’s that for non-committal?

(Definitely needing the half star for rating purposes - this would be a 2.5)

No comments: