Monday, July 6, 2009

Book Review -- Those Who Save Us

Those Who Save Us Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars

I love historical fiction, especially WWII-genre historical fiction (The Book Thief, City of Thieves). I never grow weary of reading about how people survived the deprivation and unbearable living conditions, the starvation, the brutality, the inhumaneness of it all. Wow – I never realized what downer books I read until this sentence! However, this was NOT one of my favorites.

In Those Who Save Us, author Jenna Blum (a former Steven Spielberg/Shoah Foundation historian, who interviewed Holocaust Survivors) tells the story of Anna, a young German girl who falls in love with a Jew, and her daughter, Trudy, the love child of Anna and her Jewish love. After her beloved is discovered and sent to a concentration camp, Anna is forced to save herself and her daughter at all costs. Unfortunately, choices are non-existent and in order to care for herself and her daughter, she is forced to become the mistress of an SS officer. It’s a shameful existence, but necessary to keep themselves alive. What follows is an alternating story of war-time Anna and Trudy and modern day Anna and Trudy, as Trudy tries to delve into her mother’s past and unlock her secrets.

This was a difficult book to read – primarily when the author describes Anna’s association with the SS officer. I don’t want to minimize the horrors and brutality inflicted on women during the War (or any war). The suffering endured by women at the hands of beastly men over the course of history is, I’m almost certain, worse than what was described in this book. However, I was overwhelmed by the graphic and sexually explicit scenes the author portrayed. It was horrifying and torturous, but, for me, it became pornographic. Blech.

The ending was also disappointing. I felt like the author wrote Anna into a literary corner that she couldn't get her out of and the ultimate resolution between mother and daughter was left to someone else to unravel. It was a very convenient way to tie-up all the loose ends. What a cop-out.

View all my reviews.


Charles said...

Sometimes authors use a novel or screenplay to support political or social beliefs; or to cry out for morality and ethical prinicples. This is no more clearly evident than with Holocaust books and films. Whenever we stand up to those who deny or minimize the Holocaust, or to those who support genocide we send a critical message to the world.

We live in an age of vulnerability. Holocaust deniers ply their mendacious poison everywhere, especially with young people on the Internet. We know from captured German war records that millions of innocent Jews (and others) were systematically exterminated by Nazi Germany - most in gas chambers. Holocaust books and films help to tell the true story of the Shoah, combating anti-Semitic historical revision. And, they protect future generations from making the same mistakes.

I wrote "Jacob's Courage" to promote Holocaust education. This tender coming of age love story of two young adults living in Salzburg at the time when the Nazi war machine enters Austria, presents accurate scenes and situations of Jews in ghettos and concentration camps, with particular attention to Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. It examines a constellation of emotions during a time of incomprehensible brutality. A world that continues to allow genocide requires such ethical reminders and remediation.

Many authors feel compelled to use their talent to promote moral causes. Holocaust books and movies carry that message globally, in an age when the world needs to learn that genocide is unacceptable. Such authors attempt to show the world that religious, racial, ethnic and gender persecution is wrong; and that tolerance is our progeny's only hope.

Charles Weinblatt
Author, "Jacob's Courage"

Unknown said...

i’m an associate of mary anne radmacher’s and saw you’ve enjoyed her book, live boldly. i know mary anne is so happy when people find inspiration from her words in the context of their daily lives. for more work from mary anne’s hand visit her website and her product site mary anne has written several books and shares her work in many forms including conferences and classes. If you’d like more information feel free to e-mail me at thanks for sharing your reads!