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.
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