Tuesday, 16 February 2010
Book review : Hiding Edith - Kathy Kacer
Like most people, I've read numerous novels, mainly based on true life stories, about the plight of Jewish people during the second world war - The Secret Diary of Anne Frank, Schindler's Ark (which was the book that the film Schindler's List was based on) and the more recent Sarah's Key, and probably others that I can't remember. I therefore came to this book expecting to learn nothing new.
The basic story is the same, as you would expect, but this tale is told from the point of view of the Jewish children, separated from their families and hidden away in secret in a village in the south of France. I was unaware of the role played by the French Jewish Scouts movement and it was great to see a glimmer of positivity and kindness in what was such a dark era for humanity. It's easy to condemn whole nations for not coming to the help of the Jews in their hour of need, but Edith's story, told by Kathy Kacer, describes a whole village who clubbed together to keep a house full of Jewish children safe, thereby putting their own lives in peril. It is quite amazing to learn that of the 500 Jewish children taken in, only one didn't survive and that was because her parents took her out, thinking she would be safer with them. Despite the horror and tragedy going on around them, it is heart-warming to read of the devotion and seflessness of Shatta and Bouli Simon, who ran the children's home, as well as the mayor and inhabitants of the village who did all they could to help keep them safe. Edith is one of the lucky ones, her whole family coming through relatively unscathed, but it is ironic and doubly tragic that the only person who died, Edith's father, lost his life when the war was over and his malnourished, weakened body couldn't cope with the sudden copious gifts of food given by American soldiers who liberated him from the concentration camp.
As an adult, this was a quick, light (despite the subject matter), poignant but above all positive read. The vocabulary and tone of the book make it perfect for children too - they will identify with Edith and the other children in the home and the book effectively evokes the tragic plight of the Jewish people without recounting in detail the horrors they endured. It's a child-friendly insight into life in Nazi Europe and the black and white photos will help to show them that this is real life, not just some made-up story that never really happened.
star rating : 4/5
RRP : £6.99
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: A & C Black Publishers Ltd (1 Sep 2009)