By Suzanne Leal
Allen & Unwin
March 2020, ISBN 9781760875275, 278 pages
There are great numbers of novels that take the Holocaust as their central topic or theme, including the very well known Schindler’s Ark (1982) by Thomas Keneally, Jacob Rosenberg’s exquisite East of Time (2005) and Sunrise West (2007), Bram Presser’s award-winning The Book of Dirt (2017), and Leah Kaminsky’s The Hollow Bones (2019). There is also, of course, a large body of non-fiction literature, including notable memoirs such as Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl (1952 in English), Elie Wiesel’s Night (1960 in English), and Art Spigelman’s Maus (1980).
Suzanne Leal, an Australian novelist and lawyer, has contributed a powerful novel to this large body of Holocaust literature. It is based on a true story she learned from her former Czech, Jewish landlords, who were also Holocaust survivors. The strength of the story lies in her characters, particularly Hana Lederová. She has a clear and distinctive voice, and we learn of her experiences directly from her, in contrast to Karel Kruta who is described by an omniscient narrator. The other main characters, also written in the third person and who receive alternate chapters, are Tessa, Karel’s granddaughter, and Ruth, a minister of religion.
Continued at Compulsive Reader.