Saturday, September 25, 2010

Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

Released: January 2004

Those Who Save Us is one of the most beautiful, haunting and lyrical Holocaust novels I've ever read. Jenna Blum's background is probably one of the main contributing factors as to why this novel is so terrific. Not only is Blum of both German and Jewish descent, but she worked for the Shoah Foundation interviewing all types of survivors of the Holocaust. Her experience provided the backdrop for Those Who Save Us, and this is definitely a novel that should go on your wish list.

Those Who Save Us spans back and forth from past to present, telling Anna Schlemmer's story of her life in Germany during WWII and detailing the life of her daughter Trudy in present day, who begins a special project to interview Holocaust survivors. For the most part, Anna and Trudy have never been close because Anna has been silent for most of Trudy's life, partly due to the experiences she had during WWII. Due to Anna's tight-lipped persona, Trudy speculates about the life Anna lead in the past, and makes assumptions about a secret photograph she finds with the two of them plus one Nazi soldier. Those Who Save Us is also a mystery in this way, as we discover alongside Trudy exactly what Anna experienced up to her move to America.

Those Who Save Us is truly impressive -- no doubt about it. In fact, with this being Jenna Blum's debut, it's exhilarating just to think that Blum will be producing more novels! The novel is intriguing from the first two pages and I was sucked in immediately. One thing I did notice about this novel is how I preferred to dwell with Anna's story in the past more than reading about Trudy in the present. With all other novels that switch between past and present, usually the mystery being solved at present is more exciting.

During the few days I spent reading Those Who Save Us my mood was morose, but in a very thoughtful and speculative way -- the book really makes you think. I was quiet for hours at a time just lost in this novel!

By the time I had finished Those Who Save Us, I learned how one situation that affected the characters in this book could cause human suffering in all shapes and forms in both the physical and emotional senses. Everyone in this novel suffered terribly in their own way. This alone is what makes the novel incredibly memorable and worth your time. I have nothing negative to say about Those Who Save Us.

Jenna Blum has since released The Stormchasers (2010) which is a high priority on my wish list. I'll be keeping an eye on this author indefinitely!

                                                    The Stormchasers       

Also recommended:
Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian (my review here: DreamworldBooks - Skeletons at the Feast)
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (my review here: DreamworldBooks - The Book Thief)

                                   Skeletons at the Feast: A Novel        The Book Thief

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