Friday, October 8, 2021

Book Review: The Child of Auschwitz

By Jami Denison

While all authors of historical fiction need to base their novels in fact, writers exploring World War II are especially obligated to ground their stories in truth. Stories dealing with the six million Jewish people who were murdered in the Holocaust try to give a voice to those who were silenced. Author Lily Graham, who alternates her beach-read romances with heavier World War II fiction, based The Child of Auschwitz on a true story. Before picking up the book, it was important for me to know this; otherwise, the concept felt like playing down the worst crime against mankind in history. The book, originally published by Bookouture two years ago, was reissued by Grand Central Publishing (Amazon’s imprint) in September.

Because The Child of Auschwitz begins in the voice of the child, readers know the baby survived to tell her story. The story, however, is mostly her mother’s: Eva Adami, who, in 1942, boarded a train to Auschwitz in hopes of reuniting with her husband Michal, who’d been sent there six months earlier. She figured that Auschwitz couldn’t be much worse than Terezin, the ghetto where she’d been sent with other Czechoslovakian Jews after the Nazis invaded. 

She was wrong. 

In the horror that is Auschwitz, the only comfort for Eva is her friendship with Sofie, a woman who is also looking for a family member in the camp. In her case, it’s the cousin who betrayed her, stealing her son and turning Sofie into the Nazis. Finding this cousin is Sofie’s only hope at finding her boy. Together, the two women try to stay alive by navigating the life-or-death politics of the camps. Is survival a question of every woman for herself, or should a prisoner lend a helping hand when she’s able? Eva, an optimist by nature, insists on doing the right thing. And Sofie, a cynic, finds herself following Eva’s example. Eva’s optimism seems to pay off when she’s finally reunited with Michal. But when she finds out she’s pregnant, how will she survive?

With the ending already known, the tension of the book derives from the supporting characters—mainly Sofie—and the flashbacks of Eva’s earlier life in Czechoslovakia. Her romance with Michal is almost a fairy tale, but the clouds of war cast a shadow over it. As Hitler marches through Europe and the news spreads of his treatment of the Jews in the countries he’s conquered, Eva’s family debates on whether to stay or head to a family friend in London. Again and again, the family comforts itself with the assurance that “it can’t happen here.” 

But it can, and it did. While Eva’s story ends on a positive note—revealed in the prologue—the question of “Can it happen here?” is one that remains unanswered. Authors like Lily Graham provide more than entertainment by basing their stories on the Holocaust—they provide a reminder of the worst that humans can do to other humans. And a warning that since it happened before, it can happen again. 

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Also by Lily Graham:

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