There’s so much going on here. Compelling subject matter, unending drama, and an eager reader (who is fascinated by World War II), but somehow, this one fell a bit short for me. Mostly in the last third. I gave it three stars on Goodreads, but 3 1/2 stars is more accurate.
THE WARSAW ORPHAN covers four years in Poland during World War II (1939-1945). A time when Jews are being isolated into what would become known as the Warsaw Ghetto, facing ever- increasing persecution and brutality. Jewish deportations to concentration camps begin. Some Poles conduct secret efforts to rescue Jewish children, at great risk to themselves. Polish resistance and uprisings against Germany spring up. Shortages and mass hunger are widespread. And of course, there’s a thriving black market.
Into this horrific setting popular author Kelly Rimmer places two youths: 13 year old Emilia (a Catholic) and 16 year old Roman (raised Catholic but half-Jewish). Both witness despicable acts, suffer loss, and experience terror for their own futures and for those they love. And both must decide how to survive the war. They can maintain a low profile and try to get by. They can fight back violently. They can help others in quiet ways. Or some combination of all of these. Sounds like a great set-up for a compelling historical novel, doesn’t it?
And it is, for most of the book. The events and descriptions are powerful. I felt emotionally involved and was frantically turning pages to find out what happened. I was reminded, once again, about how difficult this historical time period was, how badly Nazis treated those they conquered, and how much needless suffering millions of people underwent as a result. And, how, in 1945, the “rescuing” Soviet Army in some ways, made things even worse. Unfortunately as I moved toward the culmination of the story — things turned toward the trite. These were two unbelievably lucky teens, in the midst of total chaos.
Despite violence, interrogations, injuries, and fake papers — everything works out in a way that just seemed too pat. Even fairytale like. But, then, I suppose if an author wants to create an inspirational ending, during such horrible times, you have to take SOME liberties.
Overall, I recommend the book. In these days, when people actually question whether the Holocaust really happened, it’s good to see authors creating new material and making it available to those who question or are simply uninformed.
More about the author, Kelly Rimmer.
You may be interested in my review of another historical novel by Kelly Rimmer. The Things We Cannot Say