Book talk: World War II drama

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This week, Michael Popple checks out a new World War II drama, Night Lessons in Little Jerusalem. You can find more of Michael’s book reviews on his blog: unseenlibrary.com

Night Lessons in Little Jerusalem by Rick Held

Hachette, $29.99

Loosely based on the memoirs of his father, Australian screenwriter Rick Held provides a powerful historical drama with his debut novel, Night Lessons in Little Jerusalem.

Europe, 1941. Innocent teenager Tholdi’s bright future is forever changed when Nazi-allied Romanians invade his hometown of Czernowitz. As thousands of his fellow Jews are taken away to concentration camps, Tholdi is able to find work in a local mill, run by Nazi collaborators. With the threat of death constantly hanging above his head, Tholdi seeks to find a way to survive. Opportunity presents itself when he notices a mysterious woman, Lyuba, meeting with one of the mill owners. Hatching a bold plan to keep himself and his family alive, Tholdi approaches the owner with a proposal that makes him indispensable, but his growing obsession with Lyuba has the potential to ruin everything and could lead to the death of everyone he loves.

This is a compelling historical drama that presents a moving tale of struggle, regret and forbidden love in the most devastating of circumstances. Held does an excellent job portraying the grim events that befall the town of Czernowitz and also sets the story around a complex protagonist in Tholdi. No hero, he is a young man forced to make difficult decisions to survive. An impressive and emotional debut novel, it comes highly recommended.

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