“I would hardly call this a novel, rather an essay or a writing experiment that tries to find several answers to the question "how do you write/talk about something that is too horrible to talk about."
Martell uses different ways to try it out on multiple levels in the book. In the -never published- book of his protagonist. In the allegorical play that he is asked to help writing, in the story itself where the protagonist must deal with the dirty past of his new found "friend", in the very disturbing epilogue. While as a child of post-war Netherlands (that lost almost its whole Jewish population in WWII) I sometimes notice myself getting tired with all the "lest we remember"-sentiments, but the endless repetition of Beatrice's kind efforts to find a way to remember managed somehow to hammer home to me that it IS important to remember it everyday. That is quite a big achievement for such a thin book.
Just after finishing it I would have given it at most 2 stars. Mainly because the story seems shaky, the characters never get really deep and the plot reveals are visible from far ahead. Also because I somehow felt manipulated into the strong emotions that the epilogue provoked. But noticing how my thoughts and feelings kept coming back to the story and the questions asked within I must conclude that the impact is much higher than you suspect at first and that this book therefore really serves its goal and changes forever the way you look at survivors of those dark pages of human history.
Phileine wrote this review Sunday, August 21, 2011.