Friday, January 27, 2012
The Family Affair by Leon H. Gildin
Reviewed by Laura Kay
The Family Affair, is not typically a book I would pick up and read. It is a conclusion to the 2010 Winner of the International Book Awards for Historic Fiction, The Polski Affair. You can read it without having read the first book. I haven't read The Polski Affair and I believe this story may have been more powerful to me because of it.
Anna is a Holocaust survivor living in Israel with her husband Chaim. Both Anna and Chaim had lost family during the Holocaust and escaped after leaving the Hotel Polski in Warsaw. The hotel was a trap set up by the Nazis to lure Jews out of hiding in the hopes of obtaining visas. Anna at a later point in time testified against Col. Hauptmann during his war crimes trial.
The Story picks up two years after a reunion at the Hotel Polski. Her son, Sholom is an academic working on his doctorate about the hotel. After a devastating blow to the family, Sholom takes off to research the hotel and some nagging questions. While on his research trip, he uncovers something his mother had thought was lost forever. He had hoped it would finally free her of her burden. He also uncovers truths about himself.
Most of the book is from Sholom's viewpoint, but there are instances where the viewpoint changes. This is a story of how a family deals with life; new situations and explosive revelations. I don't want to write too much because I hate to give away spoilers.
This is a relatively short book, and yet was not short on impact. The dialog seemed choppy to me, like someone writing outside their native tongue. I wouldn't enjoy reading this sort of style all the time, but I personally felt like I was really reading someone's journal, where they were writing down their history. It gave a feeling of authenticity.
The one thing I took note of, is throughout the story it was mentioned how Anna was obsessed with what happened at the hotel. I don't think that really came through as an obsession, but more of something she wished to bury and wanted others to respect that. I will also say there was a few spots where the book felt would start to drag, but I can assure you it always comes back with a punch. I was teary eyed at the beginning of the story and at the end. I can't imagine the burden, the survivors guilt that Anna had to carry her whole life.
If you enjoy historic fiction than this is the book for you. As I read The Family Affair, I could only 'recall' the Holocaust by the images I've seen from documentaries and movies like Schindler's List. I would be reading and think of those images, I would recall the older Jewish Survivors who would tell stories on the documentaries. I can't even begin to imagine. This isn't a book about a love story with lots of descriptive scenery it's a book that tells a powerful story and how a family dealt. I recommend The Family Affair.