Monday, June 4, 2018

G1006 Book Review of Secrets and shadows by ROBERTA SILMAN

Name of Book: Secrets and shadows

Author: Roberta Silman

ISBN: 978-1-64008-900-6

Publisher: Campden Hill Books

Type of book: Holocaust, Germany, Berlin, blending in, marriage, 1989, 1940s, divorce, secrets, infidelities, secrets, betrayal, past, present 

Year it was published: 2018

Summary:

Berlin.

Wartime.

A city of secrets, secrets that destroyed Paul Bertram’s once-idyllic marriage, secrets that have threatened to consume him, secrets that almost destroyed his very life.

When the Berlin Wall falls in 1989, Paul is finally compelled to confront his past. Seeking one last chance at redemption, he is pulled back to the city where he and his family almost perished.

But how? With whom?

In his anguish Paul turns to his former wife, Eve, and together they embark on a journey they never could have envisioned, a journey during which he is able — at last — to reveal the awful truths he has lived with for so long. A journey where she is able to face her own fears and flaws.

In spare, compassionate prose, Roberta Silman has created vivid, resilient characters who learn that friendship and love can also mean humiliation and betrayal, that kind intentions can lead to unimagined evil. Her portrayal of the growing tension and terror in Berlin leading up to and during the Second World War is unforgettable. She not only explores the many twists and turns of fate; she also shows how the atrocities of the Second World War can reverberate far into the future, long after actual events.

Past and present coalesce in this novel in mysterious, yet inexorable ways. As Eve and Paul face who they really were and now are, we see them accepting each other in entirely new ways. Despite the shocking denouement, both Eve and Paul realize that one of the most important aspects of being human is our ability to forgive.

Characters:

Main characters include Paul and his ex wife Eve. Paul is best described as someone who has appropriate looks to escape being thought of as Jewish ( blonde hair and blue eyes,) and upon arriving to America, he did his best to assimilate into American life one way or another. Paul also has a complex history that he doesn't want to acknowledge nor talk about to those closest to him. Eve is an American born redhead of Jewish origins and has done her best to tolerate Paul's infidelities as well as his behavior, but being in the dark about his past caused her to leave him. She is loyal and will do whatever she can for her loved ones. She will also defend those who need defending. She is practical, sweet and often used to be in awe of Paul. While there are secondary characters and their roles are important, i feel it will be best that the reader meets them for himself.

Theme:

There is more to life than black and white

Plot:

The story is written in third person narrative from Paul's and Eves points of view, and the story is both told in past and present. The past is italicized while present is told in normal font. This is not a book one flies throuh, but it's a story designed to be read carefully, to basically peel away layers upon layers of onion, and to examine the evidence carefully from all sides. THE story is also best  described as slow paced with a lot of pondering and thinking.

Author Information:
(From the book)

Roberta Silman is the author of the story collection, Blood Relations, three novels, Boundaries, The Dream Dredger, Beginning the World Again, and two books for children, Somebody Else's Child and Astronomers. She si the recipient of Fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her stories have appeared in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The American Scholar, The Virginia Quarterly Review, and many other magazines and quarterlies both here and abroad. Her work received two National Magazine Awards for Fiction, The CHild Study Association Award for the Best Children's Book of the year, Honorable Mention for both the PEN Hemingway Prize and the Janet Kafka Prize. Her criticism has appeared in THe New York Times, the Boston Globe, and she is now a senior contributor to the online magazine ArtsFuse. She ahs three childrena and five grandchildren and lives with her husband in Boston and Western Massachusetts.

Opinion:

When I was in my early twenties, at one time I watched a Japanese drama translated as "grave of the fireflies" ( Hotaru no haka) which dares to ask a very difficult question: when there is threat or scarcity, who becomes worthy of survival and who is destined to die? In other words, what is the right path when one can't have it both ways? This book also dares to ask the same question with little or no clear answers: who deserves to live when there is threat to ones life? And will this " survival" become more than just "survival?" Told over a span of mere days with the fall of Berlin wall as a background, the story focuses on estranged couple of Paul and Eve, who have gotten divorced over five years ago. As Paul convinces Eve to see his childhood home, just like Berlin Wall, the walls come down, opening for a chance of possibilities and healing. This is a wonderful novel of questions and learning and exploring. It's also important to read it in small doses because in one blink important details can be missed.

This was given for a review

5 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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