To mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, today I am reviewing the beautiful The Child of Auschwitz by Lily Graham.
‘She touched the photograph in its gilt frame that was always on her desk, of a young, thin woman with very short hair and a baby in her arms. She had one last story to tell. Theirs. And it began in hell on earth.’
It is 1942 and Eva Adami has boarded a train to Auschwitz. Barely able to breathe due to the press of bodies and exhausted from standing up for two days, she can think only of her longed-for reunion with her husband Michal, who was sent there six months earlier.
But when Eva arrives at Auschwitz, there is no sign of Michal and the stark reality of the camp comes crashing down upon her. As she lies heartbroken and shivering on a thin mattress, her head shaved by rough hands, she hears a whisper. Her bunkmate, Sofie, is reaching out her hand…
As the days pass, the two women learn each other’s hopes and dreams – Eva’s is that she will find Michal alive in this terrible place, and Sofie’s is that she will be reunited with her son Tomas, over the border in an orphanage in Austria. Sofie sees the chance to engineer one last meeting between Eva and Michal and knows she must take it even if means befriending the enemy…
But when Eva realises she is pregnant she fears she has endangered both their lives. The women promise to protect each other’s children, should the worst occur. For they are determined to hold on to the last flower of hope in the shadows and degradation: their precious children, who they pray will live to tell their story when they no longer can.
A heart-breaking story of survival, where life or death relies on the smallest chance and happiness can be found in the darkest times. Fans of The Choice and The Tattooist of Auschwitz will fall in love with this beautiful novel.
You can order your copy of The Child of Auschwitz here.
It goes without saying that no book about the Holocaust is going to be an easy read, but from the very first page of The Child of Auschwitz, I knew this was going to be a deeply emotional book. As some of you will remember from previous reviews I have written, I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau a few years ago, and Lily Graham’s vivid imagery took me right back there.
Although largely focusing on their time in Auschwitz, The Child of Auschwitz also includes flashbacks to Eva’s life in Prague and internment in Terezin, and Sofie’s history in Austria. This added great depth to the characters, and gave a very human feel to the story. It is so important to remember that those imprisoned were real people with lives and families, and not just statistics of war. Books like this are vital to achieving this.
I was moved to the point of tears reading about Eva sorting the confiscated belongings of the people arriving at the camp, and keeping some of the photos that she finds. This simple act meant so much to me because reminded me of clearing my grandparents house, where we found a collection of letters and photos that had been sent to my Nan during the Second World War. We will probably never know who the young men in the photos are, or what happened to them, but they were loved by someone and for that reason I can’t bring myself to throw them away.
As much as The Child of Auschwitz is a tale about the horrors of the Holocaust, it is also a tale of enduring love and friendship, and it is this that make it such a beautiful read.