Every so often a book comes along that I recommend to all my friends, last year’s was This Thing of Darkness and this is the one for this year. Buy or borrow this book as its certainly one of the best books I have ever read. Its well written and has an engaging central character, Sophie Riedesel, who grows from precocious child to woman during the course of the book.
I know some people won’t want to read the book as it is set mainly in 1930s Berlin and so is, inevitably, harrowing. Sophie’s friends are Jewish and ex-circus performers, some of whom are disabled, and she has an autistic brother, all of whom she tries to protect from the horrific policies that are put in place towards the ‘inferior’. I am not ashamed to admit that I cried as these policies began to take their inevitable toll on her friends and her family. But this is also a beautiful and enduring love story.
Its also helped me to understand how events in Germany unfolded during the 1930s and and how something similar could easily happen again, if it hasn’t already. Zimler shows ordinary people having to decide whether or not to stand up for what they believe is right, in the knowledge that by doing this they would inevitably put themselves, their families and friends in grave peril and how the smallest compromises can lead to the acceptance of a great evil.
I’m sure a few people have been put off reading this book by the Kabbalist framework, don’t be, it works and makes sense within the book.
I’m supposed not to be buying any more books until I’ve reduced my piles of books to be read (which extend along my hall) but I’m now in the process of acquiring other books by Zimler because if they are half as good as this one they will be worth it.