Thursday 24 May 2012

The Wrong Boy

The Wrong Boy The Wrong Boy by Suzy Zail (black dog books, an imprint of Walker Books)
PB RRP $18.95
ISBN 9781742031651
Reviewed by Vicki Stanton

The Wrong Boy is a fictional account of a girl and her family struggling to survive one of history's most horrific events, the Holocaust. It is compelling reading. Written in first person, I felt I was there with Hanna every step of the way as her family is deported from their comfortable middle-class home in Budapest to the atrocities of Auschwitz concentration camp.

As the Mendels arrive at Auschwitz, Hanna, her sister Erika and mother are separated from her father. She never sees him again. Hanna finds solace in her music and eventually finds herself as pianist in the commandant's house. Hanna is ignored by all there. She is the invisible provider of the classical music. She feels the particular disdain of the Karl, the commandant's son, but later discovers that Karl's distance is not due to anti-Semitism but rather his own disgust towards his father and the Final Solution.

Life in Auschwitz is not glossed over: how the need to survive drives divisions within the Jewish women prisoners, the decline in the physical and mental health of Erika, and the relative health of Hannah are marked.

The romance between Hanna and Karl is delicately handled and not overplayed. Internal and sibling conflicts over the relationship simmer throughout. I thought it brave to introduce this element but Zail uses a deft hand and it adds to the poignancy of the story right to the very last line.

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