Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me. BookLook Bloggers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)
It was maniacal. To have a culture of the arts in such a hellish place…what sense could it make?
As in the first Hidden Masterpiece novel, The Butterfly and the Violin, author Kristy Cambron gives us a stirring glimpse of World War II in A Sparrow in Terezin, particularly at the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp in Terezin and from the perspective of Kája Makovsky, a young, half-Jewish writer who’s separated from her family when she flees Prague, only to end up later in the disaster of the London Blitz. Kája’s intelligence, compassion, and courage all find places to pierce through the war’s horror, even when any chance for a future, her future, is on the verge of being blacked out.
“Can you tell me about him, about Jesus?… He was a Jew.”
“He was, just like us. And if he were here right now, he’d be suffering. He’d be crying for what we do to each other.”
While the emotionally tumultuous present-day account about newlyweds Sera and William Hanover is well intertwined, the novel’s strength is in Kája’s story, though it took a while before I got a strong sense of a deeper and cohesive purpose running through her thread, when the book’s central theme started rounding out in the second half. There was a little issue with overuse in the book, “embattled” and forms of the verb “melt” appearing quite a few times as well as a number of scenes with Kája in tears. Of course, crying would be more than expected in any heartrending novel like this, but as there are many ways a person can react to fear, grief, relief, etc., I think main characters’ tears have more impact in a novel, especially one with dark themes like war and death, when crying is depicted at the most necessary points, or even slipped in at an effectively understated moment, and not as much in between.
Still, there’s so much to be found here—love, tragedy, romance, faith—and the most compelling takeaway for me is the illustration of how one human being can begin to save the life of another at the moment when he or she says, “I’d like to tell you a story.”
To fully appreciate A Sparrow in Terezin, you’ll want to read The Butterfly and the Violin, Cambron’s stunning debut novel.