Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Almost Autumn

Almost Autumn. Marianne Kaurin. Translated by Rosie Hedger. 2012/2017. Scholastic. 278 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence: Summer is over.

Premise/plot: Almost Autumn is set in Oslo, Norway in 1942. The heroine is a young teenager named Ilse Stern. She has an older sister and a younger sister. The novel opens with Ilse sneaking out of the house wearing a white dress with red polka dots. It's clearly a summer dress, and it is almost autumn. But she's meeting a boy, Hermann Rod, and it's more important to be beautiful than warm. He breaks the date, and disappoints the girl. But he's broken the date for an important reason: he's part of the Resistance, and he's trapped hiding in a building waiting for the Nazis to disperse. She doesn't know this, of course, no one does. Hermann isn't going to to around telling everyone what he's doing when he's not at work--not even his parents, especially not his parents. Hermann struggles in this one: should he warn Ilse Stern and her family to flee for their lives and press on her the urgency of the matter, the seriousness of the situation, or does he wait until he knows more?

Hermann isn't the only one struggling, there are others as well. Isak Stern is struggling as well. Should he and his family stay? Should they try to sneak out of the country and into Sweden? How much time does he have before it becomes critical? He's reluctant to make such a drastic, dramatic decision. But time isn't on his side.

Another who is struggling is a taxi driver who lives in the same apartment building. One day he's hired by the Germans for a secret project. He knows that it is wrong on every level to be doing what he's doing. Some of the Jews he's transporting for round-up are his friends, his neighbors. But he goes along with it anyway. Yet is he beyond redemption? Will he always lose the struggle with his conscience?

My thoughts: Almost Autumn is a fictional account of the Holocaust from the point of view of Norwegian Jews. In October, Jewish men were arrested and rounded up. In November, Jewish women and children were arrested and rounded up. They were sent by ship to concentration camps.
"The German ship Donau sailed from Oslo on the afternoon of that same day [November 26, 1942] with 532 Norwegian Jews on board. Only nine of those were to survive Auschwitz." (276)

Almost Autumn is dramatic but not overly dramatic. I think it's well worth reading. It's not unusual for Holocaust books to be set in Germany, Poland, or Austria, but how many have you read set in Norway? Even if there were dozens, no two stories are the same.

© 2017 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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