Thursday, May 19, 2016

Broken Angels, by Gemma Liviero

4.5 stars easily.  Almost 5. 

I often read in short snatches, while I'm cooking or waiting in line, in short intervals between other tasks or activities.  I find that many books can't hold my attention for long periods of time.  But last night I was reading Broken Angels on the bus home from work, a 30-minute trip I didn't notice any of.  I almost missed my stop.  I held my Kindle up to the streetlights as I walked the rest of the way home.  When I got in, I didn't turn on music. I didn't change clothes or get a snack or anything.  I just lay down on the couch and read for an hour, straight through to the end.  I cried. 

That is one of the signs of a good book.

Occasionally the dialogue feels written, the narration a bit too "told," and this distanced me from the characters at first, but overall the writing is clear and powerful, getting better and better as the novel goes on. 

Liviero tells the story from the perspectives of three people experiencing different aspects of the horrors of the holocaust.  This gives the story both depth and breadth.  And the way their lives weave together is both tragic and beautiful.

Before reading this, I knew about the Nazi program of taking Aryan-looking children and Germanizing them, but I hadn't read much about it, and this made it very real.

The dehumanization of people in a Polish Ghetto is also very emotional.  And this is the ghetto, not even the concentration camps. 

The German doctor, Willem, struggles with what's happening, struggling even to let himself fully realize what his country is doing, and that is perhaps the most powerful aspect of the book.

It was a sick, sick time in history, and I think books like this are important, because history does repeat itself.  The more people who are horrified by the hatred, racism, and resulting unbelievable cruelty and disregard for human life…the more people who are aware of how one thing leads to another…the more people who recognize the humanity in all…the more people there will be who will try to break the cycle of history. 

I will definitely read more of Gemma Liviero.  


  1. Ms. Brasher, there was no such thing as a "Polish ghetto." The ghettos were established and operated by Nazi Germany on territory they invaded and occupied. Prior to World War Two, there were no restrictions on where Jews were permitted to live in Poland. I should also point out that hundreds of thousands of Christian Polish children were kidnapped by the Germans, most of whom never returned to their parents.

  2. By "Polish Ghetto" I was only referring to a ghetto in Poland, as opposed to one in the Czech Republic, for example. And it is true that sometimes the focus of WWII tragedies falls on the Jewish population, but there were many other victims of that horrible time in Europe: Christian Poles, Roma people, homosexuals, communists, artists, academics, Germans who didn't agree with what was happening, Russian peasants, etc, etc. Then there were the horrors in Asia and other parts of the world.