Are you ready for another book suggestion? The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman is now on my "finished" list... I had waited for it for a while, on my library's "Place on Hold " list, but it was worth the wait. Inspired by a true story, it begins in Prague in 1934 and ends in New York City in 2000. Although it is a story of the Holocaust and partly an account of life in the Terezin concentration camp just outside Prague, it is also an enchanting love story, a story of the strength of the human spirit, a story of courage. Lenka, an art student, and Josef, a medical student, meet in Prague on the eve of WWII and quickly fall in love. Both are Jewish, and despite the looming shadow of Hitler and the Nazis, they marry. Shortly after, they are separated and it appears they will never be reunited. Josef and his parents are fortunate enough to escape the country and sail for America. Lenka's family cannot get exit visas and are soon sent off to Terezin with the swelling numbers of Jews. Each receives the news that the other has perished. They eventually go on with their lives but each suffers from "survivor guilt". When they finally meet up again many years later, at a wedding rehearsal party.. can it be? Each looks familiar to the other, but how could it be...?
The accounts of life in Terezin and then Auschwitz are not pleasant to read. Indeed they are gut-wrenching.. heart-breaking.. the horrors and humiliation endured by the Jews is difficult to comprehend. There really are no words to describe... Yet Richman balances the terrible horrors of the camps with some positivity - music and art bring some "relief" and pleasure to those who endure the atrocities of the wretched daily routines, the sickness, the hunger, the cruel torment.
It is obvious Richman has done her research very carefully and thoroughly. The addition of those characters who bring music and art to the Terezin camp, in particular to the children there, not only "lifts" the story a bit but it keeps you reading (this book is difficult to put down). I suspect Richman has based these characters on the Viennese artist Friedl Dicker-Brandeis. This daring woman found her life's calling in teaching the Terezin children freedom of expression through art. She later died in Auschwitz in 1944. Today some of the artwork of the Terezin children is on display in the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague's Jewish quarter. You can be sure I will be visiting that exhibit this July when I am in Prague. It's high on my "Must See" list.
What more can I say? Read this book - you won't be sorry.
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
~ Lao Tzu