I was really pleased to find these two books on recent visits to local bookshops.
First is Lilian Nattel’s The River Midnight. I’ve been reading Lilian’s blogs A Writer Reads and A Novelist’s Mind for a while and was interested in reading her books. Lilian also has a website with details of more of her books. Amazon UK has some copies of her first novel, The River Midnight for sale, the new ones at prices from £13.98 up to £40, with secondhand copies too, more reasonably priced (which you can see via my link to the book) and I was thinking about sending off for one. But I was thrilled to find a good paperback copy in The Border Reader Bookshop one of the local secondhand bookshops I visit, so I snapped it up. I love the cover.
It’s set in the tiny, fictional village of Blaska in Russian-occupied Poland at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th. Pogroms are a recent memory for the Jewish community, yet life in Blaska is rich and the bonds of friendship unbreakable. It’s a place where anything – even magic can happen (taken from the back cover).
The second book I was excited to find was from Barter Books, another favourite secondhand bookshop. I’d recently watched the film, Schindler’s List for a second time and was very moved by it – it had me in tears. So I wanted to find the book on which Steven Spielberg had based his film. It was there at the top of a very high bookcase in the main body of Barter Books and D got up the step-ladders to retrieve it for me.
Thomas Keneally’s 1982 Booker Prize winning book was first published as Schindler’s Ark. It recreates the story of Oskar Schindler, a member of the Nazi party, who risked his life to protect Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland. He rescued more than a thousand Jews from the death camps.
Both books are based on real historical events, both set in Poland and about Polish Jews. Both have used contemporary sources and are based on historical research. Lilian has included a selection of the sources she used and Thomas Keneally used a mass of Schindler material including testimonies of survivors, photographs of the period, documents, some of them produced by Oskar himself, copies of SS telegrams, and the famous list of Swangsarbeitslager Brinnlitz, Oskar’s second camp. I think these two books go together and I’m planning to read them consecutively as soon as I can.