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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Come Back For Me--Rescuing The Light From The Darkness of the Holocaust

As I have said elsewhere, I don't believe that people should read too many books about genocide lest it become familiar and seem less shocking.  So I've become picky about the Holocaust novels that I agree to review.  There were two things that set Come Back For Me by Sharon Hart-Green apart.  One is that it contains a Canadian viewpoint character, and it also follows the life a Holocaust survivor in Israel as far as 1970.  So I accepted a free copy from the publisher in return for this review.

                                       


Holocaust survivor Artur Mandelkorn  has an epiphany watching painters when he sees them as rescuing the light.  This felt so significant because his world was swallowed by darkness.  He asked himself "after all the darkness I'd seen in my life, was it really possible to rescue the light...?" I thought that was a particularly emblematic moment for this book which is why I included the phrase "rescuing the light" in the title of this review.

Although there were two perspectives in this novel,  I was most drawn to Artur.   Artur was so amazingly adaptable-- willing to try new things, new places and being open to meeting new people.  He developed unexpected abilities and skills--most particularly architecture and painting.   I think that adaptability is a crucial survival trait.  Artur demonstrated this over and over in this book.

Artur seemed to be focused on a nostalgic observance of Jewish customs rather than religious belief. An Israeli synagogue described in Come Back For Me  similar to the Ades Synagogue  in Jerusalem illustrated Artur's approach to Judaism for me. This synagogue was originally established for Syrian Jews in 1901.  I was particularly interested in the murals on the walls which are described in this novel.  It astonished me that the second commandment's opposition to images never arose for Artur or any other character. This prohibition would especially apply to places of worship because it could be considered idolatry.  In order to learn more, I ran a search on Israeli synagogue art.  The subjects of the art in the Ades Synagogue are the twelve Jewish tribes.   I found photos of these murals on Israel's Bezalel Institute's Art Index here.

 I admit that Suzy, the Canadian teenager who was the other viewpoint character, wasn't very compelling for me.   I could see that she matured over the course of the narrative and that the Canadian characters did eventually serve an important dramatic purpose.   Yet it seemed to me that it was primarily Artur's story, and the novel could easily have been written without Suzy.  Since the publisher is Canadian, it's possible that the Canadian plot strand was considered necessary for the Canadian audience.

                                     


                                   

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