45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read
Those Who Save Us was one of the most riveting books I've ever read. The characters are vividly drawn, believable, and most of all, compelling. For those who haven't read the novel yet, its cover illustration and blurb might lend one to suspect that it's a book about the holocaust. For me, the holocaust was incidental and a mere backdrop to what unfolded as a story about...
Published on May 21 2004
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Those Who Save Us
I was extremely disappointed that a soft cover book came instead of the used hardcover copy that I had actually purchased. This was purchased by Daily Deals Canada and arrived from a United States origin, which annoyed me, since I had chosen this company so that if there were problems, I would be dealing with somone in Canada. By the time I received my book, they had...
Published 2 months ago by Coralie Lesher
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45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic read,
By A Customer
68 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Literature That Saves Us,
It's been quite some time since I've read a novel that I had difficulty putting down, and I read a lot of contemporary fiction. Perhaps the toughest criticism Jenna Blum will face is that her readers will complain they couldn't get anything else done until the book was finished. Of course, the story is compelling all on its own--the German/German-American take on Nazi brutality and the whole experience of guilt and shame as survivors in their own right--BUT, there are many compelling stories and not all of them make a reader hunger for the next intelligent, unusual turn of phrase. The experience of reading such rich, vivid language--words that have the power to create a certain tangibility in place and character--is what distinguishes her novel from others I might also say are "page-turners." The prose is lush, here, palpable in a way that brought me inside each and every scene.
Given her topic, readers will do a significant amount of hand-wringing until the last page is turned (crying, gasping, cringing at the brutality). There's Horst's sexual shenanigans and then the violence aimed at children (Rainer's brother's murder and Trudy's German subject with the eye patch). Within my Jewish community I know many, many Holocaust survivors, their children and also their grandchildren; while all support the idea of keeping this kind of history alive through well-researched fiction and non-fiction, some shy away from actually reading about such things (too painful, especially for those who survived the conflagration themselves or who, like my husband, listened to parents crying out in their sleep with nightmares). I would say that all should--all MUST--read it because along with the pain and suffereing Blum portrays, she offers her readers the possibility of tremendous redemption from the intergenerational guilt that surviorship engenders.
An important message about guilt and redemption is at the heart of THOSE WHO SAVE US. While I don't think a parallel can ever be made between what the Jewish people and Germans such as Anna and Pfeffer suffered from the Nazis in WWII, Blum reminds us that suffering was pervasive, that there was a hefty pricetag attached to survival for all because it often involved some form of character degradation (whether one became an SS whore like Anna or a Frau Kluge type extorting valuables from the Jews and then turning her victims in anyway); from this a lifetime of torment followed. Blum captures the ugly reality of human desperation, what is oddly within the realm of the norm when the topic is war. That she has portrayed this from the German perspective elevates it to a universal quality of suffering that offers the possibility of universal expiation. Even someone as sinister as her Obersturmfuhrer in the novel can be tossed into the pot of war troubles and deprivations fomenting during this period in history that made it roil with atrocities.
Of all Blum's characters, I was most drawn to Anna and her steadfast adherence to keeping her past a secret. I loved when her daughter Trudy finally understood that her mother had a right to her silence, that it was an individual "choice." While I sympathized with Trudy's quest for the truth, it was really Anna's view that grabbed me by the softest underbelly of my recent experience with losing my mother and said: Hey! I have a right to secrecy, you know! It's MY life not yours! (Do we children ever cease to be greedy beasts, however old or grown up we become?) I wish to thank Blum for Anna's reminder to let such things as a mother's private matters (her pain?) pass into the dust with her if that was her wish.
History, itself, should never pass into the dust, however. This novel could easily be one of those rare historical works which will be vital reading for the generations coming up. For it is the descendents of WWII's survivor population (I include Jews AND Gentiles here) as well as everyone everywhere who will need a glaring reminder in the future of this war's particular brand of brutality. Kudos to Blum for not sanitizing the heinousness of war, and for so thoughtfully and graphically rendering fact into the most engaging fictional form.
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Those Who Save Us,
Alternating between Weimar, Germany in the early days of World War II and the present day mid-American panorama of Minnesota, Jenna Blum gives us a vivid, though tortuous picture of the conflicts presented to Anna as she struggles to make sense of Third Reich atrocities against the Jews, and their insensitivity to the everyday hardships of non-Jewish German civilians.
As difficult a time as this is for Anna, a young woman who finds dangerous love in the person of Max, a Jewish veternarian, whom she hides from the SS in the home that she shares with her father, her situation is complicated by the discovery and incarceration of Max in the Buchenwald concentration camp, and the subsequent birth of Trudie, her daughter with Max.
The devasting emotional consequences that arise from Anna's having to choose between the safety of herself and her daughter, and the acquiesance to the constant, and often brutal, advances of the Obersturmfuher of Buchenwald are detailed with frightening detail that ultimately leads Anna, many years later, to conclude that "we come to love those who save us". Equally striking is the eventual realization by Trudie, through a combination of years spent doggedly pursuing the truths of this era and plain luck, of the true nature of her monthers distant deportment over the years since their migration to America.
This is a novel that reads like reality, and a "must read".
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Complex, exquisite exploration of humanity, guilt & survival,
By A Customer
I could not stop turning the pages, wanting more and more of her painful, poignant insights into the complexities of human survival, guilt, and love. This story of two women who go to EXTREMES to survive SIMPLY is riveting. The way in which Ms. Blum delves into their psyches, their need for human contact in times of duress, the complicated decisions they have to make in order to survive, and their uncompromising wills is so compelling, so truly human, that I overcame my fears of engaging in another difficult story of WWII. I was, instead, transported by the universality of their stories in the specifics of their situation, the human within inhuman circumstances. Never once did Ms. Blum fall into sentimenalism or try to shock for shock's sake. Every scene, every moment, was carefully written, painted in its truth and density with masterful language and a keen eye and ear for her characters. This book was a profound, beautiful exploration of humanity. I reccommend it with passion. Kudos on a brilliant first novel, Ms. Blum!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartfelt add to the Holocaust bookshelf - with a difference,
This is a book to own, cherish, and reread.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing page-turner,
This review is from: Those Who Save Us (Paperback)I just finished reading Those Who Save Us and it's really the type of book that you can't stop reading to get to the end, though you never really want it to end. I could have read so much more about Trudy and Anna's history in Germany during WWII. It was beautifully written and very captivating. I would recommend this to everyone I know!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank You Jenna Blum!,
This review is from: Those Who Save Us (Paperback)I have read many, many books with World War II and the Holocaust at their centres and, for a while, I took a break. Because, of course, it is always a heart-wrenching read. However, I am so grateful that this book came my way when it did. The richly woven story is of a German (Aryan) woman's bravery and resilience in the face of the horrors of the war--starvation and fear for her young daughter's life--in Weimar near Buchenwald Concentration Camp. While the daughter's narrative is important to the overall impact of the novel, it is Anna, the mother, who will stay with me for the rest of my life. Not just because of what she did, but because of what she didn't do. Her silence is unforgettable.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing, unbelievable and heartbreaking,
This review is from: Those Who Save Us (Paperback)This book broke my heart; it is the beautifully written story of a girl doing a documentary on world war two through the perspective of germans. It ends up being about the main characters own memories and those of her mothers; reading this book i cried, laughed, gasped, smiled and was amazed. This book fulfils what a book is ideally to do, it makes you feel.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting and informative reading,
This review is from: Those Who Save Us (Paperback)One of the best books I have read about WW2. I have a shelf and a half of WW2 books, and this was something different. From the german perspective, which I have been looking for. Somehow, we never considered what the German people had to go through being anti-nazi in this period. Congratulations to Jenna Blum.
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it in 2 days,
This review is from: Those Who Save Us (Paperback)Wonderful writer. Gripping stories. Liked how the story skipped between mother and daughter. More people should read about the horrific stories of war.
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Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum (Paperback - April 18 2005)
CDN$ 15.95 CDN$ 11.64