Inspired by an incredible true story of two Jewish friends who survived the Holocaust, this sweeping novel of love and friendship spans World War II from Budapest to Austria and the postwar years from Naples to Caracas, perfect for fans of The German Girl and We Were the Lucky Ones.
It is 1946 when Vera Frankel and her best friend Edith Ban arrive in Naples. Refugees from Hungary, they managed to escape from a train headed for Auschwitz and spent the rest of the war hiding on an Austrian farm. Now, the two young women must start new lives abroad. Armed with a letter of recommendation from an American officer, Vera finds work at the United States embassy where she falls in love with Captain Anton Wight.
But as Vera and Edith grapple with the aftermath of the war, so too does Anton, and when he suddenly disappears, Vera is forced to change course. Their quest for a better life takes Vera and Edith from Naples to Ellis Island to Caracas as they start careers, reunite with old friends, and rebuild their lives after terrible loss.
Moving, evocative, and compelling, this timely tale of true friendship, love, and survival will stay with you long after you turn the final page.
I should start this review by stating that I read an ARC e-galley from Atria Books through Net Galley. The final product may differ.
I need to be honest and say that I had mixed feelings on this book. I am a huge WWII genre fan and I really like true stories the best as I tend to find them inspiring and compelling. However, while this story is based on true events, I found it hard to believe. (But hey – truth can be stranger than fiction!). I struggled to connect to both of the main characters, preferring Vera over Edith as Edith seemed petulant and self-centered for most of the book. I found events hard to believe (e.g. one of the Rothschilds sees their picture in Time Magazine and sponsors them to come to the US but drops dead and can’t pick them up at Ellis Island so they go elsewhere; Vera falls in love with her boss and they truly love each other, but he leaves her as he can’t have children due to mumps as a child). I guess the thing that is hardest for me is that throughout this story, people want to help these two young women not because they have been through and survived the Holocaust and lost their families, but because they are beautiful.
I struggled a bit with the writing in parts, esp in the dialogues, but again, my copy was an ARC.
So – I did find the story really interesting of how they survived while hiding in a barn and helping with a farm, and how they went to Caracas as many Jewish refugees did and started over, and how they rebuilt their lives. And maybe all the amazing events are true — as I said truth can be stranger than fiction — there really was an Edith Ban who was a Hungarian Holocaust survivor who lived in Boston, was she the same Edith as in this book?
Overall I was left with mixed emotions. I don’t want this review to seem negative, I’m just being honest. I would have loved a bit at the end where the author says what’s true and what isn’t!
If you want a WWII read that is part romance and part survival and based on true events, then pick up a copy of The Light After the War! Let me know what you think.