04 June 2010

Let Me Whisper You My Story

by Moya Simons

Harper Collins. Junior, Young Adult, Australian. Paperback rrp $14.99

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Sub-titled ‘Sometimes words can be dangerous’, this finely realised novel for children aged 9 to 14 years, is about a Jewish child whose muteness lasts through and beyond the Holocaust. Rachel lives in Leipzig, Germany, where her middle-class family is forced from its home by the Nazis. At the last moment, however, Rachel is left behind, hidden by her desperate parents and told not to talk. The traumatised child remains mute as she is taken in by an Aryan family which shelters her for the duration of the war. Her muteness continues when sent to England post-war where she lives for three years in an orphanage.

Let Me Whisper You My Story is a moving tale where the reader is drawn into the home-life of a loving family whose lives, like millions of others, are torn apart by war. The tension in the household of Gertrude, Heinrich and Friedrich, the family which reluctantly takes in Rachel is palpable, and the thawing of feelings of Friedrich towards the girl over time is well developed given that the boy is brain-washed by the Nazis.

Rachel holds on to the memories of her beloved family through all of the trials and tribulations she suffers. Even when her life becomes easier in England, she continues to believe that her family will come for her, and the reader feels for her pain when she comes to believe they, like so many others, have perished in the concentration camps.

For today’s children who generally do not know deprivation, especially to the extent suffered by Jews during wartime, this well written, sensitive novel will do much to expose them to a time when the world was in total chaos and so many perished at the hands of a nation embroiled in hatred. The timeline of events in Europe before, during and after the war is a relevant and welcome addition to the book, as are the author Simon’s words at the end of the book.

Simons was fortunate enough to live in Australia during the war as a Jewish child. Her inspiration in writing this book came from wanting to write about ‘ordinary’ people who had the courage in risking their own lives to hide Jewish children in particular.

The Reading Stack has reviewed Simons’ Walk Right In Detective Agency Series and Hello God.


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