Thursday, 15 December 2016

Two Thought Provoking Novels About Racial Oppression


Who could have imagined that in the 21st century and with a United Nations Council mandated to preserve the peace that a city could be subjected to a protracted siege and the bombardment of innocents? That a huge city could be destroyed by shelling?

If you are in any doubt about what the innocent people of Aleppo have endured and continue to endure then I commend to you a well-researched novel by Helen Dunmore.  The Siege was first published in 2002. Set against the background of the siege of Leningrad by the Nazis during WWII, the protagonist is Anna, a young woman with caring responsibilities for her novelist father and her five-year-old brother. Despite the horrendous circumstances of daily life Anna falls in love and the extended family shares a battle for survival in the beleaguered city.

Beautifully written, when it was first released the book received glittering accolades from critics writing for the more important British newspapers.

Literary writing of the highest order set against a background of suffering so intimately reconstructed it is hard to believe that Dunmore was not there.
— Richard Overy, Sunday Telegraph


Three-quarters of a million people died of starvation during the siege of Leningrad. Helen Dunmore's book is a thought-provoking novel, the subject matter and themes of which are still current.
We now need to dig into the collective conscience to discover how to help tens of thousands of displaced innocents, the ones who managed to escape from the hell of Aleppo, to attempt to build some kind of future for themselves.
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When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr was written primarily as a book for children. Nevertheless, I was absolutely enthralled. It was first published 40 years ago. The copy that I borrowed has a preface by the eminent children's writer and former Children's Laureate Michael Morpurgo, who writes that it is The is the most life-enhancing book you could ever wish to read. The book is fictionalised life writing in the third person. Told from the perspective of Anna, the nine-year-old protagonist (Judith Kerr), it is an account of the escape from Germany of the Kerr family after the Nazis came to power. Ms. Kerr's father, Alfred, was an eminent Jewish writer and vociferously anti-Nazi journalist whose fame was such that his books were burned and a price is placed on his head by the Nazis. The family moved first to Switzerland, on to France, and eventually to England. Ms. Kerr writes in her postface that the important parts of the story are true but that, as we can't remember everything from the past, she has added things that she felt would make the story a more enjoyable. She has added as appendices some facts about WW2.

Like The Siege, the book is still relevant today. I can add nothing to what Michael Morpurgo has said about it. This is one that will give children lots to think about. If you have children of your own - why not share it with them. If you don't have children - it's still worth the candle.