Friday, August 16, 2013

To Die in Spring by Sylvia Maultash Warsh

I have read numerous books set during the Holocaust, or with the Holocaust as a theme, not because I have any particular interest in it (at least not more than your average person) but simply because I read a lot, and there are a LOT of books out there that are set during the Holocaust. It gets a bit tiring, really, because even if the books are good (and many of them are fantastic), it can weigh down the spirit a little, you know?

Anyway, this novel takes a somewhat fresh perspective. Not totally fresh - I know there is fiction out there about Nazi hunters and so on - but at least a little different than what we're used to. It is set in 1979, and the main character is Dr. Rebecca Temple, whose patient, Mrs. Kochinsky, thinks she is being followed by the men who tortured her in Argentina after she escaped there from the war in Europe.

Dr. Temple is a very well-drawn and likeable character. A lot of the book involves her doing dangerous things instead of calling the police, and I think when you have a story where people do things like that, their motivations have to be believable. Rebecca finds herself in a situation where what she thought were the paranoid delusions of a woman suffering from PTSD turn out to be (possibly) correct, and there is no way to convey this to others without herself seeming paranoid and (because of course there is always a gender element) hysterical.

There has been fiction that has dealt with the Nazis who escaped after the war going to South America, but this story goes a few years further in time to see what happens after South America - what happens when the murderous regime in Argentina collides with both Jews and Nazis fleeing Europe, and then how those relationships spill over into North America. There are some very compelling characters in this novel who dance very carefully around each other, everyone afraid to reveal who they actually are - or were, in that other life.

I liked the book. It was captivating and well-done, with lots of good Toronto scenery. I liked the way Toronto's multiculturalism worked to both shelter the innocent and guilty, and provide easy escape routes and death traps. I liked the characters. The writing was good although sometimes it crossed over into melodrama, and the one sex scene is embarrassingly over-the-top. But overall I would recommend this book and I would most likely read more of Warsh's work.

Four CN Towers out of five

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