Review: The Light After the War by Anita Abriel

Title: The Light After the War

Author: Anita Abriel

Published: February 1st 2020, Simon & Schuster Australia

Status: Read February 2020 courtesy Simon & Schuster Au


My Thoughts:

World War II fiction tends to focus on the wartime experiences of German or French Jews, and most often takes place in France, Germany, or the UK. The Light After the War by Anita Abriel has an interesting difference, in that it is set over about two years immediately post war with two main characters who are Hungarian Jews, and primarily takes place in Italy, and later, Venezuela.

Best friends Vera and Edith are barely seventeen when they escape during transport to Auschwitz from Budapest, and find refuge in a small Austrian village for the duration of the war. Eventually the girls make their way to Naples, where Edith, who dreams of becoming a fashion designer, finds work as a seamstress, and Vera is employed by the American embassy as a secretary, and falls in love with her boss, Captain Anton Wight. When Vera’s relationship abruptly ends, the friends are fortuitously offered the opportunity to emigrate to America, but denied entry, they settle in Caracas where they hope to forge a new life for themselves.

I was intrigued by the inspiration for this novel, the main characters of The Light Before the War are based on (and even named for) members of Abriel’s own family. Her mother, Vera Frankel, and best friend, Edith, really did escape a train carrying them to Auschwitz, how closely subsequent events mirror their experiences isn’t entirely clear though Abriel confirms some key incidents (one which in particular shocked me) are true in notes found at the end of the novel.

I was surprised to learn that Venezuela granted asylum to Jews fleeing the Nazi regime and the deprivations of the post-war period. I wasn’t aware of that fact, and was interested to later discover that at its peak the country hosted a community of around 65,000 Jews, (though recent political strife has reduced those numbers considerably).

Unfortunately, despite finding elements of the story fascinating, I found the prose itself rather flat, and the pace largely monotonous, in part I think because of the past-tense narrative used in both the ‘present day’ storyline and the flashbacks. Though I dislike the phrase, I also thought there was far more ‘telling than showing’, and a lack of emotional depth. Resilience is all well and good, but the girls never really seem to be afraid, or even more than mildly anxious, with any obstacles they were faced with too easily overcome.

I’m glad that Abriel was able to share her family’s story, her mother’s survival in such circumstances is a triumph. Though The Light After the War wasn’t as engaging as I hoped for, I agree with the author that tales like these ensure the Holocaust will never be forgotten, and never be repeated.


Available from Simon & Schuster Australia

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Aj @ Read All The Things!
    Feb 14, 2020 @ 01:25:02

    Sorry it was a bit disappointing. I love WWII stories, so I’ll have to look this one up. Great review!

    Liked by 1 person


  2. Lloyd Russell
    Feb 14, 2020 @ 01:48:55

    Good to know. I was seriously considering looking into this one.

    Lloyd (408) 348-4849

    Liked by 1 person


  3. Mel u
    Feb 14, 2020 @ 13:39:10

    I am also very into WW Two Fiction, set in Asia and Europe. Thsnks for visiting my Blog. I now follow you by E mail.



  4. Marg
    Feb 15, 2020 @ 09:20:47

    It’s a shame that this wasn’t more engaging. Like you, I enjoy it when we get to hear the more unusual stories from WWII.

    Liked by 1 person


  5. Davida Chazan
    Feb 15, 2020 @ 16:23:23

    Yes, quite a few Jews ended up in South and Central America fleeing the Nazis. My first step-mother’s parents left Poland on fake Japanese passports and ended up in Mexico – only to find out they couldn’t get into America because the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor and the US was at war with Japan!

    Liked by 1 person


  6. Trackback: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #SundayPost #SundaySalon | book'd out
  7. Trackback: Historical Fiction Round Up: February 2020 | Australian Women Writers Challenge Blog

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