MARIKA by Andrea Cheng

MARIKA

Age Range: 10 - 14
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A child’s-eye view written in beautifully spare prose gives a special quality to this historical piece. Marika Schnurmacher is six years old in 1934 Budapest, and she feels confused and helpless about many things. First, she arrives home from vacation to find that her father has walled off part of their apartment to live by himself. Although she sees him often, Marika longs for his return and can’t comprehend why he has left. She also can’t understand why the family’s Jewish name and heritage is such a worry to her father and uncle; they practice Catholicism, after all, and when she tries to ask questions about the whispers she hears about Germany, nobody will answer. Marika spends her childhood reading voraciously and writing a story—Little Lord Schnurmacher—that mixes her own life and hopes with classic literature. Shame about her family’s wealth and her odd mother hinders an outwardly peaceful relationship with working class, openly Jewish friend Zsofi. As years go by and WWII progresses, Marika loses her confusion—everything from war to family dynamics becomes painfully clear—but not her sparely written vulnerability. The last few chapters are about the family’s separation and Marika’s brief time in hiding, and then their reunion, pale and hungry, after Russian soldiers free Budapest from the Nazi occupation. Reading more like a series of vignettes than a novel, with a few distancing gaps in time and one distracting inconsistency (between the year and her age), Marika is a poignant emotional portrait. (Fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 2002
ISBN: 1-886910-78-2
Page count: 160pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2002




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