IF I SHOULD DIE BEFORE I WAKE by Han Nolan

IF I SHOULD DIE BEFORE I WAKE

Age Range: 12 & up
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Nolan's first novel is ambitious indeed: she frames the story of teenage Chana's survival in the Lodz ghetto and Auschwitz with a second story, about a young neo-Nazi who--after a motorcycle accident from which her vicious boyfriend escapes unscathed--is in the intensive care unit where Chana is dying half a century later. Also near death, Hilary relives Chana's ordeal and eventually recovers to carry on Chana's role as Holocaust witness. There are some real strengths here: Chana's experiences--losing her family, one by one; escaping Lodz with her grandmother only to be jailed, tortured, identified as a Jew, and sent to the concentration camp; brutal conditions, desperate survival techniques, and alliances and betrayals among Jewish inmates; the degradation of playing the violin for the Nazis in order to survive--are evidently selected in order to depict a range of horrors; but they're also graphically and tellingly portrayed. Hilary is less convincing: her troubled past is too briefly sketched to make a firm basis for her almost sensationalized fanaticism, while her change of heart doesn't develop; it simply emerges full-blown. Still, juxtaposing the virulent paranoia of present-day skinheads with their forebears' atrocities is a bold basis for a novel; if some of the transitions here are a bit awkward, the book as a whole is deeply felt and often compelling. (Fiction. 12+)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-15-238040-X
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1994




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