A melancholy yet life-affirming story from the ashes of the Holocaust.


Pradelski debuts with a novel that makes flesh and blood of the Jewish citizens of pre–World War II Bedzin, Silesia

The novel opens in the present day as Tsippy Silberberg decides to fly to Tel Aviv to collect an odd inheritance: An aunt has left her silverware stored in a worn suitcase. Tsippy’s life is fractured. A disturbing childhood haunts her, and now she feels compulsion to eat only food in its frozen state. She’s a curious girl, though, and wants to marry. Perhaps, she thinks, there’s a suitable husband to be found in Israel, and so she flies there. Pradelski slowly reveals Tsippy as the narrative unfolds, but the eponymous Bella Kugelman arrives as a powerful, original character, a woman who witnessed all that disappeared beneath Nazi nihilism. As Tsippy arrives at her hotel, she finds Bella waiting, seeking someone to listen to the stories of the past, of the town of Bedzin and its passionate, vibrant people. Says Bella: "Don’t run away. I have to talk to you or else my town will die." Among those remembered is sly Gonna, escaping to Palestine only days before the Nazi invasion, forever pursued by guilt over all those left behind to die. There is allegorical treasure to be found in Bella’s remembrance of the people of Bedzin and of life haunted by all that was lost.

A melancholy yet life-affirming story from the ashes of the Holocaust.

Pub Date: July 9, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8050-8212-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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These letters from some important executive Down Below, to one of the junior devils here on earth, whose job is to corrupt mortals, are witty and written in a breezy style seldom found in religious literature. The author quotes Luther, who said: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." This the author does most successfully, for by presenting some of our modern and not-so-modern beliefs as emanating from the devil's headquarters, he succeeds in making his reader feel like an ass for ever having believed in such ideas. This kind of presentation gives the author a tremendous advantage over the reader, however, for the more timid reader may feel a sense of guilt after putting down this book. It is a clever book, and for the clever reader, rather than the too-earnest soul.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1942

ISBN: 0060652934

Page Count: 53

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1943

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