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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Thief of Auschwitz

The Thief of Auschwitz by Jon Clinch is an ARC sent by Kelley & Hall.  Clinch took an unusual step in self-publishing this novel: could have been risky-- but maybe not, because he had already made a name for himself with his first novel Finn, which was "named a best book of the year by  the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune and the Christian Science Monitor."  Other critical acclaim came from the ALA, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Kirkus.

I can't say that I "liked" Finn, but I appreciated the quality of the writing and the content.  It is one of the rare novels that you don't exactly enjoy (I mean, Pap Finn is a wicked protagonist), but you recognize its worth and admire the author, and you know that it is a good book and are exceedingly glad you read it.

The Thief of Auschwitz, however, shows Clinch's versatility as an author.  The protagonists in this novel are people you care for, the loving and compassionate Rosen family, who show courage and loyalty in the midst of the hell in which they find themselves.

Clinch relates the Rosen family's journey, before and during their incarceration in Auschwitz, in two different narratives.  Max Rosen, a famous artist, is preparing for a retrospective at the National Gallery in Washington, and we have Max's voice in the present, a survivor who has met with remarkable success.  The alternate narrative of the family's experiences in Auschwitz is the heart of the book.  Max, now an old man, knows the importance of remembering what happened, and his voice in the present is vital, irreverent, and aware of the importance of remembering and honoring those who perished, and how, and why.

I feared it would be a tear-jerker, but it wasn't.  While Clinch lets us know the atrocities of which man is capable, he does it in a way that avoids sentimentality and mawkishness.  There is a sense that Clinch genuinely cares for these individuals, he is...solicitous?  Yet he doesn't manipulate our emotions, and there is definitely a trick to that.  Especially when dealing with the Holocaust, it is difficult to tell a story without exploiting the many avenues of tragedy, but Clinch manages to involve us deeply with the characters without excessive sentimentality.
He somehow mingles sadness and hope

OK - This one is worth your time.

Thanks to Jocelyn at Kelley & Hall for sending me a copy.

Literary Fiction. 2012.  258 pages.



3 comments:

Bookfool said...

I passed up a review copy of this one because I've got too many review books on my stacks, already, but if I could have fit it in, I would have. I'm glad it was a good one, if not the kind of book you can "like". I know what you mean. Books set in Nazi concentration camps are heartbreaking.

Kailana said...

This sounds good! I actually thought Finn sounded good, too, but I never got around to reading it.

jenclair said...

Nancy -- Finn was a book to appreciate, but not really "enjoy." Strangely, as terrible as the setting is for The Thief of Auschwitz, the message is so positive and the handling of the content so well done, the novel becomes a good experience.


Kelly - There is no way to read all the books on our lists, is there? :0