BOOK REVIEW: Anguish traced in lives lost and hopes of redemption

Picture: 123RF/FRANNY ANNE The Fortunate Ones Ellen Umansky HarperCollins Inevitably, this novel’s title signals degrees of suffering and sorrow. The Fortunate Ones begins with a family tragedy, a foreboding of worse to come for the Zimmers in Vienna. Soon everything they know is threatened as, in the preamble to the Second World War, the 1938 Anschluss (the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany) brings fearful realities. The family must face a dreadful choice; Rose, aged 11 and an unwilling refugee, is dispatched on a Kindertransport to live with surrogate parents in England. The distress of parting is poignantly and compellingly captured. Parental promises of reunion are, of course, never fulfilled. Rose’s childhood confusion turns to the pain of adolescent understanding, then survivor’s guilt and an unspeakable grief in adulthood. "We’re still here," Rose’s brother counsels her, years later when he attempts to crack her crestfallen wall of silence. But their parents were murdered and their futures stolen. Something else was taken from the family by the Nazis. Their mother’s prized belonging was an artwork, The Bellhop, by Russian-born French artist Chaim Soutine. The painting, a fictional reimagining of Soutine’s many bellhop or bellboy compositions, ends up decades later in […]

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