Friday, December 18, 2009
Someone Named Eva: Sinister Nazis Steal Sisters
Today is Reading on the Beaches' A-Z Wednesday, and the letter is S.
Wait, hold the presses. Today is (was) Thursday. Yesterday was Wednesday. I missed it! Ack!
But, looky-there, the book I accidentally reviewed yesterday matched. I am the luckiest woman alive. Hey, so did Tuesday's. This much be S week over here. S for SuhWEET.
Today, to celebrate missing the challenge day and landing on my feet, I seem to have read another "S" book, Someone Named Eva, by Joan M. Wolf. I got this from my son's Scholastic catalog because I remember devouring WWII literature in my youth, and I'm still intrigued. Wolf's book is a new angle on the war; Malada is a blond Czech girl sent to be reprogrammed with Aryan propaganda and adopted by a German family. The Nazis razed her entire village in retaliation for the assassination of a German officer, separating the men and women, pulling out children who passed the racial guidelines, and shipping the rejects to camp.
Malada, renamed Eva, unwillingly learns German and history and proper Nazi behavior. She tries to keep the memory of her family alive, helped by her grandmother's pin, but the frightening circumstances and her youth (the book starts with her eleventh birthday) strip most of her past from her. I found the difference between her attitude and that of similar books with Jewish protagonists interesting; Malada has no sense of thwarting the Nazis by surviving; her secret is not as explosive. She hasn't completely forgotten her past, she knows that Nazis lie, and she knows that she inwardly rejects most of their teachings. But her life isn't constantly in jeopardy; no one wants to kill her for existing.
I was a bit disappointed when the mean, motherless disliked girl who also passed the racial tests turned into a committed Nazi. I prefer the trope where the despised classmate actually has some redeeming characteristics. As a mom, I was also interested in the adoptive mother's reactions -- she was a committed Nazi, but also sincerely believed that Eva was an orphan, and loved her as her own daughter. Mutter's abject sorrow when the Red Cross reclaimed Eva/Malada moved me, although Eva walked away without looking back, and the refugee workers, who had presumably also spent a lot of time at the concentration camp up the road, had no sympathy for the Nazi lady either.
I was confused for part of the book because I had misread an early sentence -- I read "I had been glad that no one I knew was Jewish" as "I had been glad that no one knew I was Jewish" and for a while I assumed her family had recently converted, so their lack of fear seemed odd, but eventually I went back to check and realized my mistake. That did focus my attention on the difference between this story and how the story would have read with a Jewish protagonist.
Although the characters are fictional, Wolf based the story on real events -- Malada's village was the one razed by Nazis, with all the men shot, and select children sent off for adoption. Many of the children were returned after the war, which was very unusual. B