Gratitudeby Joseph Kertes
March 1944: War's darkest period descends upon Hungary's Jews. By the time it ends in January 1945, over half a million Jews will have been murdered. Gratitude tells the story of that period, through the eyes of the wealthy Beck family, whose lives and loves are saved and lost. At the center of it all is Paul Beck, a young lawyer whose chance meeting with a/i>
March 1944: War's darkest period descends upon Hungary's Jews. By the time it ends in January 1945, over half a million Jews will have been murdered. Gratitude tells the story of that period, through the eyes of the wealthy Beck family, whose lives and loves are saved and lost. At the center of it all is Paul Beck, a young lawyer whose chance meeting with a visiting Swede, Raoul Wallenberg, may alter the inevitability of the Jews' fate. Like The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, Gratitude captures forever the pain and passion of one's family precious moment in time.
- St. Martin's Press
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Meet the Author
JOSEPH KERTES was born in Hungary but escaped with his family to Canada after the revolution of 1956. The founder of Humber College's distinguished creative writing and comedy programs, he is currently Humber's dean of creative and performing arts.
Joseph Kertes was born in Hungary but escaped with his family to Canada after the revolution of 1956. The founder of Humber College’s distinguished creative writing and comedy programs, he is currently Humber’s dean of creative and performing arts. He is the author of the novel Gratitude.
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As WWII draws to a brutal end, Hitler’s storm cloud of tyranny descends upon Hungary’s Jews. A sad yet soaring tale of a Hungarian Jewish family caught up in the cruel chaos, Joseph Kertes’ third novel, GRATITUDE, is a sweeping literary achievement that serves as a powerful humbling force – taking the reader through the dark night of the soul and into the spangled light. Sixteen-year-old Lili Bandel emerges from her small Jewish village of Tolgy as the sole survivor in a place turned into a desolate ghost town – evacuated by German soldiers. She evades capture – her blue eyes and blond halo shielding her – managing the long trek to Budapest alone, where the well-to-do Becks take her in as their own. Like many Hungarian Jewish families deriving false hope of immunity from Hungary’s alliance with Germany, the Becks, too, lived in their own form of denial and delusion, failing to see the proverbial ‘writing on the wall’ in time and heeding warnings from friends and relatives to get out of the country, until too late. Painfully, tragically, with great skill, humility and respect, author Kertes leads us through the harrowing journey of the Becks to the gates of Hades as they struggle to hold on to their dignity and humanity in the tightening death-grip of Hitler’s hate machine led by Adolph Eichmann. In the dark soil of despair and deprivation, new roots of hope and heroism spring forth as one of the family members, Paul Beck, a lawyer disbarred from practice because of his Jewish faith, teams up with the noble Swedish diplomat, Raoul Wallenberg, risking their lives to save thousands of Jews by forging Swedish passports. Some make it, some are not so fortunate – losing their lives to the randomness of war, the privations of gruelling labour camps or the gas chambers of Auschwitz, or succumbing to deep psychic wounds post-war. What sets this book apart from other Holocaust books is that the heroes and villains are flawed human beings. One side isn’t always right while the other side always wrong. Compassion and cruelty often co-exist – revealing themselves in the unlikeliest of people and places. While the country is left in ruins – pillaged by Germans and Russians – true restoration begins, restoration of buildings and temples and souls. Restoration of dignity and hope. The story is a clarion call to us all to be alert and aware of the holocausts occurring all around us – and to act with courage and compassion. It is also a testament to the resiliency of the human spirit and the ability to prevail in times of darkness, as the author himself has prevailed over the dark psychology of his own demons, with a spirit of gratitude.
I have read a lot of fiction about Jewish experiences in the Holocaust. This book presents a unique perspective on Jewish life in both the small town and cities of Eastern Europe during WWII. It portrays the valiant efforts of Raoul Wallenberg to save many Jews. I was engrossed by the characters and the plot and could not put this unique book down until I had finished. This is a wonderful book which I highly recommend.