Rachel and Aleks: A Historical Novel of Life, Love, and WWII


Before Hitler's rise to power, Rachel Jonish, a beautiful and spirited young woman living in a small village in Poland marries Aleks
Mischler, a political journalist who becomes a government official.
They live a full and contented life in Warsaw, despite the ominous political currents swirling about them. When the increasingly anti-

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Rachel and Aleks: A Historical Novel of Life, Love, and WWII

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Before Hitler's rise to power, Rachel Jonish, a beautiful and spirited young woman living in a small village in Poland marries Aleks
Mischler, a political journalist who becomes a government official.
They live a full and contented life in Warsaw, despite the ominous political currents swirling about them. When the increasingly anti-
Semitic government dismisses Aleks, it is the first of many changes that will alter the course of their relationship and their lives.

During a visit to London in 1939, Rachel meets Roman, a ruthless,
rough, and rich businessman.With war imminent, she breaks off their affair and rushes back to Poland. In the midst of the bombing of
Warsaw, Rachel and Aleks flee the approaching Nazi invasion in a harrowing journey that takes them to Russia, Japan, and finally to
America. There, in the time of air-raid sirens, rationing, and Roosevelt's fireside chats, Rachel thrives after starting her own business while Aleks founders in unsuccessful ventures.When Roman reenters her life, Rachel's personal conflict is intertwined with the fate of the sister she left behind.

Consumed by her opposing desires-to be independent yet be taken care of by a man-Rachel must choose between her husband and her lover, each of whom holds a vital piece of her heart.

Winner 2008 Reader Views Reviewers Award!
iUniverse Editor's Choice and Publisher's Choice winner!

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780595417278
  • Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/17/2007
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Well-written and engaging story

    "Rachel and Aleks" by Sylvia Smoller tells the story of Rachel Jonish, a young Jewish woman living with her family in the small Polish village of Zarki and Aleks Mischler, a political journalist turned government official. They marry and live a good life in Warsaw until Aleks loses his job amidst an increasingly anti-Semitic government. This starts a series of changes in their lives that sends Rachel to London and, eventually, into the arms of another man.

    When WWII starts to heat up in Poland, Rachel leaves her lover to go back to her family, arriving just in time to flee the country. Rachel and Aleks eventually find their way to America where Rachel's lover re-enters her life and she must decide between the life she knows and the excitement of something new.

    Author Sylvia Smoller has delivered a well-researched, historically accurate tale chronicling the growth of a young woman amidst the difficult period before and during WWII. She creates two very rich and interesting characters in Rachel and Aleks and isn't afraid to develop their flaws. These characters aren't perfect and that is a good thing because it makes the characters more believable and real. Though I had a hard time with the selfish aspects of both characters, I saw Rachel as a very strong woman and admired the way she managed to make the best out of the bad situations she and her family dealt with.

    I enjoyed this book, especially the historical aspects of it, to the point where I looked up a couple of facts because I didn't realize they happened at that point in history. Seriously, the accuracy of this novel is impressive and Sylvia Smoller should be applauded for this well-written and engaging story.

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  • Posted October 13, 2009

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    A heart warming story of survival

    "Rachel and Aleks", is a truly touching story that revolves around the life of Rachel Jonish. Rachel is a beautiful, strong-willed young lady living in the small village of Zarki. During one of her nightly visits to her friend Helana's salon, she meets a young man named Jakob. Forming an instant connection, Jakob ask Rachel to go with him to Palestine. Denying him, Rachel still leads him on by sending and receiving letters from him. Finally Jakob ask her to marry him to which Rachel replies no and crushes him and her best fried Helana in the process. Rachel then decides to finish her education and her father enlist the help of a private tutor named Pavel. Pavel happens to be a handsome and highly educated man and Rachel soon finds herself in the beginning of a relationship. Soon to her displeasure her mother puts a stop to her relationship with Pavel on the grounds of him being Catholic. From there Rachel moves to the town of Czestochowa, where she starts working for her father in the leather business. Meeting the legendary political writer, Aleks Mischel, the man than all Poland is talking about the soon marry. They then move to Warsaw and add another member to their small family, a daughter named Rilka. Life is running smooth for this small family until two events changer the course of their lives, first Hitler rises to power, and second Rachel accepts an invitation to London from her aunt and uncle, While in London she meets the rich shrewd business man, Roman and begins having an affaire. Leaving London just in the nick of time she arrives home before the war begins. They flee to Poland leaving behind her sister Sophie.
    They then start the long hard journey to freedom, first to Russia, then Japan, and finally to the safety of America. Although now they are gripped with the realization that thing were never going to the same in America as it once was in Poland, no longer did they hold the wealth, power, or positions they once held. Finding herself struggling with what has become her life and consumed by the guilt of leaving her sister behind not knowing if she was alive or dead, Rachel begins her affair once again with Roman who is now in the States. Will Rachel every find out if Sophie is among the living and when given the chance will Rachel leave her husband and run off with another man?

    "Rachel and Aleks", is truly a novel of perseverance. When it seems that her world is crashing down around her, Rachel always finds a way to pick up the pieces and go on. Sylvia Smollar has captured the struggles of family life in a period of darkness. Taking on the quest for freedom Smollar had delivered a touching story of survival. Defiantly a book that all should read.

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  • Posted October 10, 2009

    Rachel and Aleks

    Rachel and her friend, Helena, are walking in the woods talking about boys in the beginning of this book. Helena tells Rachel that her friend Jakob is coming for a visit. Helena insists that Rachel must join then during the small get together. She goes, but everyone is talking about politics so Rachel stays silent. This intrigues Jakob. He walks her home every night until he must leave. Jakob promises to stay in touch through letters. In one of these letters, he asks for her hand in marriage. She declines by saying it should be Helena who is "at his side." Jakob simply replies "You have deceived me." They never communicate after that. Rachel suddenly finds herself falling for her tutor, but after he goes to Warsaw, she never hears from him again either. Rachel moves to Czestochowa to attend commercial school. She finally meets the famous Aleks Mischler, that Helena and her friends always talked about, at one of his lectures. Rachel and Aleks continue to run into each other in public. The two begin dating a few months later and Aleks's sisters do not approve. After months of dating, Aleks asks Rachel to marry him. She says yes. After many months, the long awaited wedding day has arrived. Two of Aleks's sisters had finally accepted her. The happy couple moves to Warsaw. Years later Rachel becomes pregnant and continues to work. Aleks's sisters call her an embarrassment to the family. When their daughter, Rilka, is born, Rachel gets along with everyone including Aleks's sister. When Aleks is accused of treason, the young family has yet another difficult time to go through. Rachel plans to visit her aunt, but has a hard time leaving Rilka. While in England, Rachel meets the man (Roman) who will soon become her lover. Rachel, who realizes taking a lover is a bad decision, goes home Aleks and Rilka. Rachel confides in Sophie (her sister) about her affair with Roman. When the Germans attack Poland, Aleks demands a car to escape. The family travels to Lithuania, Russia and Japan before departing for Seattle. From there, they settle in New York City. When Roman appears in New York, he threatens Rachel's job. Roman puts Rachel in the difficult position of choosing between Aleks and himself.

    This is a great coming of age story. I really enjoyed seeing Rachel mature before my eyes. Rachel and Aleks are such a lovable couple. If you are interested in the Holocaust (and enjoy romance novels), then this is a must read!

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  • Posted September 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Good Read

    Rachel Jonish is a young Jewish woman living in Poland. After a couple of misguided attempts at love, she marries Aleks Mischler, an intelligent political journalist who encourages her to be independent. Although she now has the life she thought she wanted, something is missing. Then Rachel meets Roman, a rich and powerful businessman. He is the kind of man who would cherish her and take care of her with the kind of love she craves.

    Hitler comes to power in Germany. When the Nazis invade Poland, Rachel and Aleks flee. In constant fear for their life, they take refuge in Russia and Japan before finding safety in America.

    In America, Rachel and Aleks have to count pennies, barely surviving on government support. Aleks goes from one unsuccessful business venture to another while Rachel finds a profitable job selling lingerie to stores. They no longer have to count pennies. However, Rachel isn't happy with her marriage; she wants Aleks to be able to take care of her, not the other way around. When Roman shows up again, Rachel will have to choose between Aleks, her husband, and Roman, her lover.

    Rachel is someone readers can relate to. She's made mistakes, fallen in love (both misguided and real), and been restless in her life. Rachel is a strong woman who thinks she knows what she wants. She's independent and spirited. She has dreams of greatness. She wants to be around famous and influential people.

    Rachel is also a character readers can learn from. When fleeing the Nazis, Aleks remarks several times that Rachel continually finds the good in any situation, making lemonade out of the lemons life gave her. She's an optimist. Although fleeing for their lives, Rachel's optimism keeps them going and keeps the story from dwelling on all that is bad about their situation. And later in America she manages to stay positive about their job prospects through the rough times.

    While this book seemed to start slow, after a few chapters into it, I was hooked. I am a romantic, so this book really got me. While I may not agree with adultery, I was certainly able to empathize with Rachel's dilemma between Aleks, with his intelligence and selflessness, and Roman, with his ruthless intensity. I had to know who Rachel was going to choose. Although she clearly wanted them both, which one did she want more?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2007

    War and Personal Remembrance

    What Herman Wouk did on the grand scale in 'War and Remembrance,' Dr. Smoller has done on the intimate scale in 'Rachel and Aleks.' This is a novel about the post-World War I Jews in Poland before they were wiped out in World War II, about Poland between the wars for them, about the Nazi horror, about escape and a miraculous survival, about rebirth in the United States. It is also about love, family, adventure, coming of age, all written in a style that is at once energetic and gracious, totally belying the fact that this the author's first novel. That the author as a child lived through much of the story herself brings an authenticity to it that would be hard to replicate by one who did not. A page-turner, when one gets to the end, one is asking for more.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2007

    Six Stars

    Rachel and Aleks is gorgeous reading. Smoller hauntingly reconstructs Poland in the first half of the 20th century. In this treacherous world, we watch a lovely Jewish woman emerge to create and protect her family. Sophoclean themes underscore this story as Aleks, a brilliant idealist, and Rachel, a woman of action, together heroically navigate Nazi occupied Europe. From the first to last page, I was spellbound.

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