The Light after the War: A Novel

The Light after the War: A Novel

by Anita Abriel

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Overview

Inspired by an incredible true story of two Jewish friends who survived the Holocaust, this sweeping novel of love and friendship spans World War II from Budapest to Austria and the postwar years from Naples to Caracas, perfect for fans of The German Girl and We Were the Lucky Ones.

It is 1946 when Vera Frankel and her best friend Edith Ban arrive in Naples. Refugees from Hungary, they managed to escape from a train headed for Auschwitz and spent the rest of the war hiding on an Austrian farm. Now, the two young women must start new lives abroad. Armed with a letter of recommendation from an American officer, Vera finds work at the United States embassy where she falls in love with Captain Anton Wight.

But as Vera and Edith grapple with the aftermath of the war, so too does Anton, and when he suddenly disappears, Vera is forced to change course. Their quest for a better life takes Vera and Edith from Naples to Ellis Island to Caracas as they start careers, reunite with old friends, and rebuild their lives after terrible loss.

Moving, evocative, and compelling, this timely tale of true friendship, love, and survival will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781982122973
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication date: 02/04/2020
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 113,241
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 8.70(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Anita Abriel was born in Sydney, Australia. She received a BA in English Literature with a minor in Creative Writing from Bard College, and attended UC Berkeley’s Masters in Creative Writing program. She lives in California with her family and is the author of The Light After the War which was inspired by her mother’s story of survival during WWII.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

CHAPTER ONE
Vera Frankel had never seen the sun so bright or streets teeming with so many people. Lovers held hands, teenagers zoomed by on Vespas, and old women carried shopping bags laden with fruits and vegetables. Vera smelled sweat and cigarettes and gasoline.

The experience of arriving in Naples from Hungary made Vera remember the early spring days in Budapest when she was eight years old and recovering from diphtheria. The curtains in her room had been drawn back and she was allowed to sit outside and eat a bowl of plain soup. Nothing had ever tasted so good, and the scent of flowers in the garden was more intoxicating than her mother’s perfume.

All around her, people felt the same way now. The outdoor cafés overflowed with customers enjoying an espresso without fear of bombs exploding. They nodded at neighbors they had been too afraid to stop and talk to, and kissed boys returning from the front until their cheeks were raw. Eleven months ago the Allies had defeated the Nazis and the war in Europe was over.

“I didn’t know pizza like this existed,” her best friend Edith said as she bit into a slice of pizza. For the last year and a half they had been hiding in the small village of Hallstatt in Austria, where all they had to eat was soup and potatoes. “The tomatoes are sweet as honey.”

Vera consulted the clock in the middle of the piazza. They sat at an outdoor table with two slices of pizza in front of them.

“My appointment is at two p.m.,” Vera announced. “I won’t get the job if I’m late.”

“We’ve been in Naples for forty-eight hours,” Edith protested, tying her blond hair into a knot. “We haven’t seen the palace or the gardens or the docks. Couldn’t you schedule your interview for tomorrow?”

“If I don’t get the job, we won’t be in Naples tomorrow,” Vera replied grimly. She thought of the pile of lire that was carefully folded under the pillow in their room at Signora Rosa’s pensione. It was barely enough to cover a week’s accommodation for her and Edith. “You need to find a job, too.”

“When was the last time you saw women who weren’t wearing gold stars, men not in uniform, people eating and drinking and laughing.” Edith scanned the piazza. “Can’t we have one day to relax and enjoy ourselves?”

“You eat my slice.” Vera pushed her plate toward Edith. “I’ll meet you at Signora Rosa’s in the evening.”

“I promise I’ll look for a job after the noon riposo.” Edith’s blue eyes sparkled. “We are in Italy now, we must behave like Italians.”

Vera walked briskly through the winding alleys, consulting the map Signora Rosa had drawn her with directions for the American embassy. Signora Rosa owned the boardinghouse where they were staying, and in two days, she had already taken Vera and Edith under her wing. The American embassy was in the eleventh quarter, which had once been one of the most elegant parts of Naples. But the war had left gaping holes in the streets, obstructing her route. Daisies grew where buildings once stood, and sides of houses were missing, leaving their abandoned interiors exposed. Vera thought of her home in Budapest, the shattered windows of her parents’ apartment building, the women and children huddled together in the dark. Hungarian soldiers, young men who in another time would have asked her to dinner, had herded families toward the trains.

She thought of her father, Lawrence, who had been sent to a forced labor camp in 1941 and hadn’t been heard from since. And of her mother, Alice, who had continued to set the table for him every night, as if one evening he would appear in his dark overcoat and scarf and sit down to her schnitzel.

And she thought of Edith, who was more like her sister than her best friend. They were both almost nineteen years old, born three days apart at the same hospital. They lived across the hall from each other their whole lives, and the doors to their apartments were always kept open.

Edith had always been the wild one: at fifteen she had borrowed one of her mother’s dresses and convinced Vera to crash a New Year’s Eve gala at the Grand Hotel when Vera would have rather sat at home with a book. Edith hadn’t wanted to flirt with boys; she wanted only to see the fashions worn by the most glamorous women in Budapest.

But Edith had changed when her childhood sweetheart, Stefan, didn’t return from the labor camps. She was like a racehorse whose spirit had been broken and could barely trot around the course. It was Vera who propelled them forward after the war: acquiring the train tickets to Naples and finding Signora Rosa’s pensione. It was Vera who encouraged Edith to get dressed in the morning and do her hair. It was only when Edith was all dressed up and socializing at one of the piazzas that she seemed like her old self. Edith never let anyone see her without a belt cinched around her waist and her hair perfectly brushed.

Vera put the map away and turned off her mind. She could worry about Edith later; right now she had to focus on finding the embassy.

“Excuse me.” Vera approached an old man selling dried chestnuts. “I am looking for the American embassy.”

“The Americans,” the old man scoffed. “They bombed our city and now they eat our pasta and steal our women. A pretty girl like you should marry an Italian boy!”

“I’m not looking for a husband.” Vera smoothed her black hair, suppressing the fact that she was Hungarian, not Italian. “I’m trying to get a job.”

“Behind those gates,” the man said, pointing across the street. “Tell them we can rebuild our own city. We’ve been doing it for centuries.”

Vera walked quickly to the villa. It had a rounded entry and marble columns. Ivy climbed the walls and the shutters were painted green. She straightened her skirt and wished she had splurged on a pair of stockings. But the money had to last until she and Edith were both working, and it didn’t stretch for makeup or hosiery. Vera wet her lips and climbed the stairs to the front door.

“Can I help you?” A man wearing a khaki uniform answered the door. He was tall and blond, and his face was freshly shaven.

“I’m looking for Captain Wight,” Vera said, trying to keep her voice from trembling.

The man slipped his hands in his pockets. He stood in the doorway, but Vera could see the circular entry behind him.

“I’m Captain Wight. But I’m sorry, we’re not making donations today. You could try back on Friday.” He tried to shut the door, but Vera put her hand out and stopped him.

“Please, wait. I’m here for the secretary job.” She gave him a sheet of paper. “Captain Bingham sent me.”

Captain Wight glanced at the paper. He looked as if he was about to say something, but then shrugged.

“Come in. It’s too hot to stand outside.”

Vera followed him through rooms decorated with marble floors and intricate frescoed ceilings. Sheets half covered brocade furniture, and velvet drapes hung from the windows.

“It’s like a palace,” Vera breathed.

“It was a palace,” he said, leading her to a room lined with tall bookshelves. There was a large wooden desk in the center and an Oriental rug covering the floor. “The Palazzo Mezzi was built in the eighteenth century. We commissioned it in 1943 from the Count and Countess Mezzi. The Mezzis fled to Switzerland, but we have not been able to contact them. We are lucky it escaped the bombs; some of the frescoes are priceless.”

“The old man on the corner who sells chestnuts thinks the Americans are taking everything that isn’t theirs,” Vera said lightly.

Captain Wight’s eyes grew serious. He sat in a leather chair and motioned Vera to sit opposite him. “I want to leave Naples the way it was before Hitler got his hands on it.”

“I’m sorry.” Vera sat down and twisted her hands in her lap. “If the Americans hadn’t won the war, a German would be sitting in that chair. And he wouldn’t be offering me a job.”

At least, she hoped Captain Wight would give her the job.

“I’m not offering you a job either.” Captain Wight frowned, the letter sitting unread on his desk. “Captain Bingham promised me an experienced secretary who was fluent in four languages.”

“Five,” Vera gulped. “I’m fluent in five languages: Italian, French, Hungarian, Spanish, and English. I can type and take shorthand, and I know how to brew American coffee.”

Captain Wight gazed at Vera for so long she turned away, blushing. His hair was short and slicked to one side; his eyes were a pale blue. He had a dimple on his chin and a small scar on his left hand.

“How old are you?”

“Eighteen and three quarters,” Vera replied. “I can press your shirts and make a bed,” she added in desperation.

“I’m not looking for a maid. Gina comes to clean every day. And I’d much rather drink Italian espresso than American coffee.” He tapped his fingers on the desk. “It is a difficult position, not suitable for a young girl.”

“Please,” Vera pleaded. She felt the breath leave her lungs. Captain Wight was the only lead she had. If she didn’t get the job, she’d have to find work in a restaurant or bar, and she wasn’t well-suited for that. Her secretarial skills were much stronger. “Read Captain Bingham’s letter.”

Vera glanced at the desk while he read the letter. A collection of gold fountain pens and an ashtray full of cigarette butts sat off to the side. Papers were strewn everywhere; a crystal paperweight was covered in dust.

She grabbed the ashtray and emptied its contents into the garbage. She collected and fastened the papers with a paper clip. Then she screwed the tops on the fountain pens and dusted the paperweight with the hem of her skirt. When Captain Wight looked up, his desk was in perfect order.

“I’m very organized.” She smiled, sitting back in the chair.

“Is all this true about what happened to your parents?” Captain Wight waved the paper in the air.

Vera flashed on the picture of her mother and father taken before the war that she kept in her purse. Her mother wore a mink coat and evening shoes with satin bows. Her father had a bowler hat and carried a briefcase.

“Yes.” She nodded, blinking away tears.

“The pay is twenty lire a week,” Captain Wight said as he fiddled with a fountain pen. “Dictation can be very boring. You’ll get cramps in your hands and a bad back from sitting so long.”

“I’m a hard worker,” Vera said simply.

“My last secretary ran off with a sailor.” Captain Wight stood up and strode to the fireplace. “I was hoping for someone with more experience.”

“I could never marry a sailor.” Vera smiled. “I’m afraid of the sea.”

“In that case”—he held out his hand, and there was a twinkle in his eye—“the job is yours.”

Captain Wight showed her the morning room where he drank his coffee and read the newspapers. He led her into the kitchen, which had thick plaster walls and worn oak floors. The gray stone counters were covered with dirty plates, cups, and silverware.

“I thought you had a maid,” Vera reminded him, instinctively collecting knives and spoons and loading them into the sink.

“Gina’s husband was killed in Africa and she has five children at home.” Captain Wight picked up a red apple and polished it on his sleeve. “Sometimes she has to leave early or come in late.”

“I could help,” Vera offered, noticing the pot of congealed oatmeal, the half-eaten pieces of fruit.

“I’m happy with dry toast in the morning and an omelet at lunch,” Captain Wight answered. “But you’re welcome to help yourself. Louis, the gardener, grows excellent fruits and vegetables.”

Vera followed him through halls hung with crystal chandeliers. The walls were lined with paintings in gilt frames and doors opened onto salons and ballrooms. She imagined men in silk tuxedos, women in glittering evening gowns, the tinkling of glasses, the sounds of a ten-piece orchestra.

They returned to the library, and Captain Wight took his seat at his desk.

Vera tried to concentrate on Captain Wight’s words, but her eyes started to close. She had barely slept, sharing the narrow bed at the pensione with Edith. That morning she woke early so she could bathe and iron her cotton dress.

“Vera,” Captain Wight repeated.

“I’m ready.” Vera started, shifting in the chair on the other side of the desk from him. She grabbed a pen and notepad. “Please begin.”

“I have a better idea.” Captain Wight looked at her. “Go to Marco’s trattoria on Via del Tribunali. Tell Marco to feed you his best linguine with prawns and prosciutto and put it on my tab. We’ll start in the morning.”

“I can’t take your charity,” Vera protested, her stomach growling with hunger.

“In America we call it an advance.” Captain Wight stood up and moved to her side of the desk. He took her arm and gently led her toward the entry. “Don’t worry, you’ll earn it.”

Vera skipped through the streets of Naples like a schoolgirl freed for the summer. She felt lighter than she had since they arrived. She had a job! Now she could pay for their cramped room at Signora Rosa’s; she could buy lipstick and stockings for her and Edith.

Vera passed the Piazza Leone and saw Edith sitting at a table. Edith was eating a gelato and whispering to a man with slick black hair. Their chairs were pressed close together; the man had his hand draped across Edith’s shoulder.

“You’re back so soon!” Edith exclaimed. “This is Franco. He bought me a gelato.”

“We don’t accept presents from strangers,” Vera announced as she approached the table. The sun was bright and Edith’s pale cheeks were flushed.

“A present is jewelry or stockings,” Edith protested. “A gelato is something to share. Franco has a motorcycle; he’s going to drive me around the Bay of Naples.”

“Tell Franco another time,” Vera instructed, ignoring the young man with brown eyes and long, thick lashes.

Edith leaned in and whispered something to Franco. He laughed and tucked a stray blond hair behind Edith’s ear.

Vera started walking, waiting for Edith to catch up with her. She passed trattorias with pasta hanging from the windows and bakeries with cannelloni and chocolate tortes displayed on silver trays.

“Franco was lovely,” Edith said as she strode beside her. “He called me bella.”

“Italian men call all women under the age of ninety ‘bella.’?” Vera scanned the shops for Marco’s trattoria. She found it on the corner, a narrow restaurant with red awnings and tables covered in checkered tablecloths.

Vera entered, a bell sounding over the door. A woman swept the floor and a man counted money at the cash register.

“Signor Marco?” Vera inquired.

“We are closed,” said the woman. “We will open again for dinner.”

Vera smelled olive oil and garlic and onions. Her stomach rose to her throat and suddenly she felt dizzy. Her knees buckled and she sank to the floor.

“Drink this,” a voice said.

Vera blinked at the man who stood over her. He pressed a glass to her lips and shouted commands in Italian. The woman brought two plates of spaghetti to the table. There was a loaf of bread and a pot of olive oil.

“Captain Wight sent me. I’m his secretary,” Vera explained, eyeing the spaghetti. “He said to put it on his tab.”

Marco handed them each a fork. “Start eating, but not too fast, your stomach will not allow it. Then my wife will bring dessert.”

Vera and Edith waited until Marco disappeared to the back room. Vera twirled the spaghetti around her fork, inhaling the fresh oregano. The tomato sauce was rich and oily and dripped onto the plate.

“Why is your boss buying our dinner?” Edith dipped a chunk of bread in olive oil. “Did you sleep with him?”

“Don’t talk like that,” Vera snapped. “He is only kind.”

“He’s probably old and wants to get his hands up your skirt.” Edith chewed the bread.

“Not old at all,” Vera mused. “He looks like an American cowboy.”

“And you wouldn’t let me ride on the back of Franco’s Vespa,” Edith grumbled.

“I’m working for Captain Wight, not dating him.” Vera soaked the tomato sauce up with bread. “You have to be careful with Italian men; they only want one thing.”

“Franco has the most beautiful eyes,” Edith sighed. “I want to wrap my arms around his waist and hold on forever.”

Vera looked sharply at Edith. When she wasn’t lying in bed all day with the curtains drawn, this was the way Edith had behaved ever since the camps were liberated and Stefan wasn’t accounted for. She spent her days mooning over photos of actors in movie magazines and flirting with any male that crossed their path: the engaged American soldier on the train to Naples, the boy who helped Signora Rosa with chores and smelled like fish. It was only at night, when Vera curled her arm around her, that Edith whispered Stefan’s name and let the tears roll down her cheeks.

Vera started to reply, but she didn’t have the strength. She concentrated on scraping every strand of spaghetti from the plate. Only after Marco had given them thick slices of chocolate cake and cups of black coffee did Vera turn to Edith.

“You can’t throw yourself at a man because he reminds you of Stefan.”

“You think I should save myself for him.” Edith’s brown eyes flashed. “You think I should sit in our room and wait for Stefan to appear at the door.”

“He could be alive.” Vera avoided Edith’s eyes. “You have no proof he’s dead.”

Edith’s voice rose. “I don’t need them to identify a body. I know here.” She touched her chest.

“The war has only been over eleven months,” Vera pleaded. “They’re finding survivors every day.”

“Even if Stefan were lying wounded in a hospital, he would find a way to get word to me. Stefan and I loved each other. He wouldn’t let a few gunshot wounds keep us apart. Nothing you say can convince me that he’s not dead.” Edith’s cheeks flamed and she pushed her chair back. “We’re in a new country with men who are alive. Men who can buy us flowers and chocolates and recite poetry.”

Edith flung open the door and ran down the street. Vera thanked Marco and hurried outside. She ran after Edith and wrapped her arms around her. Edith sobbed onto Vera’s shoulder, her breath coming in short gasps and a low, guttural sound emerging from her throat.

Vera pictured Edith and Stefan strolling along the Danube. They used to swim in the baths, splashing and playing like young seals. She remembered Stefan’s large brown eyes, his hands holding Edith’s face to say good-bye. Stefan vowed he would return, and Edith promised to wait for him. But Vera and Edith hadn’t returned to Budapest after the war. She was certain her parents and Stefan hadn’t made it back. The war had been over for almost a year. Someone would have alerted them by now. Without the people they loved, there was nothing for them in Hungary.

“You’re right.” Vera stroked Edith’s hair. “We’re in a new country, and everything is before us.”

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Light After the War includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Anita Abriel. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
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Introduction

The Light After the War is inspired by an incredible true story of two Jewish friends who survived the Holocaust.

In 1946, Vera Frankel and her best friend, Edith Ban, arrive in Naples as refugees from Hungary. They jumped from the train that carried their mothers to Auschwitz and spent the rest of the war hiding on an Austrian farm. Now, the two young women are determined to start new lives abroad. Armed with a letter of recommendation from an American officer, Vera finds work at the American embassy, where she falls in love with Captain Anton Wight.

But as Vera and Edith grapple with the aftermath of the war, so too does Anton, and when he suddenly disappears, Vera is forced to change course. Their quest for a better life takes Vera and Edith from Naples to Ellis Island to Caracas as they start careers, reunite with loved ones, and rebuild their lives after unimaginable loss.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Chapter 1 ends with Vera saying to Edith, “We’re in a new country, and everything is before us” (p. 12). Consider what these two girls must be thinking about as they embark on this new journey together. How does this set the tone of the novel?

2. When Marcus says that he believes “Women are goddesses; men are their servants” (p. 44), we catch a glimpse of a much more traditional or rigid view of the relationship between a man and a woman. Vera questions this to herself: “Wasn’t it better to find someone to share things with . . . ?” (p. 45). How do Vera and Edith challenge these deeply institutionalized beliefs about women?

3. After Vera’s conversation with Captain Wight in which Vera reveals she is living with the guilt of causing her parents’ deaths, Captain Wight tells her, “But you mustn’t blame yourself; five hundred and fifty thousand Hungarian Jews were killed at concentration camps” (p. 37). Do you think this gives her any consolation? How do you think surviving while her parents died impacts the way she views her own mortality?

4. Edith believes she will never truly love again after Stefan. Could her conviction over his death be representative of a greater sense of loss? What does her inability to move on from him say about Edith’s sense of loyalty and views on love?

5. It’s a powerful scene when Vera reads the interview with Mr. Rothschild in which he says, “This country was built on refugees with big dreams” (p. 107). Discuss the present-day importance of that statement. How is it historically relevant across the globe?

6. How has Vera changed since the sudden departure of Anton? What does this mean for her already significantly diminished capacity for hope?

7. We see on page 159 that one of Vera’s greatest fears is the prospect of her uncertain future: “Ricardo had asked why they came to Caracas . . . But the truth was that they were afraid of facing a future without the people they loved.” How has being thrust into adulthood at such a young age already shaped Vera’s character and worldview?

8. Vera’s life takes a shocking turn when Ricardo kills himself. Think back to the conversation between Edith and Vera when we find out that his last relationship was ruined by his jealousy (p. 208). How did this foreshadow Ricardo’s demise? Discuss how his death is representative of the novel’s larger theme of ushering in the future.

9. Revisit the scene where Vera first meets Ricardo’s parents. She gets into a conversation with Ricardo’s mother, Alessandra, about values, and Alessandra tells her, “Do you know what the most important human trait is? It is not piety, as our Catholic priests would wish; it’s not honesty or even loyalty. It is empathy. If we don’t have empathy for others, we are finished” (p. 191). In what ways does empathy, or the lack thereof, manifest itself in this novel?

10. After Edith discovers Robert has been lying to her and ultimately left her bankrupt, she proclaims that she’ll never allow a man to take advantage of her again (p. 234). Why is this a definitive marking point in Edith’s coming of age? How has she changed since the beginning of the novel?

11. Vera’s mother tells her there is “no bond greater than that between mothers and daughters” (p. 268). What are some similar character traits shared between Vera and her mother? What does their dedication to each other even after all this time of uncertainty tell us about the mother-daughter bond?

12. Vera takes a pivotal step in assuming control over her future when she replies to Anton’s marriage proposal by telling him “Getting engaged and marrying you would be the best thing of all, but I don’t want to rush. Is it all right if I wait a little while to accept the ring?” (p. 304). Why do you think it took until that moment for her to gain this level of confidence?

13. How did knowing that The Light After the War is based on a true story, and that it’s based on the author’s family, influence your reading of the novel?

14. Revisit the opening scene where Vera first meets Captain Anton Wight. He says, “I want to leave Naples the way it was before Hitler got his hands on it” (p. 5). Throughout the story, characters long for the past—e.g., Edith waiting for Stefan; Vera for prewar Budapest—but they ultimately move on to pursue lives very different from what they had planned. How is this representative of the world at that time?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. One of the primary concepts that comes up throughout the novel is the existence of traditional social constructs and expectations of women—and how those constructs were beginning to break apart. We see this addressed several times, but most notably with Ricardo. At one point, he goes on a small tirade about Venezuelan society in which he tells Vera, “Here it’s frowned on for a woman to dine in public without a man. And a married woman would never go out without her husband” (p. 180) and again later: “My mother understands her place in Venezuelan society, and you will, too. Why should we change things?” (p. 255). Consider how Vera and Edith challenge these conservative gender tropes throughout the novel. How do they personify women’s empowerment and a more progressive belief in social norms?

2. Consider other recent popular works of WWII fiction such as Martha Hall Kelly’s The Lilac Girls, Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, and Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. How was it a different experience reading a WWII novel that focused on the time period right after the end of the war? How does looking at the postwar world through the eyes of characters who lived through it make you think about its global impact? Does reading a story about real people who survived the Holocaust provide a more hopeful or optimistic reading experience, given that we’ve seen how the world has moved on since?

A Conversation with Anita Abriel

Q: This is a uniquely personal story to tell. What was the process of learning your mother’s story and transcribing it into a book like? How did you choose to embody her voice?

A: My grandparents lived with us until they died, so I heard snippets of stories about the Holocaust throughout my childhood. They often spoke Hungarian to each other and ate many traditional Hungarian foods, so those details were quite natural for me to include in the book. But I got my first glimpse of my mother’s story when I was eleven and I asked her why my grandmother kissed her on the neck every night before bed. That’s how I learned about her being shot in Caracas. My mother’s voice came naturally to me because even though she died ten years ago, I think about her every day.

Q: Does every character in the book have a real-world equivalent, or were some characters fictionalized for the sake of the story?

A: I kept the names of most of the main characters—Vera, Edith, Alice, Lawrence—the same as their real-world equivalents. Some characters like Ricardo and Anton I didn’t know as well, so I fictionalized them, and there are others who I invented for the story.

Q: What was the most interesting thing you learned about your mother or the war while writing The Light After the War?

A: The most interesting thing I learned was what it must have been like to be young and lose everything and have to create a new future far from what she had known. I learned her stories as a child from the comfort of our home in Sydney. At the time, it didn’t occur to me how everything she went through must have been so difficult. She was very brave and the hardships and tragedies she experienced are almost impossible to imagine.

Q: The role of women and the expectations placed on them, whether by men or by society, are prevalent in your novel. Why is this a subject you wanted to explore in such depth?

A: Growing up in Australia, it was still a very male-dominated society. And even in America today, I see where women aren’t given the same advantages as their male counterparts. But my mother taught me I could do anything I wanted if I worked hard enough. I have always kept that belief close to my heart, and her words encouraged me to write about women and how they find their place in the world.

Q: Vera and Edith are inseparable until the end of the novel, when it becomes clear that what’s best for each of them is no longer the same life path. Even in their act of separation, they are empowering each other like they do throughout the novel. How important do you think it is for women to empower other women?

A: Women empowering other women is crucial to a woman’s well-being. We get so much out of female friendships: as young girls, in the workplace, and as mothers. No one can understand women like other women.

I have the same best friend I have had since I was sixteen. Even though we go years between seeing each other, we talk on the phone almost daily and our bond is as strong as it has always been.

Q: Why do you think it’s important to continue telling stories about the Holocaust—however fictionalized they might be—even though it’s such an emotionally difficult part of history to revisit?

A: The Holocaust was a time of unprecedented horrors. Even though I was familiar with many of my mother’s and grandparents’ stories growing up, looking at them from a larger historical scale made me realize the importance of writing it all down. We must never forget what happened so that something similar doesn’t happen again.

Q: Do you have a next project in mind? And, if so, what is it?

A: My next book is set on the French Riviera during the Holocaust. It explores the way Jewish children were affected by the war and the terrible things that happened in such a beautiful place. I’m very excited about it and look forward to readers discovering it!

Customer Reviews

The Light after the War: A Novel 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
Christy41970 25 days ago
I really enjoyed reading this book. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting, yet it kept my interest throughout. There is more focus on romances and relationships than on Vera and Edith's actual experience of escaping the train headed to Auschwitz and their lives during that time. At first I was really disappointed in how Vera's romance with Anton played out as well as some of the following situations Vera and Edith experienced; however, I then remembered that The Light after the War is inspired by the author's mother's real life. And real life comes with sadness and disappointment and tragedy. Things don't always go the way we wish they'd go, yet we keep going. I can't imagine the strength it took for Vera and Edith to keep going, but they did. They made something of their lives when they could have just curled up and died. I wouldn't have blamed them. Their strength is inspiring.
AnnetteBReviews 25 days ago
Based on a true story of two friends growing up together in Budapest before WWII, surviving the war and after the war emigrating to Italy, then Americas – this novel shows what a true friendship means. A friendship tested through the hardest of possible times. Naples, 1946. Nazis were defeated and the war was over. Now, the life is beaming with “the outdoor cafes overflowed with customers,” neighbors stop and talk to each other without any fear. “Neapolitans treat every day like a celebration.” Vera Frankel and her best friend Edith Ban arrive in a vibrant city of Naples. Refugees from Hungary, who escaped a train heading for Auschwitz and survived the war on an Austrian farm. Now, they start their new lives abroad. They’ve been close friends since childhood. But Edith’s spirit is broken and Vera is the one who propels them forward. Edith’s way of dealing with her pain is to just fall in love and have fun. The more sober and responsible Vera gets a secretary position at American embassy. At the end, they both find loves, but those loves have unexpected twists. Edith wants to be a fashion designer and Vera aspires to be a playwright. And all that may come true in the land of opportunity. They receive a chance of sailing to New York. But at Ellis Island, they are forced to detour. They sail farther to Caracas, Venezuela. The story moves quickly with simple prose. It has some atmospheric descriptions giving the time period engaging dimensions. The description of vibrant Naples and welcoming Caracas are very distinctive. The story brings flashes of the past when girls were growing up in Budapest, giving the characters dimensions to better understand them what made them who they are and what drives them forward. It was also interesting to read about Caribia “ship that left Vienna in 1939 as the borders of Austria were closing. It set sail for Trinidad,” but the Jews were not welcomed there or at any British colony, and finally Venezuela welcomed them. It’s uplifting to read about such places, which make a difference in humanity. It is an easy read, but what is striking about the story is how after their escape, their lives seem to fall onto the right path very easily. If it weren’t based on a true story, I’d have a bit difficult time believing the events. Despite this and the very simple prose, the story is engaging and kept me engrossed as I wanted to find out how and where they settled and how their friendship endured.
AllysonC 29 days ago
Thank you to Netgalley, the author and the publisher for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of this book in return for a review based upon my honest opinion. This is a fictional story based upon the authors mothers experiences during and after World War II. While I enjoyed the relationship between Vera and Edith, I felt the book over all did not have much of a storyline. I was expecting more about Vera and Edith themselves, the book turned out to be more of a sappy love story with a World War II background; it was more a story about Vera then it was Vera and Edith. I have read other books in the genre that I enjoyed much more, but overall this was not a bad book.
Shortcake5 3 months ago
The Light After The War is a lesson in life: how to continue through tragedy, heartache, guilt and sometimes continuing means that you have to do it over and over again. Although this book is told through narrative that tells instead of shows the lessons that are learned are poignant. Vera’s mother-in-law, Alessandra Albee, a strong, independent women who lectures at the local University, but knows that Venezuelan men expect certain behaviors from their wives, teaches Vera a very important lesson when she first meets Vera. Do you know what the most important human trait is? It is not Piety, as our Catholic priests would wish; it’s not honesty or even loyalty. It is empathy. If we don’t have empathy for others, we are finished. How can we learn empathy without studying history and geography and Literature?” "Empathy is not a normal virtue in most people’s lives. Usually, it is either something you are born with, or something you can learn if you are willing to let life show you the beauty of each human being. Not everyone will ever learn to be empathetic. Most live selfish lives only thoughts of what life can give them. This might be because they aren’t being stretched through hardship and struggle as people did during WWII. Life is much easier when there is prosperity. Vera lives an empathetic life. She observes everything around her, she sees that life can have meaning and that you can add meaning to other’s lives too. Most of The Light After The War comes from her interactions with others she encounters in the four years that she is wandering with Edith trying to find a life that gives meaning to the both of them. Vera meets Rabbi Gorem after she learns her parents are alive and they arrive in Venezuela. He plays chess with her father, Lawrence, and provides Vera with a spirituality that Vera hasn’t had while trying to find meaning in her life after being pushed off the train to Auschwitz. I personally believe that combined with Alessandra’s lesson on empathy and this lesson from Rabbi Gorem, there is hope that the world will never repeat the atrocities that happened during WWII if we keep teaching what happened to all generations after ours. "In Judaism we take the study of the soul very seriously. God could not create the soul in everyone equally. Some people are born with Souls that reach for the light like buds in spring. For others it’s more difficult to seek true meaning, their thoughts get in the way. But God makes sure no one’s life is for nothing. Every Jew who died in the camps left behind something: a piece of music or a poem or a new idea.” Anton, Vera’s first love (and boss,) Anton while on a trip to Capri teaches her about the light that can be found even during darkness. "During the Roman Empire, Tiberius built twelve villas in Anacapri… He ruled the most important empire on earth from this spot. After the Roman Empire fell, civilization went dark. For centuries the world revolved around war and disease and death. But now we have the Sistine Chapel and the Louvre. We have Shakespeare and Dante and Proust. Symphonies perform Mozart and Beethoven, and museums display Rembrandt and Monet. Europe will recover from Hitler’s atrocities, and a new crop of artists and philosophers will emerge. No one man can wipe out truth and beauty. Human beings were born to create great things, and they will do so again.” Thank you Netgalley, Atria Books and Anita Abriel for the opportunity to read The Light Aft
Lindsey_BringMyBooks 3 months ago
The premise of this story, based on the author's mother's experiences following the war, immediately jumped out and grabbed me - two best friends that survive WWII and then travel to Italy, America, and Venezuela as they try to rebuild their lives. I wanted to be blown away by this book, but it never came to that - although I did like it well enough, and it was a solid debut. I never really felt connected to either of the girls (Vera and Edith), and some of the things they did made absolutely no sense. The main character, Vera, was very hypocritical at times, and it was hard to take her seriously during these too-frequent moments. I did like the friendship between Edith and Vera, or what was shown of it, and the flashbacks showed promise for future books by this author. If I could have asked for one thing, it would have been a more elaborate Author's Note or Acknowledgments (maybe there will be one in the finished copy, this was an eARC). So much of the experiences described seem far fetched, and it made enjoying the story more difficult. Even knowing the basic outline of her mother's true journey and relationships would have helped, I think. As it stands it was an enjoyable book, but not one that I would put high on my list of WWII Historical Fiction. Thank you to NetGalley & Atria Books for the opportunity to read and review this book before it's publication date. This in no way affected my review, opinions are my own.
Anonymous 3 months ago
Maybe if you have a much greater tolerance for coincidences and del ex machina than I do, along with a higher tolerance for lackluster prose, you will enjoy this. I found it simply unbelievable from beginning to end. The cardboard characters fall in love at first sight, get over survivors' guilt with just a few games of chess with a rabbi, and find characters presumed dead thanks to the unlikeliest of circumstances. Eyes "sparkle" and characters "skip" just about every chapter. We're supposed to believe that two young Jewish middle-class women born and bred in Budapest were able to wait out World War II by helping an old woman maintain her farm after her Nazi-sympathizing husband broke his back following a propitious fall off a ladder. Those are just a few of the reasons I finished this book feeling not only disappointed but also angry that it was deemed fit for publication. Thank you, NetGalley and Atria Books, for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
Literaturebabe 3 months ago
An absolutely compelling true story, based on the life of the author, Anita Abriel's courageous mother. This delicious work of Historical Fiction takes the reader on a journey- A journey of healing and of forgiveness, of dreams and unimaginable destinies. Two young Jewish girls, "Vera Frankel" and "Edith Ban"friends since forever, find themselves alone in the world during the last years of WWll. The girls last see their mothers on the human cargo train headed to Auschwitz Death Camp. The girls survive through ingenuity, grace and resilience not often seen in the young, but fight to live another day was their motto. A story you have to read to believe, these girls travel the world in search of their future, a birthright they created, in a time when the world was rebuilding, and these young women had to find their way out of the ruins- and at a very high price. 4 stars Thank you to NetGalley, Simon&Schuster-Atria Books and the author Ms. Anita Abriel for the opportunity to read this Advanced Readers Copy of "The Light After the War". The opinions expressed in this review are mine alone.
KellyDawn 3 months ago
For fans of post- WWII fiction, this is a great read. This story follows two girls after the war as they deal with loss and face rebuilding their lives in a world they no longer recognize. They are looking for a place to belong and people to belong to and Anita Abriel weaves a thrilling story that keeps the reader turning the page until the very end to find out what will happen!
Anonymous 3 months ago
Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC. Two Jewish, Hungarian friends that were as close as sisters trying to make their way back into the world after WW2. This is a true story but I thought that a lot of things that happened were way too convenient- meeting the right people, being in the right place at the right time kind of thing.
Surrah19 3 months ago
I enjoyed The Light After the War but it didn’t quite satisfy me as much as other histfic books have. Vera and Edith have experienced the horror of being on their way to a concentration camp and being pushed off a train by their mothers. Through their own instincts and tenacity, and with the help of a kind woman, they survive the war. Survivor’s guilt kicks in. While the book is about Vera and Edith finding their way and searching for the truth about their loved ones, I didn’t feel that’s really where the book was headed. It was much more of a love story. Vera’s love for Anton while working at the US Embassy is one we can all only hope we find. But when he disappears, Vera never really moves on. And Edith has never really moved on from the death of her first love. In the end, love is what every relationship and their own survival comes down to. Overall, this is three stars – an enjoyable read on the shorter side. While I don’t typically provide trigger warnings, I feel compelled to alert you there is some domestic violence that may be disturbing to some readers. Thank you to Atria Books and Netgalley for providing the opportunity to read this book. I have voluntarily provided this review and the opinions expressed are my own.
Bookaddicts 3 months ago
Opening line: "Vera Frankel had never seen a sun so bright or streets teeming with so many people." The Light After War is a post WWII story set in several different places. The story follows two life-long friends--Vera and Edith--as they escape from a train bound for Auschwitz, hide in a freezing barn, make their way to Naples, then Ellis Island and finally Caracas, where their lives eventually take different paths and end up on two different continents. If you like WWII stories, it's a safe bet you'll like this one. History snippets are given throughout the book in long monologues from various characters, with flashbacks that brought the reader up to speed or told more history. I think this book could be broken down into a duology or even a trilogy or more. I would've enjoyed reading about the girls escaping from the train and living in Austria in a barn as they helped the older woman work her land. I would've enjoyed reading about their time on a ship bound for America and Ellis Island. And finally, wrapping up the series, the beautiful Caracas, with all its vibrant colors and foods and people. Thanks to Simon & Schuster and netgalley for the early read!
Kerrinhp 3 months ago
This novel is based upon the true story of the author's mother (Vera) and her best friend (Edith) who both manage to jump off the train carrying them and their Jewish mothers from Budapest to Auschwitz during World War II. While distraught about leaving their mothers on the train, the teenagers are able to survive by living in a barn in Austria in exchange for doing farm work for the owners. Believing that their families and loved ones were all killed in the war, they decide not to return to Budapest. Instead, these two beautiful 19-year-old women next travel to Naples where they set out to rebuild their lives. Vera finds meaningful work and falls in love, but that has a disappointing end. Edith befriends an aspiring photographer, whose photo of the two women is published in Life Magazine. A wealthy American who sees the photograph decides to sponsor the two women in America. However, once they land at Ellis Island, things go astray. Next, they head to Caracas where Vera once again finds meaningful work and love. Edith starts a business as a fashion designer. Vera eventually ends up in Australia and Edith in California. I classify this novel as more romance than a work of historical fiction. Other than some flashbacks about World War II, the book focuses on the two women's personal lives. The themes of the novel are friendship, love, mother-daughter relationships, what makes a good marriage, independent women, trust, jealousy, and survival during and after a war. I liked the book but did not love it. 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 stars.
TJReads 4 months ago
This is one of those books that you take a break, sit back and just flow with the ride. When you start a new book, you never know if it is going to fast paced, unable to put it down or a slow ebb and tide that you savor. This is an ebb and tide savor read. I certainly enjoyed becoming friends and following Edith and Vera in their coming of age adventures. The war is not the focus of this tale, the focus is the love and comradery between these two life long friends. We follow them from a train in the holocaust to a ship crossing the ocean to landing in Caraccas. We learn of their loves, trials, tribulations, hopes, dreams, family and the true meaning of “pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move forward”. They did this and the most important lesson I learned was to have a worthy life, you need a little empathy. This is a good read; I mark this one with my approval and recommendation. Sit back and enjoy. I was given an advance copy from Atria Books through Net Galley for my honest review, this one gets 5 stars.
KerryACroucier 4 months ago
THE LIGHT AFTER THE WAR by Anita Abriel takes place mainly post-WWII and is based on her mother’s life as a Holocaust survivor. Vera and Edith had been best friends all their lives, and when the Germans came to Budapest, they first lost the men in their lives, then it was their turn. On the train to Auschwitz, their mothers put a plan in motion to help them escape. Vera and Edith make it off the train, but are horrified when they realize they left their mothers behind. So begins their journey to freedom and their future. The focus of the novel isn’t as much their trials during the War after they escape, but more what happens during the next stage of their lives. A chance meeting with an American officer sends the two friends to Italy, and a chance at a job for Vera, where they slowly work toward accepting that they are each other’s family and need to decide what dreams and paths they should follow. Vera and Edith take turns being the strong one as they cross Europe, and then the ocean, and navigate different cultures as they try to find their place and follow their dreams. Ultimately, this is Vera’s story. There are twists and turns; happiness, disappointment and heartbreak. It’s a story of friendship, family, love, strength, and resilience. I enjoyed the characters and the storyline. I really like the look at life in for Jewish immigrants who went to other countries to start over. The novel was easy to read and kept me turning the pages. Thank you to NetGalley for my advanced review copy. All opinions and thoughts are my own. #TheLightAfterTheWar #AnitaAbriel #AtriaBooks
Anonymous 4 months ago
The author based this book on her mother’s experiences escaping the Nazi death machine. It’s truly a remarkable story and it’s clear in the closing paragraphs that one reason she wrote this it is to make sure that no one forgets the atrocities. Vera and Edith grew up in Budapest in a intimate Jewish community, friends since early childhood. They were lucky when it mattered and resourceful when it mattered. And what a journey - Budapest to Naples to New York City to Caracas to Australia and Hollywood. I was disconcerted by the jumping around in time. It was disruptive and I’d have to go back to reread to get the gist of that section. That and the inner dialogue of recrimination, guilt for her mother’s sentence in Auschwitz and her obsession over Anton. I got to where I’d use skip to the next paragraph every time I saw his name. But that’s just me. It was a very enjoyable read.
Anonymous 4 months ago
The author based this book on her mother’s experiences escaping the Nazi death machine. It’s truly a remarkable story and it’s clear in the closing paragraphs that one reason she wrote this it is to make sure that no one forgets the atrocities. Vera and Edith grew up in Budapest in a intimate Jewish community, friends since early childhood. They were lucky when it mattered and resourceful when it mattered. And what a journey - Budapest to Naples to New York City to Caracas to Australia and Hollywood. I was disconcerted by the jumping around in time. It was disruptive and I’d have to go back to reread to get the gist of that section. That and the inner dialogue of recrimination, guilt for her mother’s sentence in Auschwitz and her obsession over Anton. I got to where I’d use skip to the next paragraph every time I saw his name. But that’s just me. It was a very enjoyable read.
Dorothy Caldwell 4 months ago
Anonymous 4 months ago
Maybe if you have a much greater tolerance for coincidences and del ex machina than I do, along with a higher tolerance for lackluster prose, you will enjoy this. I found it simply unbelievable from beginning to end. The cardboard characters fall in love at first sight, get over survivors' guilt with just a few games of chess with a rabbi, and find characters presumed dead thanks to the unlikeliest of circumstances. Eyes "sparkle" and characters "skip" just about every chapter. We're supposed to believe that two young Jewish middle-class women born and bred in Budapest were able to wait out World War II by helping an old woman maintain her farm after her Nazi-sympathizing husband broke his back following a propitious fall off a ladder. Those are just a few of the reasons I finished this book feeling not only disappointed but also angry that it was deemed fit for publication. Thank you, NetGalley and Atria Books, for providing me with an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
Mermer 4 months ago
A Historical drama about survival after WWII. Eva and Vera survived the camps and set of to find a better life in America but things don't always turn out the way you hope. Great drama,emotional,twists, friendship and history of that time. Great read. Voluntarily reviewed
andi22 4 months ago
2.5 but rounding up. Based on the true story of how the author's mother survived World War II. Thankfully not the usual Holocaust story. BUT. Two young women, best friends from Budapest, arrive in Naples determined to start a new life after losing their family members to the Holocaust. Vera, wants to be a playwright. She works at the American Embassy and falls in love with her boss, Anton Wight [oy]. Edith, the more flighty of the two, wants to be a dress designer. She's constantly falling in love with the next man she meets. It is the story of family, sisterhood, hope, and survival. There are flashback to their lives in Budapest and on the run til they get to Naples. The writing is somewhat pedestrian and there are many saccharine and melodramatic moments. And descriptions that are like fingernails on a blackboard [to me]: "His eyes were liquid brown and his cheeks were smooth as butter." "...his eyes were filled with wonder." "But love can be an illness. It courses through my blood and takes over my brain." Nonetheless, the storyline moves along as do the protagonists--next to Venezuela [an interesting section] and Vera--ultimately to Sydney. Often trite, transparent, and yes, predictable despite a few twists and turns [no spoilers from me]. And the ending--way too neat and tidy for me. But it is a fast read so if you are so inclined... [reviews so far have praised more than I have].
BiaJohnson1 4 months ago
There were a lot of starts and stops while reading this novel. The first 60%, I don't really know how to describe. Don't get me wrong I enjoyed it but something kept me from fully enjoying it. I'm a stickler for small details in historical fiction and it was just a bunch of little things that kept me from fully loving it. But it picks up greatly in the second half, either that or I was so engrossed that I stopped caring about the small things. This is a good story about sisterhood, strength and determination. How to never give up no matter how dark things get. *Received an ARC from NetGalley for review*
Kwpat 4 months ago
The Light After the War is the story of two Jewish-Hungarian girls who survived the war and had to make new lives. The story is told through flashbacks of Vera and Edith during the war. How does one go on after losing everyone close to them? The author, Anita Abriel’s mother was a survivor and Anita wrote this book based on some stories she heard from her mother. I had lots of conversations with myself wondering if I could survive and go on living. When the war ended, nothing became any easier for Vera and Edith as they found their way to Naples, then on a ship to New York where they could not get pass Ellis Island. Finally, on a ship to Caracas and several years later Vera goes to Australia and Edith ends up in Beverly Hills. This is a story of survival, loss, redemption, and happiness. At times, I thought there were a few to many coincidences, but I think they were necessary to show how the human spirit can choose to go on and make a good life. I have lots to think about and this story will be on my mind for awhile. Thank you NetGalley and Atria Books for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
MJK108 4 months ago
In this fascinating story of friendship, survival, hope, and love, the author takes us on a journey across multiple continents in the post-war years of 1946-1950, with accompanying flashbacks from the war. Vera Frankel, a young Jewish woman from Budapest, and her best friend, Edith Ban, survive the years of the war living on dreams, hard work, and minimal food. With the end of the war, the two young women travel to Naples in search of jobs and a future. Vera, strong, smart, and hardworking, takes a job and becomes involved with an American Army officer, Captain Anton Wight. All is not as it seems with Captain Wight as Vera eventually discovers. Edith, creative and artsy, dreams of becoming a fashion designer. Their choices eventually pull them along a different path than they envisioned. Travel with these two young women from Budapest to Naples through Rikers Island to Caracas, Venezuela and onto Sydney, Australia in this emotionally compelling story. Interspersed with historic detail and romance, the book is an interesting and worthy read. This ARC copy was received from Atria Books and Netgalley.com. The above thoughts and opinions are wholly my own. #TheLightAfterTheWar #NetGalley
Anonymous 4 months ago
Vera Frankel and Edith Ban are best friends they grew up happily together in Hungary, WW II started and the girls lives are forever changed. Before they know it, the two girls and their mothers Alice and Lily are traveling on a train on it's way to Auschwitz. The girls mothers have a plan, they decide to trick the guard by getting him drunk, steal his keys and get the girls off the train. They push the girls off the moving train, the girls make their way to Dunkel's farm in Hallstatt and spend a year hiding in the barn. After the war ends they try to find their families with no leads, they assume their mothers didn't survive Auschwitz and Vera's father died at the work camp he was sent to? Vera gets a reference from the nice Captain Allan Bingham, the girls move to Naples to find work and stay with Signora Rosa and she's like a second mother to the young women. Edith is flighty she seems more interested in having fun, flirting and getting out of bed in the morning is an effort. Edith is really trying to numb the pain of not hearing from her fiance Stefan and in her heart she knows she is never going to see him again. Vera gets a job working at the American Embassy, her boss is the handsome Captain Anton Wright, they fall in love and get engaged. Both girls have lost so much, their parents, friends, relatives and only have each other. When Anton suddenly leaves her Vera experiences yet another loss and how much can she take? The girls get a chance to travel to America, of course nothing goes as planned, they end up stranded on Ellis Island and the only place they can go is Venezuela. Here Vera meets Ricardo Albee, he's a car sales man, he's smitten with Vera, they get married and I found his character rather creepy. Edith starts her own fashion design business, she has issues with money and almost goes bankrupt. I'm sorry but this is when the story gets a bit far fetched for me, I thought the story would be about how the mothers and daughters found themselves traveling on a cattle train bound for Auschwitz and how Vera and Edith survived the war? Yes they stayed on a farm for a year, but that's it, no real details of their stay are included in the story, the rest of the story is about the young ladies going from country to country and their romantic interests. Not what I expected at all, I did enjoy reading about the girls friendship, yes they were very close and looked out for each other. I gave the book three stars and all opinions expressed in the review are my own.
Aqswr 4 months ago
This is more true-ish than fiction, a re-telling of author Anita Abriel’s mother’s account of life as a late teen in Hungary during the Nazi Occupation and post WWII era. As far as I can tell, the fictionalization involves adding dialog and characters to round out the tale. Some details were not known at the time, even though Abriel attributes some knowledge to her characters, specifically about the concentration camps and the details about their operation, that would not be widely known for several years after the War, certainly not contemporaneously in 1944. While this tale is oddly romantic, at times, the protagonist and original storyteller, was a teenager. Her story ultimately was one of love conquering all. The book is gripping and engaging; the characters compelling and heartwarming. The outcome is a happy one and surprising. Even more surprising in that the story is basically factual. So, read it and enjoy it because there’s a happy ending which we’ve far too few of these days. I received my copy from the publisher through NetGalley.