13 October 2012

Review: Lovely Green Eyes by Arnost Lustig

Lovely Green Eyes by Arnost Lustig

Published: 2000

Pages: 248 (paperback)

Genre/s: Historical Fiction, WWII, Holocaust

Source: Own library

Check it Out: Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Amazon UK ~ The Book Depository

Synopsis (Goodreads)

She has hair of ginger and lovely green eyes, and she has just been transported with her family from Terezin to Auschwitz. In short order, her father commits suicide, and her mother and younger brother are dispatched to the gas chambers, but 15 year old Hanka Kaudersova is still alive. Faced with the choice of certain death in the camp or working in a German military brothel on the eastern front, she chooses a chance at life. Passing as an Aryan, Hanka's days in the brothel are full of cold and hunger, fear and shame. She is sustained by her loathing of the men who visit her and by a fierce, indomitable will to live. 


My Thoughts

Skinny is fifteen years old, Jewish and alone in Auschwitz. When faced with a decision between the gas chambers and working in a brothel, she chooses to hide her Jewishness and becomes a prostitute, servicing upwards of twelve soldiers each and every day.

Told in flashes of life before Auschwitz and her days in the brothel, Skinny manages to distance herself from being completely overwhelmed by her situation and instead focuses on keeping her clients happy by anticipating their every move. That distance could have resulted in a disjointed story, however it is so cleverly done that it in fact intesifies the horror of her situation.

A large part of the novel is focused on two of Skinny's customers in particular who are both high ranking officers but could not be more different in their attitudes of Jews in general and their treatment of Skinny particualrly. The kindly captain treats her with some modicum of respect and the deranged Colonel are complete polar opposites and Skinny adjusts her behaviour in order to try and give them both what they want. I found the Colonel particularly fascinating yet disturbing as he appeared to be completely and utterly brainwashed into believing what he was doing was the right thing.

Although Skinny hides her own feelings and doesn't exhibit much of her own personality, I still felt an incredible sadness and sympathy for her. As the Colonel describes some of the things he has done and witnessed during the war, her calmness in the face of such horror is truly admirable.

Arnost Lustig's own experiences of the holocaust have obviously fed into this story, and it would be impossible to imagine someone without those experiences being able to write such a heartfelt, shocking and lyrical book that fully conveys the horror of the holocaust.


3 comments:

  1. This book looks really interesting.
    To have a choice between death and living a horrible life, she chooses life, that needs a lot of courage.
    I would love to read about how people treated Jews before, so I guess I will add this to my TBR.
    Lovely review, Kat
    I am glad your liked it.

    Your constant reader,
    Soma
    http://insomnia-of-books.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
  2. You are reading some good books, Kat and increasing my TBR. Thanks for great review.

    ReplyDelete
  3. It's such a horrible choice that she had to make....it was certainly an eye-opening read.

    ReplyDelete

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