06 April 2013

Review: Jack and Rochelle by Jack Sutin

Jack and Rochelle by Jack Sutin

Published: 1 March 1996

Pages: 225 (paperback)

Genre/s: Non-Fiction, WWII

Source: Own library


Jack and Rochelle first met at a town dance before the war. Jack stepped on her toes, and Rochelle lost interest. They did not meet again until the winter of 1942-43, when, after separate escapes from Nazi ghetto labor camps, they discovered each other in the wooded lands of Poland where many Jews and Russians had fled from persecution. Despite the inhuman conditions and the ever-present danger, Jack and Rochelle began a careful courtship that flourished into a deepening love. With a new determination and a thirst for revenge, Jack led raids on nearby Polish farms that were occupied by Nazi sympathizers. So the resistance was waged, often in ignorance of what atrocities were being committed in the rest of Europe. Cut off from the outside world, life depended upon desperate, makeshift warfare strategies. Maintained by a blind faith and their deep love for one another, Jack and Rochelle survived circumstances that had never before been imposed upon a people. They are part of a small group of resistance fighters whose testimony offers a unique perspective on this terrible episode of human history. Lawrence Sutin presents his parents' story in their own words - words that he has heard throughout his life. In a thoughtful afterword, he offers his experiences as a child of Holocaust survivors.

My Thoughts

There is nothing as compelling as a real-life story - whether it's a love story, a war story or a personal journey through an unimaginable horror. Jack and Rochelle is all three of these stories, melded and meshed together into an unforgettable story of the terrible things that human beings can do to each other and the power of love and determination.

Told simply, in a conversational format and alternating between Jack and Rochelle, it is a story that I found completely and utterly riveting from the beginning until the end. Starting with the story of Jack and Rochelle's parents, they talk about their childhoods and teenage years, how they knew each other and the way their lives changed with the beginning of the war.

As they meet again in the forest after escaping from the Nazis and living as partisans in underground bunkers, their story goes from a sweet narrative about growing up to a nightmare where they are forced to endure terrible conditions as they fight to survive against the Germans and the harsh Polish weather.

I've read several non-fiction accounts of World War II, but this is the first partisan account that I've read, and it was really quite shocking to read about the realities of living every day in a cramped bunker, with death an ever-present possibility. But amid the horrors that they are forced to endure, there is also a gradual love that emerges between the two of them, and in their telling of the story their continued love really shines through. 
Written by Jack and Rochelle, and edited by their son, Lawrence, the book is obviously a labour of love, and despite the terrible things that have happened to them in their lives, it really reflects their love for each other and how very grateful they are to have each other.


  1. I'm not usually a fan of books dealing with the holocaust because I find it to be so disturbing but I think this one will be one that I'll read. I agree with you that there is nothing as compelling as a true story so I'm glad you found this gem even if it dealt with a dark period.

    1. I really liked that it was a different side of the holocaust, and there's a huge focus on survival as a group, and they are so dedicated to each other it's hugely sweet.



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