Tuesday 17 September 2019

Review - Renia's Diary by Renia Spiegel

Renia's Diary by Renia Spiegel
Publisher: Ebury Publishing
Release date: 19 September 2019
Back cover blurb:  July 15, 1942, Wednesday. Remember this day; remember it well. You will tell generations to come. Since 8 o’clock today we have been shut away in the ghetto. I live here now. The world is separated from me and I’m separated from the world. Renia is a young girl who dreams of becoming a poet. But Renia is Jewish, she lives in Poland and the year is 1939. When Russia and Germany invade her country, Renia's world shatters. Separated from her mother, her life takes on a new urgency as she flees Przemysl to escape night bombing raids, observes the disappearances of other Jewish families and, finally, witnesses the creation of the ghetto. But alongside the terror of war, there is also great beauty, as she begins to find her voice as a writer and falls in love for the first time. She and the boy she falls in love with, Zygmunt, share their first kiss a few hours before the Nazis reach her hometown. And it is Zygmunt who writes the final, heartbreaking entry in Renia’s diary. Recently rediscovered after seventy years, Renia’s Diary is already being described as a classic of Holocaust literature. Written with a clarity and skill that is reminiscent of Anne Frank, Renia's Diary also includes a prologue and epilogue by Renia's sister Elizabeth, as well as an introduction by Deborah E. Lipstadt, author of Denial. It is an extraordinary testament to both the horrors of war, and to the life that can exist even in the darkest times.

Renia's diary is a difficult book for me to review. Not because of it's subject matter (although this does of course at times make for uncomfortable reading), but because of the way it is mostly written. 

Of course Renia was not writing her diary to be read by others, but readers looking for something similar to other Holocaust/WWII diaries, may be disappointed.

So, I feel the need to talk about the diary format - it is obvious from the title that the book is 'Renia's Diary. However, much of the novel is about Renia's school life, love life and poetry, there is barely any reference to the horrors of the world around her, and that left me a little disappointed.

I'd go so far as to say, it is not quite the novel I was anticipating it to be.

However, it is an important book, and one that should be read. The final pages in particular do give the reader a little more insight in Renia's fate (although these were not written by Renia herself). 

Renia is visiting her grandparents when WWII breaks out. Her Mother and Father are far away, and it is impossible for them to reunite due to the volatile situation in Poland. It is 1939 and Renia is fourteen.

Throughout the next few years, until Renia reaches Eighteen, we are taken on a very personal journeu with her. This book may not be for all, but it is an important part of history nonetheless.

Renia's Diary is available from 19 September 2019.
You can pre-order it now via Amazon online and all good book shops.

Thank You to the publishers who approved my request via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

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