Every once in a while, you read a book that completely breaks you. And this was it for me. I read this book in one train journey from London to Leeds, and I was full out crying on the train from the horrors that were written inside.
I cried because these horrors were real. Things that actually happened less than 2 generations ago. Things that should not be forgotten, lest we repeat them.
The book follows a young girl called Hanna, who lives in Latvia with her mother and grandmother. Her father has already gone missing – taken by the Russians, and we follow their lives as the germans move into Latvia and slowly start eroding the rights of the Jews who live there.
At times, it was easy to imagine that this was some sort of post-apocalyptic book where food is scarce and living in shells of houses is the norm – hunger games style. But this is not post-apocalyptic, it’s a true story.
I can’t even bear to write it here, but the part of the story where the book title comes from – The Earth is Singing – it was brutal. I had to stop reading a number of times to get through it.
I feel that books like this should be essential reading – we need to remember the atrocities of the past to ensure we don’t allow them to be repeated in the future. It’s all well and good to say we would never let this happen – but it’s only by keeping watch for those initial signs that we can catch these things before they progress.
I could pick many quotes from this book as noteworthy, but this one in particular stuck with me:
I lean against the side of the carriage and am surprised to realize that I don’t mind being a Jew any longer. I have learned something on my journey. I have learned that the only people worth knowing are the ones who accept me for who I am and not what I am.The Earth is Singing – Vanessa Curtis
Something we could all take to heart – let’s accept people for who they are and how they behave rather than what they are and the labels we apply to them. In today’s society where we are seeing more and more racially/religiously motivated attacks, we would do well to remember that people are more than the label you choose to assign to them.