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5.0 out of 5 starsA Masterpiece
Reviewed in the United States on August 29, 2015
Usually I don't like to read books about the Holocaust, books about war. I have no idea what prompted me to buy this book as ordinarily I would have rejected it after a brief glance at the synopsis. The book engaged me from the start. Henrik and his family became very real to me very quickly. I loved how various little vignettes helped to flesh out the characters. Indeed, I loved the characters themselves as if they were truly people I had come to know and care about. This story reeled me in and kept me hooked from beginning until the very last page. It is a book about love and families and perseverance in the face of impossible circumstances. It is a true masterpiece and I am sorry it is over.
n 1931, in Berlin, five-year-old Henrik lives happily with his middle-class parents, Karolin and Emmett. He plays with his newborn sister, Greta. However, their living conditions gradually deteriorate. Emmett loses his job and becomes sick and bedridden. There is less food on their table, and their housemaid is released. Henrik is confused by these changes as well as other incidents, which he questions incessantly. By 1939, Karolin, distressed, flees using forged papers, taking Henrik and Greta to her sister’s farm in Poland and leaving Emmett behind. Germany invades Poland, and little blonde-and-blue-eyed Greta is taken away by the Nazis. When Karolin tries to interfere, an officer whips her, and she falls unconscious. Young Henrik, witnessing the abduction, vows to find and bring his sister back. On a little-known aspect of the Holocaust hundreds of thousands of children are estimated to have been kidnapped for the Generalplan Ost program. I wish the author had given Greta more pages to tell her story but it is a heart-touching book that you will find hard to put down. I always learn something new when reading books about the Holocaust and this book brought this horrible atrocity right before my eyes.
5.0 out of 5 starsMesmerizing, heartbreaking, beautiful.
Reviewed in the United States on August 26, 2016
I bought this book eight months ago when it was on special. I didn't know anything about the book or author, and kept it on my Kindle for future reading. I finally got around to reading it this week. I was hooked from the very beginning. I saw another review that said it was too slow and the reviewer couldn't get into it. It was the opposite for me.
I usually won't read a book written in present tense, but I understood why it was important in a book about the holocaust. I loved the characters and that the book started out when Henrik was only five or six and that it didn't jump ahead too quickly. There were times when the story was so sad that I almost didn't want to keep reading--but of course I had to keep reading because I cared too much about the characters and had to know if they survived.
I highly recommend Pastel Orphans. One of the best books I've ever read!
4.0 out of 5 starsA different coming of age perspective
Reviewed in the United States on February 27, 2019
This was an excellent book about (mostly) a young boy's experience in Germany and Poland as Hitler rises to power until the war and Holocaust come to the end. I thought it captured extremely well the way the boy grew and changed over time, both as he aged and as he experienced unimaginable things. Unfortunately, the author's decision to change perspectives to another character about 2/3 of the way in and then a third character at the last few pages was disruptive more than deepening. But this was well worth the read, though of course, as all books about this subject are, it was also extremely disturbing.
4.0 out of 5 starsNew perspective on the Nazi horrors
Reviewed in the United States on September 3, 2018
I deducted one star because there is no indication of the historical resources for this novel. The general history of Nazi's taking children to perfect the Aryan blood line is known, as are the medical experiments. But there is nothing to tell us whether this is based on a real family torn apart and reunited. Some of the experiences and exploits seem a tad too heroic given the experience of the characters. The climax is not believable to me.
Nevertheless, this is a good story and definitely worth reading for those who enjoy historical novels.
I love ww2 historical fiction, but this one, not so much. It is written in first person, beginning with the point of view -- and written in the language of -- a five-year-old. By the time he reaches the age of 13, he is still speaking like a five-year-old. It gets better eventually as he ages. The ending was odd. The last two parts should be reversed. The last chapter jumps to 1956. The epilogue goes back to where the rest of the story ended - in 1943.
This was a very good book. Liviero has the ability to tell a hard story in an easy manner. Her writing is simplistic, but impactful. This story is told in three parts, by three different perspectives. The characters are strong, and each has their distinct characterizations and personality. I loved the growth of Henrik throughout the story and was surprised at his actions near the end. I audibly said...Oh! The epilogue just cemented the fact that this was such a tale of strength and love and fortitude. It's well worth the read.
Henrik lives with his parents Emmett and Karolin and his younger sister Greta, it is 1938 everybody shouts in the streets celebrating but no one would tell me why, Henrik was told he could not return to school, his best friend Zus and his family were thrown out of their home, yellow stars were on shops, there is a street riot and father brings home a Jewish family with no where to go, father loses his job, no one wants to learn piano from my mother anymore
The family leave after two days,Father is ill, mother secures new identity cards with a new German name on them,1939 we leave father and go to live with mothers sister Femke at Zamosk, Henrik is now 13yrs and Greta 7yrs, father dies, war is declared, Jews have to wear yellow armbands, Henriks friend and his family are shot as he watches, in 1942 the Germans take Greta away, because of her blue eyes and blond hair she is to be adopted by a German family
Henrik is 16yrs, he decides he will do anything it takes to get Greta back and there are many dangers on the way
5.0 out of 5 starsGood read but very disturbing as well
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 12, 2020
Well written but sadly disturbing too. I have not quite finished the book yet but find it hard to put down when I’ve time to read. It makes me realise that the persecution of the Jews was much worse and cruel compared with other books I have read on the subject. This type history should be told and what happened never forgotten. I have enjoyed all the books written by this author.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 29, 2020
Another sensitive and beautifully written book from Gemma Liviero. This book again covers the subject of the stolen children of WW2. The blonde and blue eyed children forcefully taken to be molded into the perfect German and to further the "perfect" Aryan race. Touching and shocking .
5.0 out of 5 starsBeautifully told daring story set in WW11
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 9, 2015
Pastel Orphans is an excellent read. It's rich, engrossing and beautiful, which is quite amazing considering the subject matter. The story builds from the beginnings of WW11 and as it progresses, the characters unfold as does the experience of the more brutal and shocking events of war. However, Gemma Liviero has managed to create a contrast to these terrible events in the main characters, Henrik and Rebecca, who are young, courageous and determined in their quest to rescue Henrik's younger sister, Gretta. She has been snatched from her family for the use of the German Reich. They are stealing children whose blonde hair and blue eyes fit in with the Aryan ideal of the Nazi. It is a touching and beautifully told story. I found it very difficult to put down and would like to read more of Gemma Liviero's novels. Her story flowed effortlessly and felt so real. I highly recommend it.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 23, 2021
Halfway through this book and so far very good as expected. I have read several of this authors work and enjoyed them all. Genre is usually WW2 Europe. Interesting characters with good plots and very well researched.