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Publisher's Summary

Early on a grey November morning in 1941, only weeks after the German invasion, a small Ukrainian town is overrun by the SS. This new novel from the award-winning author of the Booker Prize short-listed The Dark Room tells of the three days that follow and the lives that are overturned in the process.

Penned in with his fellow Jews, under threat of deportation, Ephraim anxiously awaits word of his two sons, missing since daybreak.

Come in search of her lover, to fetch him home again, away from the invaders, Yasia must confront new and harsh truths about those closest to her.

Here to avoid a war he considers criminal, German engineer Otto Pohl is faced with an even greater crime unfolding behind the lines, and no one but himself to turn to.

And in the midst of it all is Yankel, a boy determined to survive this. But to do so, he must throw in his lot with strangers.

As their stories mesh, each of Rachel Seiffert's characters comes to know the compromises demanded by survival, the oppressive power of fear, and the possibility of courage in the face of terror.

Rich with a rare compassion and emotional depth, A Boy in Winter is a story of hope when all is lost and of mercy when the times have none.

©2017 Rachel Seiffert (P)2017 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Seiffert's contribution to the ever growing shelf of Holocaust fiction provides an emotional close-up of the experiences of several characters in a small Ukrainian town on the day the German troops arrive to round up the Jews, the day the nightmare begins in earnest... This novel allows the listener to imagine and to empathize, to have a vivid moral experience, while managing to avoid the surfeit of violent, horrific detail that can sometimes result in a kind of genocide porn. All the notes of the Holocaust song, including the rare ray of hope, are played in this spare, fast-moving novel." ( Kirkus Reviews)

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  • David
  • STAMFORD, CT, United States
  • 12-27-17

The Unspeakable

“A Boy in Winter” offers a variety of perspectives on the horrifying events of the Nazi occupation of a small Ukrainian village during World War II. Surprisingly, the author presents the German occupiers—primarily Pohl, a dissident engineer who is nevertheless a cog in the German war machine—as sympathetic characters, trying to do their best in situations they find unpleasant and, to some, morally reprehensible. The author shifts her focus from one character to another: a Jewish optometrist, a former Red Army soldier, a farm girl torn between romance and her own safety, the runaway boy of the title.

I did not think the book worked well until the final scenes. So much has been written about the Holocaust, it is hard to be original or to offer a new perspective. I have read that two of the author’s grandparents were Nazis, her grandfather not unlike her character Pohl. This is unusual but does not necessarily make the book better. I found Pohl, with his conscience and his struggle to maintain his integrity, somewhat cardboard. Only in the surprising final scenes did I find the novel moving and effective.

The narration was very good, with subtle shifts to reflect the voices of the various characters.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful