Category: Fiction – Paperback: 304 pages – Publisher: Bloomsbury (independent publisher) – Source: Public Library
First Published: 1996
Orange Prize Winner 1997
It is just months before the Nazi occupation of Poland, and, from the mud of a buried city, Jakob Beer, an orphaned Jewish boy, finds himself rescued by an unlikely saviour. He is saved by the geologist and humanist Athos Roussos, who takes him to his Greek island home where he becomes his student. But the trauma of Jakob’s early life refuses to leave him. Living forever in the shadow of the Holocaust, although Jakob has escaped the most terrible fate of all, he must yet steel himself to excavate the horrors of his own history.
2012 EDIT: This counts towards my Orange prize winners reading challenge but is very much due a re-read!
Michaels is a poet and that was very obvious in the way she put together dialogue and scene setting, though her style is more gentle it reminded in parts of Raymond Carver’s ability to remove all the excess from his short stories until only the raw and essential is left. Though I don’t claim to be interested in geology Michaels manages to blend together geology, location and landscape in a way that I found spellbinding. Mixed in with survivor’s guilt and survivor’s bewilderment-at-surviving there is hope, acceptance and re-building here to make a story that is quite unlike anything else I have read. I’d give this a 10/10 but there’s a side story that was a diamond but ever so, very slightly flawed… so it gets a high 9/10. Recommended.
‘His death was quiet; rain upon the sea’
Rating: 9/10 (My Book Review Scale)