Friday, 30 May 2014

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry – Book Review

Publisher’s write-up:

‘In wartime Copenhagen, the world is suddenly a scary place for ten-year-old Annemarie. There are food shortages and curfews, and soldiers on every corner in the city.

But it is even worse for Annemarie’s Jewish best friend, Ellen, as the Nazis continue their brutal campaign. With Ellen’s life in danger, Annemarie must summon all her courage to help stage a daring escape.’

Number the Stars is a Newbery Medal winning novel written by the American writer, Lois Lowry. It is based in Copenhagen during the Second World War, featuring the ten year old Annemarie Johansen and her Jewish friend Ellen Rosen.

This happens after Denmark falls into Nazi control and Copenhagen is stationed with German troops all over. Like any other day, Annemarie was walking back from school along with her sister Kirsti and friend Ellen and as always, they were racing back home, only to be stopped by two German soldiers and being strongly reprimanded. Eventually Annemarie is informed by her parents that Jewish shops are being closed and the Germans are planning to arrest all the Jews in Denmark and Ellen would have to stay with the Johansens. The story’s main theme is to move the Rosens and other Jews to Sweden till the war is over.

There are a few things I liked about this book; to start with, its simplicity (I’ve never read a simpler holocaust novel) and how you can actually read the whole book in hardly three hours. Another equally good aspect of the book is that of Annemarie’s character – determined and smart, especially when she pulls the Star of David necklace off Ellen so that the Nazis fail in identifying Ellen as a Jew. Her determination was also seen when she had put her life on the line to deliver the package to her Uncle Henrik on time so that he could ferry the Jews over to Sweden. Another aspect I liked about this book was how the author was able to convince the reader that there are occasions when it is better to be ignorant (something continually told to Annemarie by her Uncle Henrik).

The problem for me was, when I chose this book, I didn’t know that Lois Lowry is someone who is into children’s literature. Moreover, I got it at a throwaway price of 29 INR (roughly around 30 pence) since a bookstore that was closing in my locality was offering discounts and I thought it might be worth a try. I was carried away by the write-up behind the cover and expected a wonderful holocaust novel along with an excellent Scandinavian touch but then, this was too childish and a way too straightforward to an extent where the simplicity was a drawback. Also, there was no other noteworthy character barring Annemarie and her deceased sister’s fiancé, Peter Neilsen. I also felt that the author could have researched Denmark better – while I’m no connoisseur when it comes to knowledge on Denmark, I’m pretty sure that the name is spelt ‘Nielsen’ in Danish and also that cupcakes were popular in America for a long time but spread to the rest of the world only after the second world war (just to confirm this point, I found that it was introduced in Denmark in 1990) and Annemarie longing for cupcakes that they once had seemed to be rather inappropriate.

On the whole, I’d conclude saying that this is a below mediocre holocaust novel and you can read this if you wish to have a light read with a happy ending.

I’d give this book a rating of 4/10.

Rating – 4/10

Have a nice day,


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