Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Book 80: Day After Night

I loved The Red Tent when I read it, and I've actually even read one or two other novels as a result that dealt with biblical women characters that were mentioned only in passing.  This one was my favorite of them, and as my interest in religion has decreased, so has my desire to read those types of novels, since there is always the danger of getting something preachy instead of a novel that muses about what the historical realitites of a woman living in biblical times would have been.  Of course, Day After Night has a very different topic, but I was very much interested in it based on both the topic and the author's previous work.
Taking place at the Atlit Internment camp, a British run camp for illegal immigrants, in the fall of 1945, the novel tells the story of four Holocaust survivors in the camp, waiting to be released into Palestine.  The four women all represent different backgrounds and experiences in the Holocaust - Zorah is a concentration camp survivor from Poland; Shayndel, also Polish, was part of the resistance; Leonie, a young French woman, survived through other means; and Tedi hid with a family in the Netherlands, her appereance allowing her to blend in.  As the novel develops, the women slowly deal with their memories, survivors' guilt and attempting to live again after all they have witnessed.  One can see certain issues arising between the survivors based on the different ways they stayed alive, such as whether Tedi's experiences can compare to those of a camp survivor.  Though Tedi lost her whole family, she occasionally still feels that maybe her pain is trivial compared to people like Zorah.
Another interesting point that Diamant raised was the relationship between the Jews already in British controlled Palestine and the Holocaust survivors.  While the Zionist want to help and welcome the newcomers, the survivors also notice a certain amount of condescension from some of them.  Zorah specifically notes that the Zionists were not there, they cannot judge and they certainly can't pretend that they would have acted differently or fought back because they don't understand the situation.  Similarly, Shayndel notes that the Jewish men in Palestine seem to have such a desire to overcome the stereotypical views of the bookish, intellectual yet weak Jewish man that they act like the complete opposite - somewhat macho and very much focused on the physical.
All these contrasts and issues were fascinating to me, but many of them were only briefly touched on.  I feel like Diamant raised lots of interesting points and views I hadn't completely considered, but mostly dealt with them superficially or in passing.  I would have loved to dive deeper into some of these points.
The last part of the novel then focuses on an escape attempt, which I guess was supposed to serve as the action packed finale.  The only problem is that while I understood the need for a very specific group of prisoners to escape, I wasn't quite sure why it was so important for the others to escape.  Obviously, they had been waiting for awhile to be released, but I didn't get the feeling that the British were going to force the majority of the refugees in the camp back to the countries they came from.  I'm not sure if this lack of tension was the result of hindsight on my part or Diamant's writing.
Overall I liked the book, but the lack of depth means I would categorize it as an okay book rather than a good book because there could have been more to it.  While I wouldn't go out of my way to recommend this, I also wouldn't discourage anyone from reading it since it does have good parts.  I was looking over some of my latest reviews, and I have noticed a certain theme emerging - "I wanted more" or "I was expecting something different."  I feel like I am simply continuing that with this review, unfortunately.

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