The Night of the Burning by Linda Press Wulf
|The Night of the Burning by Linda Press Wulf|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: The very moving story of a young girl paralysed by anger and grief who must learn what to hold on to, but also what to let go. A (true) happy ending makes it both inspirational and suitable for all.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 224||Date: May 2007|
|Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC|
Devorah carries a stone in her heart. Their strength sapped by poverty, both her parents died in a typhoid epidemic. Her aunt died too, trying to protect Devorah and her sister, in one of the pogroms that took place during the Kiev Offensive of the Soviet-Polish War in 1920. With no family left and driven from their home, Devorah and her sister are taken to South Africa to begin a new life in Cape Town's Jewish community.
But Devorah doesn't want to start a new life. She wants her old one back. And if she can't have that, she doesn't want anything, except to look after her sister and to hold on to the threads of memory that tie her to parents. Her sister Nehema isn't looking backwards though, she's excited and happy. Younger than Devorah, she barely remembers her parents and she wants this new life with its sunshine and opportunity. So Devorah, who knows she will never laugh again, carries the stone in her heart by herself.
The Night Of The Burning is told in a first person narrative and at times it is painful to read. Devorah's grief is a prism, refracting throughout her world and colouring everything in it - thoughts, events, people, opportunities. The stone in her heart controls and directs her and she resents and condemns Nechema for being able to let go of sorrow. Its fulcrum is a promise that she made to her father about always remembering and she is determined not to let him down.
Of course, her father understood this promise better than Devorah, and in turn the fulcrum of Press Wulf's book is the process by which Devorah learns that while some things need holding fast, others need letting go and this won't break any promises. The book ends on a positive note and I think - aside from the fact that the real Devorah's story ended happily too - this is wise. Some of the events portrayed are distressing and young readers do need to feel that there is always hope. The Night Of The Burning gives them hope and it also shows them that time can, and does, heal.
There are some wonderful and homely descriptions of life in the Polish shtetls in the early part of the twentieth century and Press Wulf draws some canny parallels between the treatment Devorah has received as a Jew and the colonial treatment of black people in South Africa. None of it though, bangs a drum. This is a book about a child's grief and how she learns to let go of it without losing her past. Based on the true story of Linda Press Wulf's mother-in-law, The Night Of The Burning is also a part of Devorah's promise to her father. It's all about remembering the stories and passing them down.
Highly recommended to all thoughtful children of ten and up.
My thanks to the good people at Bloomsbury for sending the book.
Younger children could look at Elizabeth Laird's Oranges In No Man's Land which talks about the displacement of children orphaned during, rather than after, conflict. Older children might learn a lot from Benjamin Zephaniah's Refugee Boy about Alem who is applying for refugee status in Britain, a victim of the Ethiopia/Eritrea war.
You can read more book reviews or buy The Night of the Burning by Linda Press Wulf at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The Night of the Burning by Linda Press Wulf at Amazon.com.
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