Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie by Mirjam Pressler

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie by Mirjam Pressler
207 pages


It's 1995 in Germany, and eighteen-year-old Johanna has been changed irrevocably by a school trip to Israel for a history project that involved interviewing old alumnae of their school. Since then her grandfather has committed suicide (as did his wife thirty years previously), and Johanna is struggling with new revelations about her family history: the family store was bought cheap in 1938 from oppressed Jews seeking to flee the country, and her grandfather had the opportunity to buy it because of his established status in the Nazi party. The story is deliberately paced and the exposition is elliptical, realistic in the way that characters rarely bother to explain references that eventually become clear to the reader through greater exploration and consideration, and the result is a gradual teasing out of Johanna's familial history that keeps pace with our deepening knowledge of the family. Johanna's quandary is a gripping one, and it's explored with sensitivity but also fairness and sad practicality: the narration acknowledges the impossibility of reparation even as it condemns the refusal to acknowledge wrongdoing - even though that acknowledgment is only a start, not a solution. Characters are clear and rounded, with the book speaking skillfully in specific, individual terms; even Johanna's sexual experience involves a personification of the political when she has an encounter with the grandson of the woman whose store her grandfather conveniently acquired. Books for young people have rarely directly addressed the moral issues surrounding the legacy of historical sins; this thoughtful and provocative volume will elicit plenty of discussion about American historical heritage as well as European. --Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.