Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Enemy's Cradle - Sara Young

Set initially in the Netherlands during WWII, My Enemy's Cradle is the story of two cousins: Anneke - the perfect one in love with and pregnant by a German solidier, and Cyrla - the half-Jewish poet hiding her religion in the hopes of avoiding the camps she can't quite believe actually exist. With Cyrla's identity in danger of being discovered, she is given the opportunity to take Anneke's place in a German Lebensborn - or maternity home for women pregnant with the children of the Aryan nation. The catch is that once the children are born, they are taken from their mothers - sometimes adopted by Nazi families, or in the case of those who are deemed less than perfect, simply executed. Throughout the novel, Cyrla struggles with choices, her naivete clouding her judgment and convincing her that she will be able to escape and be with her family and the father of her child. As a reader, knowing what we do about how dangerous Nazi Germany was for suspected Jews, and the horrific realities of the concentration camps, it is difficult not to become frustrated with Cyrla's seeming stupidity. But, Young does a fabulous job of writing a character who simply could not know the truth, until it is revealed to her little by little. Things with Cyrla's relationships in the end come together a little too neatly, but a little happiness among all the horror was appreciated. Despite the brutality of a couple scenes, and the constant underlying fear of rape by SS soldiers and other inhumane acts, I generally felt this book would have been appropriately classified as YA. Cyrla is easy to relate to as a teenage character. I have read countless WWII stories, but the Lebensborn was new to me - this was an interesting persepctive on devastating time in our history.

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