I feel honored! After my last book review for Ignatius Press Novels, I was asked if I would be interested in another book to review.
I dove right into reading The Leaves Are Falling by Lucy Beckett. It is a sequel to her book A Postcard from the Volcano. If you've not read that book (which I haven't), don't worry...The Leaves Are Falling can stand on its own.
This is historical fiction, mostly taking place in England just after World War II. The Prologue begins with an 82 year old man, Joesph Halperin, who meets with an unnamed author to share his story of survival in a Lithuanian forest in 1941 & the subsequent years of growing up without his family.
There is a second Prologue in which he asks the author for his father's story. All he knows is that his father was imprisoned & eventually executed in another forest further east. Using the few facts that they know, he asks her to create a story of his father's time in a POW camp.
So, this book is actually two stories in one...the man's story and his father's possible one, linked by the atrocities in Europe during World War II.
It took me a while to get accustomed to Ms. Beckett's style of writing. The chapters began with the main character as a 16 year old boy, but there was a lot of flitting back and forth in history, before & after the war. She included a lot of detail, so I did have to pause occasionally to re-read a section of two.
There were also references to villages, forests, & other historical places/events in Poland, Russia, & Lithuania that I'd never heard of before. To understand the story more, I did take the extra time to look up those references.
That being said, I did enjoy the story...as much as a person can enjoy a story of World War II. Thankfully, there were no graphic descriptions as one finds in many stories of this time. Even though most of this story was fiction, I learned a lot from the historical background included. There was so much more to the war than Hitler's dictatorship in Germany, as most of my knowledge of world history went.
The second half was a little easier to follow because there wasn't much back and forth within his father's history. His father was a Jewish surgeon, but didn't practice his faith. He'd always rationalized things scientifically. Throughout this section of the book, he questioned other POWs, including a Christian and a rabbi. He struggled to keep that rational while trying to understand Jewish & Christian beliefs.
The Epilogue takes us back to Joseph, now in a nursing home. He meets with the author to thank her for her depiction of his father's final months. This was the only section of the book that I felt went on a little too long. It easily could have ended with the thanks, but Joseph launches into yet another story...a lament of criticisms of world leaders & those who exert their power over others, especially the Jews. Most of this diatribe seemed quickly added to the book & could easily have been taken out or expanded into a separate book.
Despite that ending, I did enjoy The Leaves Are Falling. It is definitely not a quick, fluffy beach read, but definitely a book worth reading.
NOTE: Other than receiving a free copy of this book from Ignatius Press Novels, I have received no monetary compensation for this review.