3 out of 4 stars
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Hidden: Nistar by Batya Casper is a historical fiction novel about war, secrecy, pain, loss and hope. It is basically two books in one, namely: Hidden and Hanover Gardens. The war story is told in a before and after fashion with a twist.
Set at a time years after the war, Hidden follows the story of the effects that the war had on the Lazamof family in Israel. After old Baruch Lazamof falls down to his death from the staircase, his neighbours say that Hannah killed him. No one has seen Hannah in years. A strange woman with red tinted hair shows up the following day. She lets herself into the house with her own key. The strange woman says that she is the next of kin. Tikvah the little girl keeps asking questions about her parents, but no one gives her a satisfying answer.
Hanover Gardens is set in England at the time of the war. Sisters, Myra and Annie Feld are sent to live with Inda and her family. Other people turn up to live there in need of a home. None of them were related. One day a knife goes missing. Days later a series of gushes are seen on the furniture and walls.
Casper has a unique and flawless writing style. She writes her story backwards, beginning years after the war is over. Whilst her language is clear and easy to read, the story itself is full of suspense and unanswered questions that unfold in the end. Having never read anything like it before, I found both the story and the style in which she told it unique. It was a war story with less details of the gory war itself. Instead one learnt the devastating effects through the eyes of family members that had lost loved ones.The first book illustrates what can happen when pain is hidden. When people do their best not to acknowledge their pain, living like nothing ever happened. The second book depicts quite the opposite. In identifying the pain and not only confronting it but helping others in the same predicament one finds hope for the future.
Another thing I think the author was trying to share, was the understanding that the effects of a war could affect a generation long after it was over. That children though young are equally affected by war, and that one must not think that they are to young to understand.
Hidden's narrative tends to switch from first to third person. Most of it being told from the point of view of Old Baruch Lazamof's late wife. Hanover Gardens is mostly told from the point of view of the children and partly Inda's. What I liked most about the book was the suspense and the sign of hope. What I didn't like was wishing there was a little bit more to be told when all had been said.
There are very few errors in the book which interestingly are even highlighted. For this reason and the fact that it has a great writing style, I rate it 3 out of 4 stars. I would recommend the book to people that are interested in Israel, history, wars, refugees and just anyone who believes in hope after a war.
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