4 out of 4 stars
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The Golden Peacock is a poignant, intriguing and suspenseful novel written by Lauren B. Grossman.
Rainee Allen, an author from Boston whose debut novel is turned into a movie, is suffering from a case of writer’s block. Trying to come up with an idea for a new novel, Rainee rummages through her drawer and comes across a passport, a souvenir she received from the US Holocaust Museum six years ago. It belonged to Jana Lutken from Frechen, Germany whose birthday was the same as that of Rainee only thirty years earlier. The connection is not lost on Rainee and she decides to make Jana the muse of her new novel.
Rainee’s research on Jana’s life takes her to London and Berkhamsted, and finally leads her to a nursing home on Chalton St. where Jana, now in her late seventies, is a resident with early onset dementia. Little does Rainee know that her research will lead her to long-held secrets, place not only her but also her friends and Jana in danger, and put her between two men one of whom triggers the memories of Jana’s past.
This is a moving, intriguing and suspenseful book that depicts the horror of the Holocaust. It describes in painful details the atrocities suffered by the German Jews in the hands of the Nazis as families were divided, parents were killed and children were orphaned. Besides that horrible period in history, the book also portrays not only prejudice and discrimination but also a person’s sense of self-preservation and strength of character. The touch of romance lends levity to an otherwise lamentable subject.
The book has a steady pacing and is told alternately between the first person perspective of Jana Lutken as she narrates the story of her life since 1938 and the third person perspective featuring the author Rainee Allen as she searches for Jana. This strategy in addition to the unexpected twists and turns keep the readers in suspense as we await the inevitable convergence of the past events and the present time in the book that leads to a satisfying climax.
Moreover, the author creates several endearing characters including Jana Lutken, the Holocaust survivor; Rainee Allen, the caring and thoughtful book author; John Pritchard, the kind nursing facility director; Martin Wagner, the unsettling doctor and dutiful son and Gloria Wickham, the motherly and nurturing woman who treated Jana as her own daughter.
While my favorite part of the book is the revelation of the connection between Jana and the visiting doctor, I think the most important part is the depiction of a person’s strength of character, that unimaginable will to survive and that seemingly irrational sense of optimism, hanging on that thin thread of hope that, somehow somewhere, he or she will be reunited with his/her loved one.
Needless to say I enjoyed this book a lot. However, I would appreciate additional information on some characters. The way they were dismissed from the book made me feel a little incomplete. Moreover, the ending, though satisfying, felt kind of ‘rushed’ to me. Finally, I noticed some errors within the entire book which are thankfully very few.
I, therefore, rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. It is touching, inspiring and suspenseful. I recommend it to readers of historical fiction, suspense and romance. Some scenes of violence and abuse, however, may not be suitable for young readers.
The Golden Peacock
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