Sad but sweet, Olivia Vriens
Rachel’s Legacy is a story based on a young Jewish girl’s letters to her baby, during WWII. Her letters contain the heartbreaking reality of the treatment of Jews during this time, and also the difficult decision to give her baby up. Rachel did this to keep working in Berlin with the resistance and to “carry out her family’s honor”. Rachel worked for an organisation called The Red Orchestra, an anti-Nazi movement that put their lives on the line to help Jews in hiding. While Rachel’s Legacy is a work of fiction, Thomas greatly reflects the dangers that organisations like this would have had to face daily during the war, and that “no one was safe”.
Intertwined with this is the contemporary story of an art history scholar called Kobi who travels to Germany to study the works of Albrecht Durer. These two worlds collide as Kobi is given Rachel’s letters, letters that could open up a whole new way of life for him.
My first impression was that the book was to be based on a person called Rachel and her life. This was correct, but I was happily surprised to find that the book also included a modern protagonist. It was a nice mix of history and modern day life, and follows the life of both Rachel’s family and Kobi’s. Having these two as the main points of view gives the reader insight into not only the characters, but also the families who were affected by this as well. Thomas builds a strong connection with the characters. Through this, Thomas teaches us the strength of family and how together, they are stronger.
Reading this book makes you want to go up to a family member and hug them.
I personally like it when a book can teach you something, or can make you feel something emotionally towards the themes. As for the language of this book, I felt that the author used formal language, but nothing that was hard to read.
The story was broken into chapters and continually progressed through the book. The information was not crammed into the story, but was thoughtfully placed so you would read a page of Rachel’s letters and learn with Kobi.
I found the pacing of the book easy to keep up with and the information easy to digest. This is important, as history can be difficult to follow along with while reading. I believe this book is aimed at teenagers through to a young adult audience. It is a nice source for history and Thomas structured Rachel’s letters well. Rachel’s letters were based on actual holocaust survivors’ stories.
I thought the modern day character was portrayed fine, but sometimes he used words that you would not hear a modern person saying. For example, Kobi says “shall”. Rachel used “Mama” and “Papa” to describe her parents. Other characters did the same, although they were older men. I found amusing and this personally didn’t bother me.
Overall, I think it is a sad but sweet story. It was strange to think a Jewish girl, probably my age or a bit older, has grown up without family to become a spy. This makes me thankful for the peaceful and secure life I know I am living now, away from a war-torn country. I am amazed to see how Rachel has grown up to maturely see the war as it is, and how she was able to write about it the way she did to her baby. This book is a good read if you love touching war stories mixed with a new one. The clear description of the characters also gives you a feel for what they are like, giving them human characteristics that you will not forget.
Olivia Vriens is 17 years old, and from Island Bay, Wellington.