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Castles Burning: A Child's Life in War
by Magda Denes
There are few figures in literature as riveting as the precocious nine-year-old Magda Denes who narrates this story. Her stubborn self-command and irrepressible awareness of the absurd make her in her mother's eyes "impossibly sarcastic, bigmouthed, insolent, and far too smart" for her own good. When her family goes into hiding from the fascist Arrow-Cross, she is torn fro ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published March 19th 1998 by Simon & Schuster
(first published January 1st 1997)
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Jun 29, 2014 Kalliope rated it 4 of 5 stars · review of another edition
Dr. Magda Dénes, a Psychoanalyst and Psychotherapist practicing in NY, passed away suddenly at the end of 1996, aged 62. Her autobiographical Castles Burning was due to be published a couple of months later.
The book begins in 1939 in Budapest, as Magda’s father leaves for the US and abandons his family. They were a wealthy Jewish family of four. The narration advances fast onto March 1944 when the Nazis, who were already losing the war, occupied the city to prevent Hungary from changing sides. C ...more
Magda Denes was a Jewish child in Hungary during World War II. These are reminiscences (as opposed to a diary) of hiding in abominable quarters, hunger, escape, the kindness and cruelty of strangers and acquaintances alike, and the loss of family members. When people encourage me to attend horror movies, I suggest they read this book instead: nothing I've ever seen in a film horrifies me as much as what these people and this child suffered.
This book leaped off the shelf at the library last Monday and yelled, "I'm next!" So happy for books to find me like that. This is the story of a Hungarian-Jewish girl who survives World War II, but not in a concentration camp. It is not a depressing story; it is funny in many places.
I found this book extremely moving and honest. The thing that really makes it stand out from other books set during the holocaust is that its such a vivid, at times even hilarious account of childhood. With the horrific and crazy events turning her family's life upside down we get a child's reaction to these events and her indignant, persistent desire to be treated like a human being and to evolve. One senses that the author avoids giving her account the tone of an adult recalling her childhood ...more
An amazingly readable book about a very dark time in Europe's history. Denes recounts her life as a Jewish child in Budapest in the 1940s, from the days leading up to the war to the darkest moments in hiding. She somehow manages to make the book lighthearted at points, showing that even in times of war there is still humanity and love. A truly inspirational book with lots of passages I highlighted and plan to re-read for inspiration.
I loved this book which I read to get some sense of Budapest as we were getting ready to travel there. It is a Holocaust Memorial but it is such a delightful and heartfelt perspective from a child grieving terrible losses that it made me wish the author would write a sequel.
Excellent book with a disappointing ending. Magda ends her story with her arrival in Cuba but that is far from the end of her troubles. Getting out of Cuba and into the U.S. would seem like a better ending but we don't know what happened after she arrived in Cuba.
A great literary adventure through the eyes of a precocious child, who likes to tell it like it is. I always have respect for any person who has that quality and Magda is no exception. A tale of heroism, survival, betrayal, and coping.