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Blooms of Darkness: A Novel

3.4 of 5 stars 3.40  ·  rating details  ·  253 ratings  ·  53 reviews
A new novel from the award-winning, internationally acclaimed Israeli writer ("One of the greatest writers of the age" —The Guardian), a haunting, heartbreaking story of love and loss.

The ghetto in which the Jews have been confined is being liquidated by the Nazis, and eleven-year-old Hugo is brought by his mother to the local brothel, where one of the prostitutes has agre
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Hardcover, 288 pages
Published March 9th 2010 by Schocken (first published January 1st 2006)
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Mike
Dec 30, 2011 Mike rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Mike by: NY Times Book Review
Aharon Appelfeld's Blooms of Darkness, Waiting for the tick of the clock...

Aharon Appelfeld born February 16, 1932, was transported at the age of eight to a concentration camp along with his father. His mother was murdered by members of the Romanian army when their village was raided. Appelfeld's hometown became a part of the Ukraine following the end of WWII.

After three years of captivity, Appelfeld escaped the camp and joined the Soviet Army, serving as a cook. Following a year in a camp for d
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Lisa
Aharon Appelfeld is the author of more than forty books and has received numerous awards, but I had never heard of him until this novel, Blooms of Darkness, was nominated for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. It’s a sombre work, because it deals with the Holocaust, but it’s beautiful all the same, because although Ukraine has never yet conducted any investigation into its known Nazi collaborators, Appelfeld’s story holds no bitterness or blame. He has chosen instead to focus his story on an ...more
Barbara
Feb 24, 2014 Barbara rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Barbara by: Mike
I cannot comment on this book without comparing it to another which I recently read,Clara's War . Both deal with the Holocaust and each relates the unbelievable experience of spending the war in hiding. Each is the tale of a wasted childhood. Clara's story, a non-fiction, is derived from diaries which she compiled while in concealment with her family and others. Hugo, in Blooms of Darkness: A Novelmakes some half-hearted attempts to also do so, but never quite achieves his goal.

Hugo, the son of
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Anna
Escaping the ghetto 11-year-old Hugo is left by his mother in the local brothel, where Mariana, one of the prostitutes, has agreed to hide him. Mariana is a bitterly unhappy woman who hates what she has done to her life, and night after night Hugo sits in her closet and listens uncomprehendingly as she rages at the Nazi soldiers who come and go. Quickly the two become fiercely protective of each other and, as her life spirals downwards, Mariana reaches out for consolation to the adoring boy who ...more
Jill
It is not unusual to compare a Holocaust-themed book with other excellent fictional works from that time period. So it was interesting that the one book that sprung to mind after closing the pages of completing Blooms of Darkness was Cervantes’ Don Quixote.

The parallels between the two abound. Don Quixote—in the traditions of knights-errant of old – finds a love whom he names Dulcinea…or “sweetness.” She is not rich or famous or beautiful or well-born, but to him, she is his queen and his lady.
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Mark Staniforth
It will come as no surprise to scholars of contemporary Hebrew literature Aharon Appelfeld's latest novel and his first to be translated into English, Blooms of Darkness (pub. Alma Books) which has been longlisted for this year's Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, concerns the Holocaust.
Appelfeld, 78, has written more than forty works of fiction, broadly on a similar theme. He makes no apologies for this. Appelfeld himself escaped from a Nazi concentration camp in 1941, and hid out in a forest w
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Janet Meissner
11 year old Hugo's mother gives him to her high school friend to hide him. Mariana is a whore servicing Nazi soldiers who constantly jeopardizes her job by drunkenly refusing to do some of the demands of her customers. But she loves her "puppy", Hugo, whom she hides in her closet. This novel takes place in the Ukraine and is told in a very matter-of-fact way, probably due to the translation. When the Russians took over from the Germans, I was surprised that there was a small crowd of others who ...more
Víctor Sampayo
En un gueto ucraniano, Hugo, un niño de once años, es salvado del exterminio nazi cuando su madre lo envía al cuidado de Mariana, una prostituta que lo oculta en la casa de citas donde trabaja. Hugo no sabe bien qué es lo que sucede en esas calles en las que antes viviera y a las que ya no tiene acceso, pero las conversaciones que Mariana mantiene con los soldados con los que ejerce su oficio le irán ilustrando las persecuciones, deportaciones y matanzas de su pueblo. Y entre su soledad y sus re ...more
Stewart
This novel traces the life of Hugo, an 11-year-old Jewish boy from an unnamed city in Ukraine near what is now Slovakia, under German occupation 1943-45. He and his mother escape from the city through the sewer system one night, evading German soldiers searching house to house looking for Jews to deport to concentration camps. He is hidden in a closet with his mother's longtime friend Mariana, who, we learn, is a prostitute working in a bordello. There is the constant danger of discovery. The G ...more
Jim
Escaping the ghetto 11-year-old Hugo is left by his mother in the local brothel, where Mariana, one of the prostitutes, has agreed to hide him. Mariana is a bitterly unhappy woman who hates what she has done to her life, and night after night Hugo sits in her closet and listens uncomprehendingly as she rages at the Nazi soldiers who come and go. Quickly the two become fiercely protective of each other and, as her life spirals downwards, Mariana reaches out for consolation to the adoring boy who ...more
Emily
First of all, this author is the cutest person I have EVER seen. He's the sweetest little old man that I just want to squeeze! Ok, now that's over. I picked this book up b/c I read some article saying how so many great books are written in other languages that us mono-lingual Americans never get to read, so I thought I would put more effort into reading translated works. This actually won some best translated book award - and its from Israel! So that's neat. So yes, another Holocaust book but ma ...more
Judith
I've said it before and I will say it again: I am not reading one more book on the Holocaust!! How do these books keep creeping back into my book list? And, yes, okay, I did like it. The story is about a Jewish boy on the cusp of adolescence who is taken by his well-educated professional mother to be hidden by an old school friend of hers who is a prostitute living in a brothel. The boy has to live in the woman's closet at night while she entertains German soldiers in her bedroom. When they leav ...more
JJ Aitken
I have always, and I think I always will, seek out stories from this period of our history. This man’s ability to portray the otherwise indescribable loss, grief and courage of these characters, makes him in my eye the most valuable chronicler of the holocaust. After reading a novel by Aharon Appelfeld I am lost for weeks when trying to find another book.
Maxine
This is Holocaust fiction, but not as I've known it. It's a coming-of-age novel that happens to take place during the Holocaust; 12 year old Hugo isn't all too aware of what's happening and where his family and friends have disappeared to. He seems overly innocent, even though he lives in a brothel and is seduced by a prostitute. He doesn't indicate to what extent he knows what she does and what the noises he can hear at night indicate, and he doesn't express all of his feelings towards his sedu ...more
Amie
"Whores and Jews are always persecuted. There's nothing to be done."

In this powerfully emotional novel set in Germany during World War II, Hugo, an eleven year-old Jewish boy, is forced to hide for nearly two years in a closet in a brothel. Distracted only by memories of his good and loving mother and the complicated and twisted emotions of Mariana, the beautiful prostitute charged with his protection, Hugo is forced to find his true self as he comes of age during the most difficult of circumsta
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Lorri
Blooms of Darkness, by Aharon Appelfeld is a compelling and haunting novel that takes place during the Holocaust. The protagonist is an eleven-year old Jewish boy named Hugo. The ghetto he and his family live in is being evacuated by transports, on a a daily basis. His father has been sent away.

Blooms of Darkness is more than a dark story line, and it is haunting in its intensity due to the masterful writing of Appelfeld. It is a stark coming of age story, and one of sexual awakening.

Appelfeld
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Hillel Damron
In spite of some reservations I have as to the reality of certain descriptions and situations, which at times I felt were flat and made it difficult to fully immersed and believe in the story being told, I was finally won over. It is a unique, well... "love story" between a mature Ukrainian prostitute and the Jewish boy she was intrusted in hiding during the Holocaust, at times touching, at times hard to believe. At the end, though, I couldn't but get emotionally involved in this tale of lost ch ...more
Gail
This Israeli novel set in WW2 Ukraine is the story of young Hugo, whose mother leaves him with her childhood friend as the Nazis round up the Jew in the ghetto. The friend, now a prostitute, protects Hugo as she plies her occupation with the German soldiers. Their relationship is well developed and unusual. As the war ends, they flee the brothel, but are still not safe since Mariana is viewed as a collaborator. Even though I was gripped by the story and the characters, the novel felt a bit plodd ...more
Suvojit
A very interesting read about a boy and his feelings for a woman who never quite becomes his mother or his love interest, set in the gruesome times of the holocaust. Appelfeld writes it well and blends in his own experiences to create an experience like no other.
Diana
I feel terrible saying this but this book was like reading something written by a perverted teenager. It had potential to be good; a young boy being hidden by a prostitute. It sounds intriguing but it was just so odd. I felt like the same 10 sentences were recycled for each chapter. They all spoke like robots. Spoiler* not sure how Mariana caring for Hugo meant she should corrupt him and have sex with him. I hope something was lost in translation.
Rod
There should be something between 3 and 4 stars...There was much I liked about this book; a simple, straightforward description of how people adapt to dreadful circumstances. My only criticism was that sometimes the boy's dreams seemed set up to comment on what he was going through, but they hardly seemed like something he would be imagining. A minor problem in a powerfully grim story of the Holocaust...may we never grow used to these tales.
Allyson
I did not much like this book- had read a review which i thought was favorable in the NY Times, but this was really nothing special. It might have been the translation but the writing was very stilted, same repetitive sequences of thoughts. The idea was intriguing, a boy hidden by a prostitute for a year and a half, but really it could have been so much more and sadly was very little.
Only attribute was it was a fast read-
Michale
The much anticipated final book in the "Fablehaven" series was a bit disappointing. Mull vowed to keep his series to 5 books, but the result was a book that was too jam packed with material that could have been fleshed out nicely in an additional volume. Still, maybe Gabe and I are just upset that the series is over. I liked book number 2 the best.
Michelle
ugh. so disappointing. there's a good story in there, but the way it's written is so annoying! i wonder how much was lost in the translation - the fact that the whole book is in short, choppy sentences is unbearable! and that one of the main characters constantly refers to herself in the third person - aaarrrggghhhh!!!
Torey
recommended for anyone interested in literature of the holocaust--how the holocaust is represented in fiction.
i'm somewhat troubled by the molestation of Hugo. it seems a bit gratuitous. the easy explanation is that it serves as a metaphor for his stolen youth & innocence, but, again, that seems gratuitous.
Brigitte
I am in awe of this author. What a book! I found the starred review in Library Journal and it did not disappoint. The language, the people, the locale - everything pulled me in and I couldn't stop reading. I finished with tears in my eyes and a stirring in my soul. I will definitely read more from this author!
Pauline Genee


Holocaust door de ogen van een 11 jarige joodse jongen. Prachtig gebruik van dromen als vluchtoord voor de niet te bevatten werkelijkheid. Maar ook daar is de realiteit helaas toch nooit helemaal weg. De vriendschap met zijn redster Mariana, vrouw van lichte zeden, is ingewikkeld maar ontroerend.
Joel
A book about the Holocaust, this is an unusual story. A boy is left with the close friend of his mother's - a prostitute in a brothel - in order to protect him. It's a coming of age story (of course things occur between them) and a story of self-loathing and ultimately, redemption.
James
Bleak and dry - but what do you expect from Nazi literature? A fast-paced, addictive read but in the end it failed to live up to expectations style wise. Interesting plot, nonetheless, involving a prostitute who hides a Jewish boy, for one and a half years in her closet.
Barbara
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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AHARON APPELFELD is the author of more than forty works of fiction and nonfiction, including Until the Dawn's Light and The Iron Tracks (both winners of the National Jewish Book Award) and The Story of a Life (winner of the Prix Médicis Étranger). Other honors he has received include the Giovanni Bocaccio Literary Prize, the Nelly Sachs Prize, the Israel Prize, the Bialik Prize, the Independent Fo ...more
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“Había días en que las pesadillas lo perseguían, y por la mañana se levantaba y no recordaba nada. Ya había aprendido que un sueño que se olvida por la mañana no desaparece, se esconde y escarba en secreto, y que hay sueños olvidados que salen a la superficie en mitad del día.” 0 likes
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