Jennifer's Reviews > How Huge the Night

How Huge the Night by Heather Munn
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's review
Jun 12, 11

bookshelves: historical-fiction, read-in-2011, received-in-2011, received-for-review, ya
Read from May 10 to 15, 2011

Julien Losier is a typical fifteen year old boy. He just wants to fit in. When Hitler invades Poland during World War II, his family moves from Paris to his father’s childhood home in Tanieux, in southern France, where they will be safer. The village boys call him names and won’t give him the time of day. Things get worse when Julien’s family takes in a German Jewish boy named Benjamin, who is Julien’s age. Any thoughts of Julien fitting in now are rapidly diminishing.

Concurrently, in Austria, Nina and Gustav are tending to their father on his death bed. In his final instructions, he tells them to burn their papers and leave Austria. If at all possible they should try to get to France. Their story is one of heartache and perseverance. The daily struggle just to survive is enormous. They face a battle at every turn, not knowing who can be trusted and uncertain of what their future will hold.

It’s no secret that I love historical fiction centered around World War II. This is the first novel that I’ve read that takes place in France during that time period. This is also only the second book I’ve read from the viewpoint of a teenager during this war. The other one being The Book Thief, a classic and in a category all its own.

This book was a bit slow to start for me. It wasn’t until 100 pages in that I really started getting into the story and once I hit page 130, I couldn’t put the book down. I think the back cover blurb/Amazon synopsis is a bit misleading. I kept waiting for Julien and Nina to meet. And it takes almost the entire book for this encounter to happen. I found Julien’s relationship with Benjamin to be more of a driving force in the story rather than the Julien/Nina storyline.

Don’t get me wrong. Both Julien’s and Nina’s stories are powerful and will give you a lot to think about. I was just expecting the two of them to meet much sooner than they did and for that relationship to be the driving force for the entire story. And that wasn’t how the story played out. So I was left feeling a little short-changed based on my assumption from the back cover of the book.

With that said, this book is well-written and will keep you on the edge of your seat. The characters are wonderfully drawn and you’ll find yourself really feeling for them as they struggle through this impossibly difficult time in their young lives. I especially loved Julien’s progression throughout the story, from a young boy who is mad at his parents for having to move at the beginning of the book, to a young man fighting for what he believes in by the end. Nina’s character arc is especially saddening, yet hopeful. A young girl, forced to leave her home, traveling on foot in unknown countries. It’s not something I can even imagine. I could feel her desperation, her helplessness, her hopelessness at times. She is a courageous, brave girl.

A strong component of this novel is each character’s faith journey, which I was not expecting, but added such depth to the story. The characters are searching, wondering if there really is a God amidst this horrific war. The faith components fit naturally within the context of the story and did not seem out of place to me. They added so much more to each character.

This is a fabulous novel that I recommend for people of all ages. There is something to be learned for everyone here. The most amazing thing about this book is that it is based on actual events. Tanieux is a fictional town, but it is based on the real village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon. During the war, this small village of 3,000 people in central France saved the lives of more than 3,000 Jewish people. Amazing.

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Reading Progress

05/10/2011 page 9

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