Jim's Reviews > Blooms of Darkness

Blooms of Darkness by Aharon Appelfeld
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's review
Apr 01, 2012

really liked it
Read in December, 2011

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 is on the cusp of manhood.

Why this book is so powerful is because it deals with the consequences of war without the horrors of war. It’s like a Shakespearian play in that respect; the battles all take place offstage. Appelfeld similarly use elision to great effect. Also he reminds us that life goes on even during wartime. Anne Frank became romantically entangled with the shy and awkward Peter van Pels because he was there and Hugo does the same. So, in some ways the same, but also very different. Whereas Anne writes compulsively, Hugo struggles to write and allows lethargy to overwhelm him.

It’s not an especially literary novel – the chapters are short, the language uncomplicated and it reads quickly – but its approach is certainly different and the experience of reading it is not easily shaken.

You can read my full review on my blog here.

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