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Hannah and Emil

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  127 ratings  ·  28 reviews
Based on the lives of the author's own grandparents, Hannah & Emil is a remarkable story of enduring love set against the backdrop of World War II.

As post-World War I Germany heads toward collapse, Emil finds himself clashing with the political forces gaining ascendency. Hannah, a Russian Jew in the West End of London, leaves home for Europe. In Brussels, working for the t
Paperback, 410 pages
Published August 1st 2012 by Allen & Unwin Australia (first published January 1st 2012)
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Average rating 3.50  · 
Rating details
 ·  127 ratings  ·  28 reviews

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Debbie Robson
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It only happens rarely (at least for me) that I actually live through a book rather than read it. We quickly lose the sense that this is a book we are reading and begin to live through the characters in the book. Only two other books apart from Hannah & Emil come to mind that have had that effect on me. The first was The Fortunes of Richard Mahoney - an enormous book that I read whilst I was pregnant and became very depressed as I realised I was near to finishing the epic saga and wouldn’t have ...more
Nov 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ozzie-gems
It is inevitable that there will be comparisons between this book and another aussies recent release All That I Am by Anna Funder. both revive the persecution of social and political activists and Jewish people. Both stories are partly tolled through the memories of older women and both involve Syndey. but thats were the similarities end with history being the basic thread of Funders story but is only a background to the imagined love story of Castles paternal Grandparents.

The story goes of Hann
Jul 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Firstly, I should say that I was very excited to receive this book preview from the publisher, Allen & Unwin. Having worked with displaced persons from WW2 in the past who had shared their amazing stories with me, I was looking forward to reading this love story spanning nearly the entire 20th century and based on the life of the author’s grandparents.

The story opens in Sydney, 2005: Flora, newly pregnant and starting her married life in Australia, receives an old suitcase in the mail, left to h
Shelleyrae at Book'd Out

Hannah and Emil is a novel pieced together from real letters, diaries and family lore, interspersed with the vivid imagination of the author. Based on the lives of Belinda Castles' grandparents, it relates a remarkable story of courage, love, loss and longing.

Told in alternating first person and third person chapters, advancing the years from 1902 to 1972, the novel traces the remarkable story of Emil, a working class German forced to flee his homeland, leaving his family behind, as the Nazi pa
Jane Rose
Nov 15, 2019 rated it liked it
An interesting saga about two people who meet in preWorld War 2 Berlin and fall in love. We follow their challenges to be together. I had difficulty connecting with their love story - I just couldn’t understand the spark when they met at a conference that fired their love story
Bronwyn Mcloughlin
Sep 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
It's a great story, well told and not overly sentimentalised. It serves as a reminder of the dehumanizing effect generalsing history has on people - Emil is a veteran of WWI but German. He and many others have the insight to see the horrendousness of what will come of the culmination of Nazism in German society. He sees what happens to his socialist colleagues, realizes what has happened when his father is disappeared, and escapes to Britain. For me, the most horrific thing, is when Hans comes t ...more
Jan 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
An interesting choice for holiday reading, because on the one hand it’s crossover literary/commercial in style but on the other the topic is rather sombre.

In the introduction, Belinda Castles (who won the 2006 Vogel) says that it’s a fictionalisation of her grandparents’ lives. It is the sad tale of a couple tossed about by events of the 20th century: Emil by his experiences in WW1, by his struggle against fascism in Germany, his escape to the UK, from where he was shipped to Australia when WW2
Aug 29, 2014 rated it liked it
Quite interesting historical material. I had not known about the German refugee internment camps in Australia before reading this book. Emil certainly leads a dangerous and intriguing life, and Hannah is an admirably assertive woman. But the characters don't really come close ---they are always at a remove, a distance for the reader because the writing style has a sort of stiffness to it, as though it were a translation. And the pacing of the narrative is uneven, sometimes going on way too long. ...more
Sep 17, 2012 rated it liked it
Hannah & Emil is a different than usual romantic war story. Hannah, a Russian Jew living in London and Emil a German war vet who escapes Germany before WW2. They briefly make a life together before Emil is interned as an enemy alien and sent to Australia. The story was done well in telling the plight of the displaced and suffering people before WW2.

I must say though I sadly didn’t connect with Hannah as I found her feelings were not displayed so I didn’t really feel her connection with Emil an
Oct 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not your typical stereotype romance story.

The touching story starts opens in Sydney 2005, where Flora is starting her married life in Australia. She received an old suitcase in the mail, left to her by Hannah, her grandmother. The contents tell the story of Hannah's life, as well as her late husband, Emil.

Hannah's story told in the first person and Emil in the third person, follows their lives before their meeting, their lives during the war, and their lives after the war.
Jun 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I found it hard to put this book down!
Bronwyn Hegarty
Dec 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
a moving story - both a love story and an account of social injustice and war. Well worth the read. The passages jumped around a little within chapters but it added a certain quirkiness to the plot.
Oct 19, 2017 rated it liked it
A sad, yet beautiful story of Hannah, a Russian Jew who grew up in England and Emil, a German socialist who fought in WW1 then escaped as the Nazis came into power. Although I loved parts of this novel I was frustrated by the rapid shift through time and the big gaps in their lives - I wanted more! Also I'm still wondering, did Emil shoot himself in the foot during the war so he wouldn't have to fight anymore??? ...more
Jul 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
I loved this story for the historical background, amongst other things, giving an understanding about those who tried to stand up to National Socialism in Germany in the years leading up to WWII. It was also interesting to hear about the life of young women like Hannah, following a non traditional path, travelling and working in Europe in the 1920's and 30's. there was also the story of the Dunera Boys and descriptions of life in the internment camps in Hay and Tatura. Living near Tatura, this w ...more
Nov 17, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: historical
A novel based on the experiences of the author's grandparents. It traces their lives from Germany in 1902 through dislocations and travels to Europe and England to escape persecution from anti-semitism and anti-communism. They eventually meet in England but are separated as Emil is transported on the Dunera to Australia, where they eventually reunite. At the end of WW11, returning soldiers claim their jobs and they are forced to return to England. The novel is told in alternating chapters, first ...more
Apr 24, 2014 rated it liked it
It took three attempts to engage with this book. While I love historical wartime novels this one was challenging to get stuck into when busy with work. Once I had more time to delve into the Mix of first and second person narrative I could not put the book down. A different perspective through interesting characters. Well worth the read.
Newtown Review of Books
Apr 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
This is a novel with a big canvas, generous in its sweep through the twentieth century. Much of the material is familiar, but through Hannah’s and Emil’s eyes it retains its freshness. Belinda Castles is particularly good at capturing her characters’ emotional states.

Read the full review here:
Jan 04, 2013 rated it did not like it
The start was great, and I thought it was going to be a great read. But, I didn't like how it progressed. I thought that the author didn't put enough details into important parts, and too much detail into not important parts. Also I didn't like the pace ...more
Claire Holman
Nov 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Thoroughly enjoyable. Well written, and absorbing narrative.
Nov 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I registered a book at!
Nat Emmington
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Great read loved it.
Steven Austin
Sep 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
An epic story, so beautifully written...highly recommended
Sandra Varghese
This was only one book I have ever stopped reading, in the middle. It was literally painful, PAINFUL. Maybe this genre is not my cup of tea.
May 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I adored this book. Well written and an interesting story. Thumbs up!
I was looking forward to this book but it ended up being a bit boring and seemed to skip explanations for things at times.
Kate Irish
Dec 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
This started off a little slowly but I became quickly absorbed in it. Thoroughly enjoyed it
Sep 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: war-stories
A bit slow moving and felt like I missed the deep connection between main characters
Jay Aronson
rated it really liked it
Mar 22, 2015
Terina Manley
rated it really liked it
Jan 28, 2018
rated it it was ok
Nov 18, 2012
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