Throwback Thursday involves me picking a book I’ve previously read to talk about, today I’m going to discuss Lovely Green Eyes by Arnost Lustig.
(Read from 13th August – 16th August 2015)
She has hair of ginger and lovely green eyes, and she has just been transported with her family from Terezin to Auschwitz. In short order, her father commits suicide, and her mother and younger brother are dispatched to the gas chambers, but 15 year old Hanka Kaudersova is still alive. Faced with the choice of certain death in the camp or working in a German military brothel on the eastern front, she chooses a chance at life. Passing as an Aryan, Hanka’s days in the brothel are full of cold and hunger, fear and shame. She is sustained by her loathing of the men who visit her and by a fierce, indomitable will to live. This devastatingly beautiful novel soars beyond the nightmare to leave the reader with a transcendent sense of hope.
I found Lovely Green Eyes in a charity shop & it was the first novel I read about World War 2 that was from a Jewish perspective. I started to read this book on the way back from London on the train & it’s a good thing that my stop was the last one of the journey otherwise I definitely would’ve ended up miles from home!
I read this book when I had only just started getting into books in the way I am now, & I think it’s probably one of the books that made me fall in love with reading. This story is a very deep & emotional one that has stayed with me for nearly 2 years (although it’s on my immediate to-read list as I really want to read it again).
After losing her family to the gas chambers, Hanka experiences a case of mistaken identity whilst in Auschwitz, as she doesn’t look how the Nazi’s expected a Jewish girl to look – her fire-red hair & emerald green eyes save her life. Instead, Hanka ends up working in a brothel that serves the German military. Hanka has to endure some horrific things, physically & emotionally, & we get to see how strong a girl can be in a hideous situation. This book gets very deep & gritty at times, & certainly wasn’t an easy read.
This is a brutally honest book written by someone who had firsthand experience of Auschwitz & it leaves the reader haunted. I cried a lot because of this book & it will always be on my bookshelves.
This is a book that I think many people could do with reading – it isn’t as easy read & I in no way would want someone to read this book if some of the themes trigger anxiety or PTSD, but I think books like this are so important in educating people of what went on in our world’s history. This particular story may not be true, but there were moments when I totally forgot that fact because of how excellent the writing is. If you’d like to read the book you can find it here:
Please be warned that Lovely Green Eyes includes scenes of violence, murder, rape, emotional abuse & anti-semitism; like I said, it’s a difficult read but an important one.