Wednesday, September 24, 2008

REVIEW: The Pages in Between: A Holocaust Legacy of Two Families, One Home, by Erin Einhorn

The Pages in Between: A Holocaust Legacy of Two Families, One Home, by Erin Einhorn. Published 2008 by Simon & Schuster. Nonfiction. Memoir.

The Pages in Between is a memoir by a young woman named Erin Einhorn, a journalist by trade, who decides to visit Poland, the country where her mother Irene (nee Irena) was born and hidden with a Polish Catholic family during the Holocaust. The book tracks Einhorn's extended visit to Poland and Sweden (where her mother also lived as a hidden child), where she discovers that the Polish family who hid her mother still lives in what used to be her family home. This discovery leads to protracted legal manoeuvrings over the house, and to other discoveries about her mother, her mother's family and her mother's journey to America.

It's a fascinating memoir, and Einhorn packs in so much. There is a major upheaval in the family about one-third of the way through Einhorn's journey which has a tremendous impact on Einhorn and forces her re-examine her motives for embarking on the project in the first place. In the midst of all of these discoveries and dramas, Erin makes friends, falls in love, experiences self-doubt, and gets to know the Polish family and herself as well.

As a professional journalist Einhorn brings solid writing and research skills to the project. I was amazed at all the work she does, digging through archives, battling Polish post-Communist bureaucracy, working contacts on three continents and navigating a legal system that barely merits the name as she restores her family history and attempts to disentangle the knots around the family property. She writes in a straightforward, energetic style that kept me interested and turning the pages. It helps that she spends time on her personal relationships with the young Poles with whom she lives, and that she is honest with her readers about some of the less flattering aspects of her personality- it keeps her human and relatable. Passages about modern-day Poland its relationship to Jewish culture were unexpected and fascinating. And there's more- Einhorn's stormy relationship with her mother, her mother's own painful childhood, and family stories going back generations. Einhorn weaves it all together beautifully.

It's no surprise to say that The Pages in Between would appeal to readers interested in the Holocaust, Poland, survivor stories and post-Holocaust reckoning and reconciliation. It's also a great book about families and mothers and daughters. It's a terrific entry in what will certainly be a growing body of work as children of survivors write their family stories. Check it out!

Click here to read my interview with Erin!

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from the publisher.


Florinda said...

Thanks for the informative review. I was just offered a review copy of this book and am looking forward to reading it!

Michele said...

Great review...guess my wish list just grew a bit. Anything that examines the mother-daughter relationship well is sure to be a great book.

Serena said...

I think this is another for the to-read list! Thanks again for another great review!

Shana said...

Marie, wow, this sounds like a great book.

I enjoy reading about WWII, the Holocaust, etc.

It is always difficult but at the same time mesmerizing and I always leave feeling like I've learned something valuable about human nature.


Tara said...

I just read this and will review it soon - I also liked it.

Anna said...

Not sure enjoy is the right word, but I tend to gravitate toward books about WWII and the Holocaust. I'll definitely be reading this one at some point. Great review!

--Anna (Diary of an Eccentric)