Book Review//The Light After the War

The Light After the War by Anita Abriel

Goodreads Synopsis:

It is 1946 when Vera Frankel and her best friend Edith Ban arrive in Naples. Refugees from Hungary, they managed to escape from a train headed for Auschwitz and spent the rest of the war hiding on an Austrian farm. Now, the two young women must start new lives abroad. Armed with a letter of recommendation from an American officer, Vera finds work at the United States embassy where she falls in love with Captain Anton Wight.

But as Vera and Edith grapple with the aftermath of the war, so too does Anton, and when he suddenly disappears, Vera is forced to change course. Their quest for a better life takes Vera and Edith from Naples to Ellis Island to Caracas as they start careers, reunite with old friends, and rebuild their lives after terrible loss.

Moving, evocative, and compelling, this timely tale of true friendship, love, and survival will stay with you long after you turn the final page. 

Published: February 4, 2020

Buy from: [Amazon] [Book Depository]

My Thoughts

**I received this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review**

I requested this novel from NetGalley because of the Hungarian characters, and the setting which I thought would primarily occur in Budapest. My dad is from Budapest and I still have family in Hungary which I visited for the first time in 2017. I recently became more interested in reading literature regarding Hungary, specifically Budapest. I was looking for ways to connect to my heritage, and to find out more about Budapest and Hungary during World War II.

Budapest Opera House

There was abundant focus on men and romance by the two main protagonists, this quickly grew tiresome and began to irk me. Vera and Edith were the most annoying characters I have read thus far. I found the romance to overshadow the trauma both these women faced, there was the same flashbacks repeated and re-worded throughout the novel.

I felt that the trauma and personal experiences of Vera and Edith were brushed over and were not the main focus of the story. There was one glimpse of trauma that we saw from Vera when she was waiting near the port outside of Caracas. She experienced a flashback when she was in Budapest being herded onto a cattle car destined for Auschwitz. Vera was contradictory towards Edith when it came to love and men. She kept telling Edith to be careful, but then she married a man whom she met after a couple of months while still longing for another man who left her. Vera kept telling Edith to be careful around men, how they only want sex, and how not to get involved too quickly.

Statue of Queen Elisabeth Sissi 

A lot of what happened to Edith and Vera seemed to be from pure luck and coincidence, it felt too far-fetched to be something that actually happened to them. This novel almost felt too light and carefree for the subject matter. I feel like Abriel brushed over what the Jewish community endured during World War II. This novel glossed it all over. I expected to see more flashbacks, to see how Edith and Vera and their family struggled during the Nazi occupation of Budapest, I expected more hardships than they endured but I did not receive any of that from this novel.

The one thing that the synopsis was accurate about was the friendship between Vera and Edith. Vera and Edith seemed like the definition of best friends – doing everything together and living across the hall from one another in their apartment in Budapest. However, I felt like Vera and Edith were one dimensional as there was no character development, they fell into the same habits in the new countries they went to. I felt like I was reading the same character as from the beginning of the novel. I quickly grew tired of Edith as she seemed to have no care in the world, and Vera was constantly taking care of her.

Buda Castle at night

The plot of this novel seemed to be structured around each city they visited; it seemed very episodic and lacked a flow between them. I felt like each city was not connected to the next and were strung together very loosely. It seemed that Abriel was not sure where she wanted this story to go, I kept hoping for more: more substance from Vera, some character development from Edith, a plot that didn’t revolve around them looking for men or for romance, a plot that helped them to heal from the trauma that they endure. Sadly, I did not gain any of that.

All I took from this novel was disappointment which is why I gave this novel 2/5cups of tea. I was being generous with this rating as I wanted to give it a 1, but the mention of Hungarian cuisine and the places bumped it to a 2. I have included some picture of Budapest when I went in 2017 with my sister. I am currently saving up money so I can go with some friends in the near future. I also need to practice my almost non-existent Hungarian.

3 thoughts on “Book Review//The Light After the War

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