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Secret

by Philippe Grimbert

This short but powerfully haunting novel gripped me from the start. It’s the story of Phillip, a shy Jewish boy growing up in France in the years following the invasion of Paris by the Nazis. Through his confidante Rose, we learn of an explosive family secret that turned this timid child into a strong and accepting adult. An excellent read that ends much too soon.

Extract

The film began. For the first time I saw the mountains. Those terrible mountains I had only read about. The reels turned, unwinding the film; the only sound was the whirr of the projector. Slagheaps of shoes, of clothes, great piles of hair and body parts. These weren't extras, or sets, in contrast to the film my mother and I had watched in silence. I would have preferred to lock myself away than look at those images. One of them had me pinned to my seat; a uniformed soldier dragging a woman by one foot and hurling her into an already overflowing pit. This broken body had been a woman. A woman who had gone shopping for clothes, who had admired the elegant lines of her new dress in the mirror. A woman who'd tucked a stray lock of hair back into her bun. Now she was just this broken doll, dragged along like a sack, her back bouncing on the pebbles of the path.
Translated by Polly McLean

Parallels

Memory by Philippe Grimbert
Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally
 

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