Wednesday, February 27, 2008

My Enemy's Cradle

I picked up Sara Young’s My Enemy’s Cradle after reading a review in USA Today a few weeks ago. The book centers around the Nazi Lebensborn, and I was intrigued.

Despite inundating myself with “Third Reich” literature over the last several years, I’d never before heard of the Lebensborn, homes for women impregnated (both willingly and unwillingly) by German soldiers.

Fair-haired Cyrla, the book’s protagonist, has a Dutch mother and a Polish-Jewish father. For five years, she lives with her mother’s family in the Netherlands and hides her Jewish ancestry. When the family receives threats for harboring a Jew, though, Cyrla knows she must flee.

Cyrla (Young doesn’t explain the name’s pronunciation—Curla—until well into the novel; unpronounceable names is one of my literary pet peeves) assumes her cousin’s identity and takes refuge in a Lebensborn.

The premise of this book is intriguing, and I have a strong desire to read more about the Lebensborn. Rather than a historical narrative, though, the book reads more like a predictable romance novel.

As a romance novel, I enjoyed Cradle. I was interested in Cyrla and her romantic entanglements. I wanted a happy ending and even shed a few tears.

As a Holocaust narrative, though, the book leaves much to be desired. Young’s tale romanticizes the time period. Although it refers to the horrors and atrocities committed during WWII and the Holocaust, the book glosses over these passages. Instead, it concentrates more on Cyrla’s love life and less on the truly perilous situation she and her family members find themselves in.

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