'The Earth is Singing' Reviews

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The Lovereading comment:

February 2015 Book of the Month  Of the many stories of the Holocaust, that of the Jews of Riga in Latvia is among the less well known. This book tells their story for young people, clearly and honestly, emphasising its importance and relevance to us all. Discovering that her great-grandmother had come from Riga in the early 1900s inspired Vanessa Curtis to find out what happened to those relatives who stayed: Jewish, their fate was the worst imaginable. She describes those terrible times through the eyes of 15 year old Hanna, a normal, lively teenager, with a handsome boyfriend. Readers will find it easy to identify with Hanna, which makes her account of what happens to her even more affecting. The story ends on a note of hope for Hanna, and is a powerful tribute to all the Latvian victims of the Nazis. 

The Earth is Singing is Vanessa’s first historical novel, which she was inspired to write when she discovered her own Jewish Latvian heritage. ~ Andrea Reece


Karen Irvani – Mother/Founder/Principal
(2013: Winner of Oxfordshire Community & Voluntary Action
award for “Inspirational and dedicated work”)

Unlike my carefree childhood and adolescence, I'm very rarely able to escape into a book these days. Most of my reading is the Bible which is essential and what with being mom, wife and then doing my day-job (Marketing) and running my voluntary Autism group, Parents Talking Asperger's, time is tight.  But my “lost weekend” was anything but lost.

I read, from start to finish, The Earth is Singing (Usborne/27th January 2015) by Vanessa Curtis. I needed to re-set my heart before writing a review because it was one, such a compelling read and two, it both touched and tormented my soul. 

The Earth is Singing is a story of past times, but equally a story for current times where people are ripped apart and alienated for their belief in God. Where people's homes are wrecked and the streets they've walked all of their lives bear no resemblance to the familiar, beloved landmarks they've always known. Where humans take joy in obscene crimes against their fellow humans, brainwashed by a manic movement. The parallels with right now resonate horribly. 

It all started so warmly. Fifteen-year-old Hanna dances through her days practising her ballet moves and dreaming of performing at Opera one day; around marrying her true love Uldis. She can see so clearly their bright blue-eyed children with their father’s chiselled cheekbones and their mother’s “I have decided” strength of character. Apart from Papa being taken by the Soviets and having to leave their beautiful villa with the cherry-tree-filled garden, Mama and Omama (Grandmother) were her family and she knew that Papa was still alive. She had decided.

Then the canker of human recoil, cruelty and persecution descended. One day at the ballet bar her best friend Velna spat out literally the words “dirty jew” and Hanna’s world as she knew it crashed to the ground. Trying to make sense of it by reasoning that she was only half-Jew because her Father was Latvian, Hanna traversed shame, denial, more shame and eventually pride in being just who she was. 

Through it all though, there is a glowing light of human love between complete strangers who in the utmost, awful adversity, become family in seconds. Max. Sascha. Lina. The Unnamed Boy Who Passed Her Note. Some of the demeaning and unfathomable trials which Hanna survived is all the more horrific because they are based on fact. Facts around the author’s ancestral Latvian family. I’d really like to know if Papa was alive. If he knew that his “little songbird” stayed alive to tell their story. Did Max survive? Did the early awareness of potential love ever come to be? Did Hanna ever reclaim the streets of her childhood as her own? Did Velna ever regret her cruelty of abandoned friendship? So many questions which I’d love to be answered in a sequel…

This book will stay with me for the rest of my life. My almost-thirteen-year old girl is also reading it even though it’s essentially a Young Adult read. She is studying the Holocaust at school and is well versed in and fascinated by Anne Frank's plight, spirit and legacy and wants to understand more about how other girls like her lived in those terror-filled times. I've warned her there will be pages where she won't be able to read for tears. "I need to read it, Mom." She does, and she will.
~ Karen Irvani


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