The Rabbit Girls by Anna Ellory
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publishing Date: 1st September 2019
Source: Received from the publisher, thank you!
Number of pages: 396
Genre: Historical Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)
Berlin, 1989. As the wall between East and West falls, Miriam Winter cares for her dying father, Henryk. When he cries out for someone named Frieda – and Miriam discovers an Auschwitz tattoo hidden under his watch strap – Henryk’s secret history begins to unravel.
Searching for more clues of her father’s past, Miriam finds an inmate uniform from the Ravensbrück women’s camp concealed among her mother’s things. Within its seams are dozens of letters to Henryk written by Frieda. The letters reveal the disturbing truth about the ‘Rabbit Girls’, young women experimented on at the camp. And amid their tales of sacrifice and endurance, Miriam pieces together a love story that has been hidden away in Henryk’s heart for almost fifty years.
Inspired by these extraordinary women, Miriam strives to break through the walls she has built around herself. Because even in the darkest of times, hope can survive.
“The Rabbit Girls” introduces us to Henryk, on his deathbed, calling out an unknown name of a woman – Frieda. His daughter Miriam is intrigued, also finding an Auschwitz tattoo on her father’s wrist, and sets on finding the woman before Henryk dies. Enlisting the help of Eva, Miriam gets her to translate letters she finds in the dress hidden in her mother’s wardrobe, letters written in French and German. In the meantime, learning about the woman her father used to love once, Miriam is also trying to escape her abusive marriage to Axel, a controlling and violent man. Will Miriam be able to learn courage?
I personally thought there is going to be more about the “Rabbit Girls” themselves, women that were experimented upon by doctors in the camps, although, on the other hand, perhaps it’s better that the story focused more on other things, as I rather wasn’t in a mood of such a sad, dramatic story. Actually, there was enough drama, tragedy and heart – breaking moments in this book to already make it poignant enough. Nevertheless, after reading the synopsis, you’re justified to expect more about this topic, and it’s only a tiny aspect of it.
It was a very slow burner and it took me long to eventually settle into the book, and I personally think that what was holding it back was Miriam’s story. In my opinion, Frieda’s tale was the one that made the book and it’s sad that it was so much overshadowed by Miriam and her narratives. Miriam’s chapters focus mostly on her repetitive inquiry into the letters or her personal life, with all the problems, while Henryk’s are set in the past, telling us about his marital problems. It is a tale that feels like three different stories throughout three different time periods wrapped in one, but it’s not a bad thing. The chapters alternate between Miriam’s present life and her background, and Henryk’s past and here I found the changes in the narration and in the person (third and first) a bit confusing, but as I kept going it became easier and not so jarring. However, it eventually starts going, and then it’s simply impossible to put down.
There are some of the things that doesn’t really ring true, and some of them happen very conveniently, but really, let’s just simply put our disbelief and scepticism away and enjoy the story with all its progressing mystery and dramaturgy. The end has tied everything neatly together and I liked the way it was done.
“The Rabbit Girls” was a story about love and about finding strength to fight for yourself. I only thing that perhaps the author should choose less things to write about, as then the story would be clearer and the characters stronger, but altogether, it was a heart – breaking, poignant novel about the abuse in the death camps at the end of the Second World War, a topic that I’ve often read about, also in memories, but each time it leaves me in pieces, and it was the same here. But it also deals with other topics, in the modern times, in Miriam’s marriage for example, and we can observe the menace of those different forms of abuse. Touching upon the caring for a dying father, the horrific tale of the camps and finally, Miriam’s abusive marriage, this beautiful story about hope that can change everything and redemption is truly worth recommending!
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