Almost Autumn

Mar­i­anne Kau­rin; Rosie Hedger, trans.
  • Review
By – May 17, 2017

In Octo­ber 1942, the inhab­i­tants of an Oslo apart­ment build­ing have secrets. Nor­we­gian teenag­er Ilse Stern is in love with neigh­bor Her­mann Rød. Her father, Isak, has stashed all his family’s mon­ey in a cig­ar tin hid­den in a dress­er draw­er. Her­mann makes Ilse and his par­ents think he has an appren­tice­ship with a land­scape painter, but he is work­ing for the resis­tance. Ilse’s sis­ter Son­ja has found a new job out­side the family’s tai­lor­ing shop to make cos­tumes for the nation­al the­ater. Neigh­bor Ole Rus­tad has a secret, too. He and his taxi will be trans­port­ing Jews to depor­ta­tion points, first for the Nazis and then for the resistance.

In this intri­cate­ly woven nov­el with alter­nat­ing point-of-view nar­ra­tors, Nor­we­gian author Mar­i­anne Kau­rin plays with the con­cept of chance. The most impor­tant instance of chance here is Ilse’s fight with her moth­er, her trip out­side Oslo with Her­mann, and her ulti­mate absence dur­ing the round-up of Jew­ish women and chil­dren in Novem­ber 1942. While the book’s open­ing is slow, the pace picks up quick­ly and is enhanced by mul­ti­ple sto­ry lines and their narrators.

Although there have been a few nov­els about the Nazi occu­pa­tion of Nor­way, Kaurin’s tale shares the lit­tle-told nar­ra­tive of Nor­we­gian Jews dur­ing the Holo­caust. Her author’s note explains her own family’s roles dur­ing World War II and the Holocaust.

Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 12 – 15.

Bar­bara Kras­ner is the author of many books across gen­res, includ­ing fic­tion, poet­ry, cre­ative non­fic­tion, and chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture. Her recent titles include 37 Days at Sea: Aboard the M.S. St. Louis, 1939, Civil­ian Casu­al­ties in War and Ethel’s Song: Ethel Rosen­berg’s Life in Poems. Her book Goldie Takes a Stand! Gol­da Meir’s First Cru­sade was a recip­i­ent of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Hon­or Award. She holds a Ph.D. in Holo­caust and geno­cide stud­ies from Gratz Col­lege, teach­es in the Holo­caust and geno­cide stud­ies pro­gram at the Col­lege of New Jer­sey, and serves as direc­tor of the Mer­cer Coun­ty Holo­caust, Geno­cide, and Human Rights Edu­ca­tion Cen­ter. She also holds an MFA in writ­ing for chil­dren and young adults from the Ver­mont Col­lege of Fine Arts.

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