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 an award-win­ning poet and his­to­ri­an who focus­es her writ­ing on the Jew­ish expe­ri­ence in Amer­i­ca and dur­ing the Holo­caust. She teach­es in the his­to­ry depart­ment of The Col­lege of New Jer­sey and serves as Direc­tor, Mer­cer Holo­caust, Geno­cide & Human Rights Edu­ca­tion Center.

Discussion Questions