A simple tale of Nazi occupation and holocaust in a small town in Ukraine. The story was simple but I enjoyed the characters—understated but involved; very human. Arnold, the SS leader of the district, Pohl, the German engineer in-charge, and Yasia, the strong but hesitant Ukrainian girl were my favourites.

Even now, ploughing on through the fog, still overcome by this morning, feeling the shortness of his sleep and the sour lack of breakfast inside him, Pohl things that if he could be set apart with her, just for a short time, then it would surely help him. Because they talk things out, the pair of them: this is how they’ve always been.

Pohl had to talk and talk with her when they were courting, walk and walk with her. Fond as they were by then, she’d thought it too late for them to think of marrying. Old friends and fossils: that’s what Dorle called them both. He was forty and past his prime years as a suitor; Dorle was not so much younger and accustomed to her own ways; you know how I am by now. She had long had her own clear-eyed look on life.


He doesn’t bend with the wind, your father, but he bends under the yoke, child;


… He’ll listen, your son, but only for so long, Ephraim. There will only ever be so much I can teach him.

His books were blotted and streaked and smeary; he thought in rash and bold strokes, and only ever in short bursts, it seemed to Ephraim, who saw how quickly his eldest grew distracted by daydreams during prayers, or the singing of the Torah—even over mealtimes at their family table.

… When the long school morning is over, that’s when the best hours of Yankel’s day come: this was the schoolmaster’s verdict.


I don’t claim to understand it, Pohl. I only try to endure. I don’t know the answer. Perhaps we mush all find our own way. —The Sturmbannführer Arnold trying to explain his view of the regime they represent (Nazis)