Hello darling, so I'm so sorry about how long this review was in coming! Now that exams are over, I finally have the intellectual energy needed to give this story a smoother review it deserves! :)
Ah, where to start? I really liked... well, appreciated the thorough and well-written flashback of Simon and his family being taken. It's so heartbreaking, how so many Jews went along with the police and questioned what was happening, though they didn't fight back. I visited the Terezin concentration camp, and they talked about how it had initially been advertised as a retirement home, so elderly Jews paid their fares and went willingly to the camp, completely blind to what was happening. It's such a heartbreaking, corrupt idea of the mind games the Nazis played, and you did a really good job of portraying this situation for Simon. The reader sees the full picture, but these poor people are trapped in their own confusion.
The woman who chose to end her life was a really effective and sinister detail. I liked how you didn't go into explicit detail about what happened, but just showed Simon's limited and quick thoughts about her, it was very effective and saddening. I wonder if others would think back to that woman many months later, and wish they had done the same thing? Also, it reminded me a bit of the book "Beloved," and the horrifying, encompassing love of a mother who would rather kill her own children then let them be captives. It really makes you think. :(
It also shows, to me, why wizards would keep their existence secret to Muggles. While wizards are very powerful, they are still subject to the masses of Muggles and might not be able to out-maneuver or protect themselves from a mass. I felt so sorry for Simon's family, not even bothering to protect themselves with magic.
I love the little hints and details of the story, like counting raffle tickets and the small details of everyday reality. You're certainly a master at letting large concepts and ideas be held together by short, fleeting hints, like the single section about Simon's father being dead, and that being that. It's so little, yet says so much.
Astrid's new job should prove to be really intriguing! I loved the last line, it was very cryptic and chilling. As you can probably tell, I really love this story and how strongly and accurately you portray this historic time. The effort you've put into the details and the precise, impactful writing style really shows! :)
Author's Response: I am mortified by how long it has taken me to respond to this review.
Your comment about the reader seeing the bigger picture whereas people are stuck in their confusion is exactly what I was aiming at. Obviously, today, we know where stories about Jews in the 1940s are heading, but at the time, people had no idea. They knew the Nazis were going after foreign Jews, but people with French passports? It was unthinkable, especially as many had participated in world war one as French citizens.
Writing that woman's scene made me want to cry. (I'm tearing up right now as I respond.) I don't think people would think about her months later and wish they'd done the same thing, but rather weeks later, to be honest. In one of the coming chapters, we see what followed the round-up, and it's a train of thought many people already have.
Thank you so much for the review, and I'm sorry if I babbled in my response -- this story tends to make me do that...