Release Date: May 21st 2014.
Publisher: Black Dog Books.
Source: From Walker Books Australia in exchange for an honest review.
#It is the 12th book I have read for the Australian Women Writers challenge.
Synopsis from Goodreads:
“Don’t let her know you’re scared,” Alexander’s father had said to him the first time Alexander had sat on Sari’s back.
Fourteen-year-old Alexander Altmann doesn’t need to look at the number tattooed on his arm. A10567; he knows it by heart. He also knows to survive Auschwitz, he must toughen up. Being soft will get him killed. Alexander will take any chance he’s given – and when that chance is caring for the German officers’ horses he grabs it. He just can’t let them know he’s scared.
5 out of 5 stars.
I was reluctant to read this at first, not because it didn’t sound good, but because I wasn’t sure if I could stomach it. It was such a horrible time in history and it breaks my heart when I think about it. But Suzy Zail has handled it perfectly. She has placed a human face on a tragic event and given us an in depth look at an individual’s experience. Alexander Altmann is based off of a real Auschwitz survivor, Fred, which I believe gave it a such a high level of authenticity.
Alexander Altmann is only 14, but has lied about his age to get into the men’s camp. He is worked hard, hardly feed and worried for his family. Alexander grew up on a farm and has a love for horses, so when the chance comes to look after the soldiers horses, he takes it. The horses need him to survive, but he also needs them to survive as well. He is a horse lover and despite his best efforts, he forms a bond with the horses he has to take care of. This story was very much about the horses as it was Alexander, and I enjoyed reading about their uneasy friendship.
Alexander was very guarded and wouldn’t let anyone in because they could be killed at any moment. He worked hard, just trying to survive, not evening daring to dream that there was a future for him beyond Auschwitz walls. He was forced to grow up very fast, but he was strong and resilient.
The brutality was there, it had to be for this to be authentic, and I hated reading it, but I could handle it. There were many heart breaking moments, but there was also hope. If you are as weary of reading such things as I am, I urge you to give this a try, you will be surprised
Just because the protagonist was 14 does not mean this should only be read by teens. I recommend this to everyone. This is a time in history that cannot be forgotten, and those looking to understand it more should read this book. Zail’s writing was flawless, she quickly drew me in and held me captive until the very last page. It was a powerful story of hope and survival. Alexander has sunk into my heart and will stay with me for a long time.
You can add it to your Goodreads HERE.