“Broken Angels” by Gemma Liviero

Gemma Liviero has written “Broken Angels”, a story of three souls who are brought together by each one’s suffering, pain and despair.  The novel begins with a death in Australia, a mum whose past is a focus of this novel.  Elsi is living in the Jewish ghetto in Poland with her mother and sister.  Life is precarious to say the least.  There is little or no food, clothes that wear out cannot be replaced, a minor infraction brings the SS or Gestapo to your door, or worse.  The people of the ghetto are slowly dying of starvation or gunshot.  Those who try to resist, even clandestinely, are finally given up to the Germans by Jewish spies.  Elsi is involved in a resistance movement and is captured.  She is a few minutes away from being put in one of the infamous “death wagons” used by the Nazis to conveniently rid themselves of the sick and infirm.  Dr. Willem Gerhardt is passing by and stops his driver to bring Elsi into his car and saves her life.  There is much more to this story.

Willem is a man tormented by what he has done in the name of his country.  His father is a high up official in the Nazi party and expects Willem to “do his duty”.  They are both doctors and Willem is sent to Auschwitz to help with “procedures” which will eventually “be helpful to all women”.  After a few weeks there doing horrible things in the guise of medical experiments on “willing” prisoner participants, he decides that he cannot continue this way.  His pregnant wife has died of an aneurism while he is away and feigning a long-lasting grief for her, he is not assigned to another position just yet.  There is much more to this story.

Matilda is a nine-year-old child who is “given” to the state by her mother, signed over in fact to be one of Hitler’s children, indoctrinated by sadistic, lunatic keepers to learn the German language, study Mein Kempf , and learn to be good little children in preparation for adoption into a German soldier’s family.  Matilda does not go willingly, nor is she compliant with the demands of the house mother and the nurse.  She is starved and beaten to bring her to accept her fate.  Eventually, Willem is sent to this “children’s house” as its director and used his position to save many children by smuggling them out of Germany.  There is much more to this story.

The lives of these three poor souls, Elsi, Willem and Matilda come together in a miraculous way.  Elsi, Willem and Matilda help each other to find freedom from that which haunts them.  There is much more to this story.  Reading the “much more” of their intertwining stories was difficult at times because of the brutality and depth of deprivation and degradation of these three people and those who are trying to defeat them.  A person who loves to read stories about life during World War II and the triumph of good over evil will like this book.  I cannot say “enjoy” this book because there is no way to enjoy the horrific scenes that the prose of the novel brings to the reader’s mind.  However, reading about these three poor souls and the redemption they finally enjoy is of some comfort.

I was provided with a complimentary Kindle copy of this book by NetGalley.com.  No review was required, however an honest review was optional.


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