Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Have You Seen A Dark Haired Man With Burning Eyes by Dr Henya Shanun-Klein


Have You Seen A Dark Haired Man With Burning Eyes by Dr Henya Shanun-Klein
Published in America by 3rd Coast Books on the 9th of March 2018.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy via Book Reviews 4 You

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £12.24 (PB)
Wordery : from £12.57 (PB)
Waterstones : from £14.99 (HB)
Amazon : from $18.93 / £13.54 (HB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

You are about to experience the heart-warming and gut-wrenching, true story of Adel and Itchale. A story of love and loss of newlyweds who fled Poland after the Nazi invasion. This rigorously documented story is about a young woman's search that initially seems hopeless and impossible, yet soon turns into a journey of adventure and survival against all odds. Adel's journey not only spans two continents, from Europe to Asia, but also gives the reader a first-hand look at some of the history of World War II as she searches for her missing husband.

Dr. Shanun-Klein writes the incredible story in sharp observant simplicity, and with sensitive, poetic precision. She bases the book not only on her memories of stories she was told, but on extensive research she conducted to verify those memories as she traveled through the exact same landscapes, villages, towns and cities of Poland, Russia and Mongolia on her own journey.

I was interested to read this biography because it recounts a lesser-known Jewish experience during the Second World War. I didn't previously know that many Polish Jews managed to escape the Nazi genocide by fleeing into Russia, braving a nation that had driven out a significant proportion of its Jewish communities by way of pogrom attacks over the previous decades. Adel and her husband Itchale were two such young Jews who headed East. In Have You Seen A Dark Haired Man With Burning Eyes, Adel's daughter, Shanun-Klein, retells and shapes her mother's memories into a coherent narrative of an incredible journey.

As the book was written many years after the events themselves, there is an almost dream-like sense to the tale. Time stretches and shrinks according to the vividness with which each event is remembered and I liked the little details that had remained in Adel's memory - the name of a dog or the colour of a dress, how the snow fell on a particular day or the scent in the air. There are, understandably after so much time, gaps in the story and the level of detail seemed to wane as the book progressed so later years felt rushed in their retelling. I would have liked a stronger idea of how Adel's journey fitted into the wider world picture. I did struggle to keep sense of where she was at any particular year although I understood the Adel herself often didn't know either so this was accurate to her experience. I thought I really got to appreciate who Adel was as a woman though and the inclusion of some of her notions and sayings allowed her to emerge from these pages and show her life.

I think Have You Seen A Dark Haired Man With Burning Eyes would appeal to readers who liked other Second World War memoirs such as The Hiding Place. Shanun-Klein focuses mostly on positive experiences such as the kindnesses of strangers, the 'small miracles' Adel witnessed and her sheer determination to find out what had happened to Itchale. An ordinary woman discovering her extraordinary self.


Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Dr Henya Shanun-Klein / Biography and memoir / Books from Israel

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