Review: The Manuscript (Eva Zeller)

The Manuscript is a German novella, translated to English by Nadia Lawrence. It is the love story of Bea and Jacob, two people who lost their families during the Second World War.

While cleaning up the attic of the house she inherited from her grandparents, Bea finds a manuscript written by a woman who was with Bea's mother, Ruth, just before her (Ruth's) death. In the manuscript, she describes how she and Ruth, along with thousands of other German women, were captured by Russian soldiers and deported to labour camps in Siberia.

Jacob is a Berlin Jew, whose entire family was killed during the war. Bea and Jacob are both middle aged when they meet each other. In spite of being so fond of each other, they find it difficult to talk to each other about their past, which were so similar. It is during a trip to Russia that they finally manage to speak about their past - something that they had never spoken about to anyone.

This book, apart from being a love story, looks at the two sides of the war. The woman who wrote the manuscript doesn't know that the tortures she and the other German women were suffering was an act of vengeance for the destruction caused by the German army in Russia. She believes so much in the innocence of her country and its Fuhrer that at one point she refuses to believe that Hitler had committed suicide.

This is the very reason Bea is afraid to show the manuscript to Jacob, whose family was destroyed because of Hitler and his army. She is worried that he will be offended when he reads the manuscript of a woman who likes Hitler so much that she writes that she'd gladly have replaced the first 'L' in her surname Hiller to 'T'.

This novella is a good read and short enough to read in a single stretch. It's a beautifully told story, and is definitely worth a read.

Rating. 7/10



Aravind said...

Reminds me of Veer-Zaara (sobs..)

Anonymous said...

This sounds lovely and I've been enjoying short stories lately. Thanks for the review

Nithin said...

@aravind. I haven't watched that movie, but I'm pretty sure that a Yash Chopra movie won't be anything like this book. :D

@deb. I'm sure you'll enjoy this book too. And thanks for dropping by. :)

Juliet said...

Hi - thanks for dropping in on Musings and leaving the link to this review. I found this book so haunting. As you say, it's short enough to read at one sitting, and I'm sure that adds to the intensity.

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