I was browsing the shelf of new fiction books at my local library, when I came across Displaced Persons by Ghita Schwarz. I think I’d heard about it somewhere before, but it sounded interesting from the cover description, so I checked it out.
The book starts just as World War II has ended, following several people who have survived the concentration camp at Belsen. Despite the horrific things they have experienced, they are still alive and initially are being supported by the Allied forces, collecting rations and trying to get by.
As the main characters regain their strength and try to move on, they work hard to start new lives, and the book follows them over the years, as the various people leave Europe for Israel and the US. Although they leave Europe behind, their memories and experiences still follow them as they grow older and start their own families.
Initially, I was really struck by the writing style of the book, for how clean and concise it was. It also has a steady measure to it that forces you to slow down a bit and notice the smaller things, without getting too caught up in flourishes and details. However, the plot was not as strong, and sort of waned later on.
The first half of the book was fairly strong, and really kept my interest. I wanted to see and understand what the characters were going through, and how they coped and tried to return to a more normal life. But, after awhile, the plot wasn’t as strong, perhaps because there seemed to be less conflict, less drama in some ways.
I think I can understand what Schwarz was trying to do, to follow a group of people — who seemed almost impossibly interconnected — who had experienced something so horrific, were able to build their own lives, and yet were still affected by their experiences. I just don’t know that the latter half of the book was quite as interesting to read, and I had to push on at a few points, just to finish the book.