Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Book Review - For Such a Time by Kate Breslin

About a month ago, I saw that For Such a Time by Kate Breslin was on sale on Kindle. I'd heard a lot of good things about this book, so I promptly decided my book club would read it for August and told everyone to snatch it up. Once we'd had our July meeting, I started reading it. And was a few chapters in when I saw that the author was in the middle of a veritable maelstrom because of this book. Obviously I was interested, given that I was reading it even then, so I read some of the articles. And some of the hate-filled reviews, many written by people who had never read the book and said so openly.

I was baffled. Genuinely baffled. People are up in arms over someone writing a Christian book about the Holocaust. About having a single Nazi officer who sees that he's done wrong.

For Such a Time is a retelling of Esther, set during WWII. It deviates from actual history in order to preserve this retelling aspect and deliver a victory to the Esther-character and her people. Now, those of you who know me, know I consider historical facts sacred. So I get the complaints about "But it didn't happen this way!" It didn't. But as a retelling, as a "If an Esther had risen up, it may have looked like this..." sort of story, I found it intriguing. Kinda like when Tarantino killed Hitler in Inglourious. Didn't happen. But it didn't stop me from cheering.

Of course, my review has even gotten negative ratings on Amazon and a nasty comment on Goodreads. Go figure! LOL. But here it is, and I'll also provide the links to where I've posted it, if you feel the urge to go press a "like" button...

If the beautiful story of Esther had taken place during WWII instead of the days of Persia, it may have looked like this.

Breslin tells a tale of a young Jewish woman singled out of a concentration camp when her inner strength and promise of beauty captures the attention of a Nazi officer. He whisks her out of that life of hardship and employs her as his secretary, intrigued and attracted...and knowing well that she considers him the enemy. That she will never forgive it when she learns the role he must play in the Final Solution. The question is--can he ever forgive himself after she opens his eyes to the truth of her people's plight?

This is a tale that paints vividly the horrors of life for the Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe. It's a tale that shows that sometimes the heart leads us toward people logic says we should hate. It's a tale that reminds us that sometimes God turns a heart of stone back into a heart of flesh.

The sad truth is that there was no Esther for the Jews in 1944. There was no victory like in the story of Esther. The author gives us one, and then reminds us in her note that that was part of the retelling aspect, and that in reality, no one stepped forward to save these people. That's a failing of humanity.

I've read a ton of bad reviews objecting to the idea of a Christian book about a Jewish heroine, and that it's an atrocity that someone would "save" (i.e. convert) a strong Jewish woman. But they've obviously never read the book, as the heroine doesn't convert to Christianity. I've read similar objections saying the author is dishonoring the plight of the Jews in the hands of the Nazis by redeeming an SS officer. Personally, I don't see how saying that one man might have been led to see his sin through this atrocity in any way diminishes the evils wrought by the regime. Evils that are painted quite clearly as just that in Breslin's book.

Is it a true story? No. I wish it were. I wish the prisoners really had managed, through the help of a brave heroine, the victory they achieved in this book. I wish an Esther--and a Xerxes--had stepped up. The world might be a different place today.

For Such a Time is certainly a book worth reading. You'll get swept away by the prose, cheer for the heroes, and wish, as I did, that history really had happened this way a second time.

My review on:


  1. I also loved For Such A Time. I think ate Breslin did an awesome job with a very difficult subject. Contrary to all of the hateful comments, at least one such romance did occur: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3193520/Read-real-life-story-Auschwitz-prisoner-Helena-Citronova-falling-love-SS-guard-Franz-Wunsch-amid-controversy-Kate-Breslin-novel-Time.html

  2. Gerald Morris, an author of young adult retellings of the Arthurian legends, wrote in his author's note: "I had to choose whether to be faithful to history or faithful to my story . . . Just pretend it's historical, all right? And maybe in the story you'll find something that's REAL, which is not at all the same thing as ACCURATE - and usually much better." (The Squire's Quest, Houghton-Mifflin, 2009)

    I'd say that applies to For Such a Time, which I enjoyed highly. No, it isn't accurate, but God turning the heart of stone into one of flesh? Totally real. Hope in such hopeless situations? Real again. And whatever else the book is, it's a prime example of great storytelling.