Publisher and Publication Date: Anchor Media. October 4, 2022.
Genre: Historical fiction. Young adult historical fiction.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book copy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and B. V. Glants. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Historical fiction readers with an interest in Holocaust stories, and those who read young adult fiction.
Rating: Very good.
Link for the book @ Amazon.
Link for the book @ Barnes and Noble.
About the Author:
B.V. Glants was born in Soviet Ukraine and immigrated with his family to suburban New Jersey when he was ten years old. Raised on family stories ranging from his grandparents’ fight for survival in WW2 to his parents’ confrontations with Soviet antisemitism, he now lives in Silicon Valley with his wife and daughter.
B.V. Glants is a lay leader at a Jewish day school, a Wexner Heritage Program member, and a technology entrepreneur, most recently having cofounded Tonic Health (sold to R1, NASDAQ:RCM) and Turnkey Labs. That hasn’t stopped him from earning an MFA at California College of the Arts and attending writers’ conferences at Squaw and Sewanee. He writes historical fiction from a Jewish perspective, focusing on how major historical events challenge and transform the lives of everyday families. Half Notes from Berlin is his first published novel.
Berlin, Germany. 1933.
Hans believes he and his family are safe from persecution.
Then, he discovers his family’s dirty secret: his maternal grandparents were Jews who converted to Christianity.
Driven by the desire to understand who he is and whether his mother’s blood is tainted, Hans befriends Rebecca, the only Jewish girl he knows. Perhaps if Jewish blood isn’t evil, his mother will be ok.
To be a Jew in Hitler’s Germany is dangerous.
But to fall in love with one is unthinkable.
Desperate to keep both his family’s true heritage and his love for Rebecca a secret, Hans attempts to navigate this terrifying new world. He’s disconsolate when his Jewish mother is kicked out of the Berlin Conservatory. He’s disgusted by his Aryan father’s aims to acquire a Jewish business on the cheap.
Worst, he must watch helplessly as his classmates target Rebecca with increasing violence and malice.
But when his school announces it will expel Jewish students, Hans is determined to fight for Rebecca — and the lives and souls of his family.
“…[a] beautifully written historical debut explores themes of identity and resistance…their gripping stories will stick with readers long after the last page.” –BookLife Reviews – Editors Choice
“A mesmerizing novel, moving and intelligent.”–Kirkus Reviews
This is the link for the Kirkus Review: Half Notes from Berlin.
I’m excited to share my thoughts about this story for two reasons:
- This is a first published story for Glants. I love to discover new authors. I love to read a first published story.
- This is a favorite genre.
I want to first share a few thoughts about the genre and the summary that’s been given. The book is presented as a historical fiction story, and the summary that’s given is brief or vague.
When I am browsing books there are several factors, I want to have clear information about. Half Notes from Berlin is a historical fiction story, but it is also young adult fiction and a coming-of-age story. Not all readers of historical fiction want to read those other two types of books. I happen to love all three genres.
I also enjoy having a strong summary to read. It is the summary that sets the tone as to what I can expect. It is a prompt and a teasing and a setting of the stage for the full story.
Kirkus Reviews gives a strong summary of the book, and you can read it at this link: Kirkus Reviews.
I have come to expect that when I read historical fiction there is almost always a reflecting back from the narrator of the story. Often there are dual time periods. This is a form or structure in a story that I dislike. I don’t mind reflecting back-what I don’t like is the back and forth, and back and forth between the dual time periods. I love it that Half Notes from Berlin stayed in the past (with brief thoughts from the man who is telling the story), AND it stayed in a short period of time, the spring of 1933. This pivotal and significant period of time in the life of a 15-year-old young man. It is during this time period that changed the course of his life.
One of the best points of this story is I felt engaged because of the main character, the 15-year-old young man named Hans. He is exactly how I’d imagine a young man of his age to be. In his interests, vulnerabilities, stubbornness, and rebellion. He has strengths and weaknesses. He has a vision of what his life is and what it can become. He is a lone child of parents who are at odds and unhappy. His parents do not work together as a team. As a result, his grandparents are a source of stability. Yet, all of the adults have failed to be honest with him.
Hans has a group of boys he hangs around with in school. He joins a youth choir with the help of a female classmate who is an assertive kind of girl.
Hitler’s influence and ideology has
seeped or poured into the youth groups or movements of Germany. Hans is unsure of the right thing to do.
Meanwhile, he has a building interest in another girl in his class. He is drawn to her, I feel, because she is different. There is something remarkable about her. She is vulnerable; however, she is strong. She is a Jew. The growing hate and abuse escalate among the other classmates towards her.
The story has several inner and outer conflicts that pull me along because I have to know what will happen.
I am glad the story is over a period of several weeks in the spring of 1933. This gave time to examine closely the various events and impact of the people.
I wish the story had allowed Hans’ mother’s character to develop more. She is a character with much more going on in her mind and past life. There is a revealing of some things of her past, but I am left wanting to hear her voice-her thoughts.