Book Review: Broken Angels by Gemma Liviero

Stories revolving around the time of The Holocaust has become a frequent suggestion in my reading list. While I am horrified as I read books after books of the atrocities carried out by the Nazis, I know that reading about it is a way to keep the memories of the people who suffered alive and have a constant reminder as to what the world can turn into if the wrong kind of people are given the power to make decisions. To be honest, I can’t obviously shirk the feeling that the world that we live in today needs these kinds of reminders more than ever.


The Story

Broken Angels is the story of three people whose lives are wrecked by the war and the invasion of Nazis in the various parts of Europe – A doctor, Willem; a young woman, Elsi and a girl, Matilda. Dr. Willem Gerhardt is a gynaecologist and son of a very powerful officer of the Nazi government. He decided to study the women’s body and chose child birth as his specialisation after losing his mother to a preventable complication during his birth. However, he is forced by his father to use the knowledge to cover-up various atrocities carried out by the Nazi soldiers on the Jew population in the ghetto and then moved to Berlin to participate in human experimentation. He is horrified and decided to resign only to lose his wife and unborn child.

Elsi is forced to leave her comfortable house and move to the ghetto as her mother is a Jew. Her father is then sent to war and they never hear back from him. Elsi struggles with hunger, lack of basic human necessities, fear of rape and the constant threat of her handicapped sister being sent to the camps as she fights to live in her new house in the ghetto. She has a brief encounter with Dr. Willem when her mother is raped and needs to abort the child she has conceived as a result. She then decides to join a local resistance against the Nazis that ends up in her getting caught and being sent to the camp.

Matilda is a taken away from her family under the germanisation initiative. She is held in a camp with a few other children who have been separated from their families just like her. She is then tasked to tutor the rest of the kids to get them ready to be adopted by childless German couples.

Character Development & Narration

The narration moves between the three protagonists. Each chapter describes their lives, their current situation and how they are dealing with it. In the latter half of the book, the three protagonists’ life overlap, each character gets enough space in the book to talk about their outlook to a situation which makes the narration more interesting.

Character development is flawless. The author built each character and included the details of their life with great effort. The pace of the story keeps you engaged with the storyline. The transitions are frequent but the writing ensured that there was no confusion between the multiple plots.

My Review

The book touches a lot of different aspects of the holocaust in different parts of Europe. It not only highlights the sufferings of the Jews but also touches the lives of Germans who did not want to be part of the massacre and just lead a normal life.

I have read quite a few stories about the concentration camps but this story is more about the people who survived them but ended up struggling with the trauma for the rest of their lives. The PTSD angle has been treated with a lot of sophistication and I was left pleasantly surprised with the ending.

Final Verdict

Like I said, I have had a few books related to holocaust on my reading list and this was one of the better reads I have come across in a while. I am usually left a bit horrified by the end of most stories but this book left me feeling all hopeful. Definitely a good addition to your library if you are into historical fiction.

Have you read the Broken Angels?

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