#AA2019 Nominees Round Up, May 9 Edition

What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper, narrated by Deborah Grausman with afterword read by the author
Audio published by Listening Library
Publication Date: February 20, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-525-52605-6

At fourteen, Gerta’s dream is to become an opera singer and her life revolves around music; at the opera house with her stepmother, and viola lessons with her papa at home.  Since Hitler came to power, she and her father having been living an invisible life in Germany with Gerta unaware that they are Jewish. Then she and her father are betrayed and sent to the concentration camps.

 When she is liberated in 1945, Gerta must regain her humanity after the humiliations and degradations of being imprisoned for two years; rediscover the music that is intertwined with survivor’s guilt as playing in the women’s orchestra at Auschwitz kept her alive; and rekindle faith in the religion she never knew.  It is a painful experience, “This is what it cost us to survive. We all paid with some part of ourselves. None of us escaped unbroken.” With the help of other survivors, including one who will teach Gerta not only of Judaism but also of love, Gerta begins to hope for a new life. The survivors must then decide if they will remain in Europe or take on a dangerous journey to the newly established Jewish state in Palestine. Facing these choices about her future, Gerta tries to find again the music and the beauty in the night.

Deborah Grausman gives an authentic voice to Gerta as a young girl with haunting vocalization of the songs interspersed throughout the story, and seamless integration of the German and Hebrew words.  Grausman’s soft, quiet voice focuses the listener on the descriptive language of the story with all the horrors of the concentration camps vividly described, and her singing captures the pain and hope of Gerta’s life.  Each chapter begins with a musical selection that sets the tone for the narration as the story moves back and forth in Gerta’s life.

Recommended for all readers, ages 14 and up, an important addition to Holocaust literature, give to fans of Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay or The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom.  (Note: Bonus PDF with glossary and references not seen.)

–Leigh Mantle