When Anita Diamant released The Red Tent, I ate the book up like candy. I loved the intimate look at the life of Dinah and the Jewish women of her large family. I was enthralled at the ancient setting and the sense of history that I felt while reading the book. I felt that same connection when Alice Hoffman gave us The Dovekeepers. This past week I finished Diamant's novel called Day After Night. Again, I have been drawn into the lives of Jewish women - this time they are beginning lives anew in post WWII Palestine. It is a time before the birth of the Jewish state, when Britain is still controlling the region. Displaced Jews are streaming into Palestine on boats, over borders, in trucks, on foot. They are presenting the Brits a political dilemma, as the issue of where to locate the Jews arises in the pre-dominantly Arab region.
The women that dominate the storyline are an amalgam of the different nationalities and stations in life that the European Jewish population represented - Leonie, a beautiful French woman, Shayndel, a Polish Zionist partisan fighter,Tedi, a Dutch woman who was hidden from German occupiers, and Zorah, a concentration camp survivor. These women find themselves interred in a resettlement camp from which they are not free to move until their identities are checked and re-checked, there is a place found for them to settle, the bureaucratic channels of the British government have been satisfied. Their friendship serves to help them heal and move from the worst losses and horrors of their lives to a new life of hope and rebirth in the beginnings of the Israeli state that was forming at the time.
It is a story that lets the reader see just a bit of what it took to move on from the traumatic events that these war survivors suffered. As the story unfolds, we see each one begin the journey back to life. We see them begin to deal with anger at their treatment, sorrow with their losses, guilt about their survival when others they loved were lost in the Holocaust and the fighting, vengeance toward those who stood by and watched their people be slaughtered, fear that the british government might repeat the incarcerations. As the Israeli Zionists befriend them and they learn of the kibbutzim that are growing in Palestine, hope and a sense of purpose rises in each and healing truly begins.
So many of the stories of WWII survivors have been lost, as people moved on and buried the past because the memories were so sad and horrific. I think books that tell a bit of this history are really important for us to read and think about ... it should not be forgotten and the lessons that these stories can teach us should be carefully learned. I'm glad Anita Diamant told us this story ... it's a story of hope and renewal with a respectful nod to those who came through the worst, persevered and moved on.