City of Secrets, Stewart O’Nan, author; Edoardo Ballerini, narrator
This brief little book illuminated the struggle of the Jewish people shortly after the end of WWII and prior to the declaration of the official State of Israel when the British controlled Palestine. It was there that the Jewish people wanted a homeland. It was one immovable force meeting another and violence exploded.
The author tells the story of a young man who survived the Holocaust only to find he was alone, no other family members had survived, not his wife or his aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, or parents were left. Where was he to go? He remembered that after the Passover Seder, his grandfather would raise a glass and make a toast to “next year in Jerusalem”. It was his mother’s dream to go there, as well. So, that was where he decided to go. He became a taxi driver ferrying tourists from place to place.
The British were not that welcoming to the Jews and the Jews were not that thrilled with the British control. They had just survived a nightmare in Europe and they had no desire to live through another. They would no longer go quietly into the night; they had learned to fight for what they thought they deserved. The fight between the British Poppies and the Jewish Underground was violent and bloody. This novel presents an overview of their conflicts, covering the viewpoints and experiences of each side. It demonstrates the contrast of ordinary day to day life, living and working side by side, with the frightening, stressful life of the warfare.
Blinded by their causes, each side often behaved inhumanely; each was equally cruel and violent. Both sides believed they were doing what had to be done to achieve their goals. There were many victims with the Jews fighting for a homeland and the British for the land in their empire. Justice was often the victim as innocents died in the attacks.
The book really presents the psychological pain of the victims of both the war in Palestine and the war in Europe, the Holocaust. It highlights their losses and their struggles. Each carried their memories with them because that was all they had, but most often, their memories were tragic; they were memories of lost loved ones and the horrific conditions of deprivation and torture in the camps. These memories made many desperate for security and a home to call their own. Their desperation made them willing to sacrifice all for the cause of Israel, for the cause of a safe homeland.
This novel portrays the tragedy of war, all wars, on all of the participants, the victors and the vanquished. The human sacrifice is enormous. After awhile one is left questioning the validity of any cause that causes such suffering.