Saturday, May 29, 2021

Bitter Herbs: The vivid memories of a fugitive Jewish girl in Nazi-occupied Holland


Bitter Herbs is a short semi-autobiographical series of recollections of the WW2 years by Marga Minco who was a young woman in occupied Holland during the war. Originally released in 1957, this reformat and re-release from Penguin on their Ebury Press imprint, it's 128 pages and is available in paperback and ebook formats.

Despite the inevitable comparisons with The Diary of Anne Frank, in a lot of ways this account (with which I was previously unfamiliar) moved and saddened me even more. That's possibly because I read the former when I was a young child and assimilated it before it had the power to horrify me as an adult. There's so much sub-context in this short retelling which is not explicitly written down; the holocaust is not directly referenced, for example. It's the small day-to-day facts of life which are so heartbreakingly retold here which have the power to dismay and shock more than 75 years on. There's a quiet pervasive matter-of-fact sadness to the whole which made this a difficult read for me.

The English translation work by Jeannette K. Ringold is very well done and seamless and manages to capture the guilelessness and unapologetic directness of the original very well. 

This would be a good selection for school or public library acquisition, book study groups, classroom units in modern history, holocaust, WW2, and related subjects. 

Four stars. Difficult but important reading. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes

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