Stefania Berczeller, a reader from Israel, wrote this review of THE DEATH OF RAFAEL under a different post  in this blog, but I am taking the liberty of making it a new post.  This review is very important to me because it comes from someone whose family has experienced the events of the war and Holocaust. Her affirmation of my story and characters carries a great weight with me and it validates much of my novel.

Here it is:

The Death of Rafael. Review
I have read this book with a great interest. I  understood from the beginning that it isn’t another book about the Holocaust even though the shadow of the most terrible event of hisory hangs over  the whole story.

First of all I would like to talk about the structure of the book. It isn’t a linear structure; the chapters are dated and places are indicated but not year after year, nor month after month. The writer used the flashbacks ina special order, according to the events. It makes the story  interesting and so the readers can’t leave it until the end. The writer has described the placs in an excellent manner, using a rich vocabulary adapted to each situation. These descriptions are the scenery of the tragedy. After the characters had been created by the writer, they acted, each one in his own manner.However I felt between the lines the presence of the writer, her feelings or thoughts. It is known that so did all the great writers. It  reminds of Flaubert’s famous words when asked about his character, Emma: ” Emma- it’s me”

The three main characters, Giselle, Daniela and Francisco are the victims, each one in his own way, of the tragedy.The mother who lost her child, the young woman who lost her childhood and youth and the son who grew up with a false identity that he can’t change anymore. There is no fate or prediction of fortune tellers even if Giselle believes in it. The tragedy is the direct consequence of the Holocaust and of course of the War.Most of the other books written about these events tell about what happened at that time. The Death of Rafael is more a book about the life after the events with flashbacks  to the tragical past. The shadow of those events still hangs over  even  the third generation.

There is no happy end in this book.  However, it may be a peaceful end and also hopeful for Daniela and FrancIsco who have found each other and will try to recompose a family. They will try to find a way to live with the past but to start a new life. FrancIsco will continue his life as a Catholic cardinal but without hiding his origins. It’s possible!

About the othes characters I would like to write some lines about  Count Egon von Klaussen.He isn’t a positive character. The writer by creating him didn’t try to rehabilitate him by the fact that he didn’t kill the baby he had found. Von Klaussen saved the baby for himself, for his loved wife. It wasn’t an act to save a ” Jewish child” as he said to his friend Zeller. He was a German warrior who fought for his Fuhrer and when he saw his country in danger of being destroyed, especially by the Russians, he took part in the failed conspiracy in 1944. It was exactly at that time (in April 1944) that the deportation of the Hungarian Jews started,  but no one has tried to stop it. The writer decsribed this character as he really was.

As I hav said at the beginning of this short comment( I could write more!)I appreciated how the writer has composed the book and created her characters, no stereotypes and no cliches in this book. We, the readers are taken to the end of the books without trying to stop the reading. I think readers who like good books will agree with me.

Stefania Berczeller


I am trasferring here also a comment made in answer to Stefania’s review, so that it’s all together.

Posted May 22, 2012 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

[This is an eMail I sent to the web address a few weeks ago, but which fell through the cracks.]

I’m about halfway through “Rafael”. Egon von Klaussen is indeed a tragic character. As is Miron – his fall from wealth and power to salesman certainly parallels many another European immigrant.

I found that 11 of the officers in the July 20 plot held the Knight’s Cross. After that, the leader decreed that only he could give out any more.

I second Stefania’s comment about the writing. The descriptions are quite good – especially (as far as I’ve gotten) the opening of the Cardenas section, describing the pampas.

I think I’ll have to diagram the book, to keep track of the timelines and the characters.

I came across a review of a book that might interest you:

“Hitler, Mussolini and the Vatican: Pope Pius XI and the Speech That was Never Made”, by Emma Fattorini

The reviews there tell just about everything about the book.

The review I read elsewhere says

“The book is a political biography of Pope Pius XI and does not cover events beyond his death in 1939. It does, however, provide great insight into Pius XI’s pontificate and contributes to our understanding of the troubled question of Pope Pius XII and the Holocaust.”

Fattorini worked from the “recently opened Vatican Archives”, including papers of Cardinal Pacelli – who served as a moderating influence on Pius XI.

Mike Zorn
Sigma Xi

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