Monday, March 4, 2013

Odette's Secrets by Maryann Macdonald

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: March 3, 2013

For Jews in Nazi-occupied Paris, nowhere is safe. So when Odette Meyer’s father is sent to a Nazi work camp, Odette’s mother takes desperate measures to protect her, sending Odette deep into the French countryside. There, Odette pretends to be a peasant girl, even posing as a Christian–and attending Catholic masses–with other children. But inside, she is burning with secrets, and when the war ends Odette must figure out whether she can resume life in Paris as a Jew, or if she’s lost the connection to her former life forever. Inspired by the life of the real Odette Meyer, this moving free-verse novel is a story of triumph over adversity.

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Odette Meyer and her mother, 1942
Loc 26, Odette's Secrets by Maryann Macdonald

I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from Maryann Macdonald's Odette's Secrets when I began reading it, but I was pleasant surprised by what I found in this touching WWII tale.

Based on the life of Odette Meyer, Macdonald's work is a fictional first person narrative of life in occupied France as seen through the eyes of a young Jewish girl. I'm not going to bother making comparisons to titles like The Diary of a Young Girl or I Have Lived A Thousand Years as I don't think it fair. Odette's Secrets is meant for younger readers and though it is still true to the emotional subject matter, it is a much subtler story.

Though I didn't fall in love with the book, I must admit I liked Macdonald's approach. Odette is almost five when her story begins and ages only five and a half years during the narrative. Hers is the voice of a child, one who sees and interprets the world with a naive innocence, focusing on the changes a child would have noted and been concerned over. Macdonald was able to recognize this and create a wonderful volume for adolescents who are just beginning to understand the war and how it affected the children of Europe. 

Written entirely in verse, Odette's Secrets has an almost lyrical quality. It is a simple story, but a poignant and sentimental one. An excellent introductory piece to some of the more intense subjects of WWII.

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Telling my story is what I must do. I'll write it down here in the most beautiful words I can find. The story of bombs and broom closets, of stars and soldiers, of cats and cousins, of family and friends, of heaven and hell. 
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