The Young Survivors - reviews

5.0 out of 5 stars Poignant and beautifully written

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 25 July 2020

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A poignant and beautifully written personal story of how events under Nazi rule in Europe affected one family, narrated from the viewpoint of several members of the family – all children.

The story is based on true events, all set within the actual historical context. It obliges you to consider these events, some horrific and shocking, through the eyes of the children who, in their innocence and naivety, must try to make sense of what life is imposing on them. However, their harsh reality is also sprinkled with love and kindness, so the story is balanced with some tender and heart-warming moments.

I could not put the book down once I started it and felt drawn into the emotions and events of each child in the family. A must read.

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Lulu Berg

5.0 out of 5 stars Historical and compelling

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 24 July 2020

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I couldn’t put this book down - as hard as it is to read a book about the Holocaust - because it intrigues the reader to know what happened to this French family. Well written, the characters become your friends and you follow each one with hope that they will survive.
The history of France during WW2 is not one which Is generally covered and I learned much about the attitude of the French during this time.
Happily a descendant was able to write the book - something that so many families could not do
Thank you for this insight and for keeping the memory of this family alive.

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Nick Lampert

5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing debut novel

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 21 August 2020

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This is an incredibly impressive debut novel which tells the story of five Jewish children separated from their parents in Vichy France. Some of the family will perish in the Holocaust, some will survive. The novel is the story of the children, and we share their many tribulations and adventures. Debra Barnes has done a wonderful job, in so many ways: it is compelling as a narrative (I was always wanting to know what next), beautifully written in an unadorned style which seems just right, and it captures the flavour of the time and place extremely well. This reviewer has become familiar with Vichy France through research on his own family history and it was clear that Ms Barnes had steeped herself in that period. Yet she wears it lightly. It never feels as if she is demonstrating her knowledge: she does not need to because she knows it so well. And her knowledge is enriched by the fact the novel is based on her mother’s experience, though her mother never spoke about her traumatic early years. The author tells the story through three first person narratives, a difficult thing to do but she pulls it off. And the novel is the more moving because she does not lay it on. She vividly conveys the sense of the children's bewilderment and angst and the threat that hovered over them, but also that they did not know what was happening outside their immediate world, and got on with whatever life had to offer at that moment, with all the deprivations. Nothing is overstated and the novel never felt less than authentic. All in all it was a revelation. Hats off!

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AliH

5.0 out of 5 stars Immersive and compelling - felt lost once finished

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 27 July 2020

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The Young Survivors opens up a window on a part of the Holocaust narrative that is often overlooked, that of the fate of the Jews in France. Recounted through the eyes of three children, the reader bears witness to the confusion, anxiety and ultimate despair as they watch their family slowly disintegrate as the events of World War II unfold.

This book will bring you to tears but you will also share in the joy that even the darkest moments of life often bring. It is both immersive and compelling while packed with historical detail so that the reader comes away both spent and informed as to how directly complicit the French government and authorities at the time were in sending so many French Jews to their untimely death. It also highlights many stories of the courage shown by many members of the church and ordinary French citizens in hiding Jewish children and helping them to survive.

It is a story of how survival ultimately is as much a part of luck and being in the right place at the right time as it is of the ingenuity and tenacity of an individual to keep going, even when all the odds seem against them.

This is a must for anyone who wants to disappear in another time and truly empathise with the emotions and decisions that many Jewish families in France were faced with during this often forgotten part of the Holocaust.

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Suzie C

5.0 out of 5 stars Holocaust through the eyes of a child

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 26 July 2020

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The Young Survivors gives us another perspective of the WWII’s destruction. We are given a glimpse of life within France during Nazi occupation, whilst unravelling the devastation through children’s eyes, all of various ages. The grit and determination of the eldest son, Pierre, through to the innocence of his little twin sisters. As the horrors unfold, it is the children’s individual characters that remind us that each survivor has their own story and own perception of their experience. I definitely recommend Debra Barnes’ debut novel.

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SL

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, dramatic and easy to read

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 15 August 2020

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From the first chapter, I was drawn into this wonderfully warm, brave family. The story, which primarily follows the journey of the children, is totally engrossing and there was no way I could put it down until I knew the fate of each and every one.
Set in wartime France, The Young Survivors visits the less-often told story of the French Jewish experience. I was amazed at how quickly this family’s life was turned upside-down, and how they went from being a close-knit, multi-generational household to every man (or child) for himself. The author writes so beautifully about the strength of the human spirit, and the love and dedication of the family members to each other.
The pace of the book increases as it progresses and by the end, I had to remind myself to breathe between pages, it was so dramatic!
This is a beautifully written but very accessible book, recommended to adults and teens alike.

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Melissa Blair

5.0 out of 5 stars Truly gripping account of one family’s story

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 27 August 2020

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Finished The Young Survivors last night. I read the whole book in just three sittings and that was pacing myself after the first night I opened it! Totally gripping, so well written and ultimately a sadly brilliant account of your mums (and her family’s) story.
Having had the pleasure of knowing Paulette, it was amazing yet heartbreaking to read back of her childhood and the journey she’d endured. Not least because of her silence on the matter.
I’ve read other holocaust novels and found them (understandably) graphic and much harder to digest. They also seem to be mainly accounts of the camps rather than life around France during war time.
You’ve written this family’s account in such a real way, and whilst thankfully not relatable, a lot of it seemed just that of a ‘normal’ Jewish family at the time. The perspective of your uncles as they grew up during this time was so interesting, and of course so sad too.
An amazing tribute to a wonderful lady whom I remember so fondly xxx

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Kushkins67

5.0 out of 5 stars A FABULOUS Read!

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 23 October 2020

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I absolutely loved this book! Debra Barnes' talent for telling her mother's story knows no bounds. It's emotional and sad but hopeful at the same time. The story draws you in right from the beginning and the book is a page turner - you just have to know what happens to the children! Although reading about the Holocaust and how it affected this poor family living in France at the time is not a happy subject, the hopeful theme carries you through to the end. I look forward to Debra Barnes' next novel!

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Mrs DA Tullett

5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 28 August 2020

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Read this in 2 x days loved it so good I bought on kindle and paper back loved learning about each family member . Round of applause to Debra Barnes I learnt so much about a subject I knew so little about thank you. Xxx

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Sue Wink

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read

Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 11 September 2020

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Moving story of a Jewish family separated by war. Told from the perspective of the surviving children. Interesting to help understand the plight of Jewish children during WW2 and based upon a true story.

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