Book Review by Ann Jonas, Tradebook Buyer - CSB/SJU Bookstores
this review was published in the St. Cloud Visitor
Day After Night by Anita Diamant, published by Simon and Schuster, September 2009
Author Anita Diamant’s Old Testament novel The Red Tent was the book that essentially put her on the literary map. The book, which gave voice to the biblical women Dinah, Leah, Rachel and others, has been enjoyed and shared by many readers, especially women. Diamant’s new book Day After Night also has women as the main characters, this time four Jewish women who survived the Holocaust. The novel is based on the true story of the October 1945 rescue of more than two hundred prisoners from the Atlit internment camp near the Mediterranean coast north of Haifa. The Atlit camp was built by the British in 1938 to house their own troops. At the end of World War II many European Jews, in violation of international political agreements, began to make their way to Palestine. As a result, Atlit was turned into a “detention center” for refugees without promissory papers. These “illegal” immigrants were held by the British military, while they waited for the authorities to figure out what to do with them.
Day After Night is told through the eyes of four young women from very diverse backgrounds who end up detained at Atlit. Shayndel, a Polish Zionist; Leonie, a beautiful Jewish woman from Paris; Tedi a Dutch Jew; and Zorah, a concentration camp survivor, all have different stories as to how they arrived at Atlit. All four are haunted by unforgettable Holocaust memories; they have all lost their families and question why they survived when their loved ones did not. The book alternates between the women as they try to look ahead to an uncertain future, while trying to forget their past. The four women begin life at the camp feeling alone and trusting no one. They slowly forge strong friendships and help each other survive life in the camp. All are involved in the eventual plot to break out of the camp. Because the book has four main characters, none of them are as fully developed as readers would hope. However, Diamant does give the reader a sense of the grief, pain, fear and despair that were felt by the Holocaust survivors who endured further imprisonment after World War II ended.
The Red Tent still has to be considered Daimant’s best book, but the historical aspect of Day After Night makes this book a worthwhile read. The story of the Atlit Internment Camp is a little-known, but certainly important segment of the Jewish Holocaust. This engaging tale of friendship, hope and courage in the midst of great loss is a valuable and meaningful novel.
Diamant began her writing career in 1975 as a freelance journalist. She has written about Jewish practice and the Jewish community. Her first book was The Jewish Wedding, a handbook she wrote after her own wedding. She has done five more guidebooks to Jewish life, including The New Jewish Baby Book and Living a Jewish Life. The Red Tent, published in 1997, was her first work of fiction, succeeded by Good Harbor, another novel that explores the importance of women’s friendships. The Last Days of Dogtown, her third novel, is also historical fiction.