I’ll start by saying that I ended up really enjoying this novel. If I hadn’t been given it to read and review, I wouldn’t have gotten past the first 100 pages though, actually, not even that far. So I’m really glad I had to keep reading because it was well worth persevering with this story.
This is a dual timeline historical fiction novel that revolves around 5 friends who are mathematicians in Hungary in 1938, teens who have lost the right to go to university because they are Jewish. Despite reading a fair few books set around WWII, I really still have no idea how Hitler, referred to in this novel as the small German psychopath, and his rules and laws completely affected and persecuted everyone of Jewish descent well before the war actually started. From not being allowed to work in most jobs, study or have freedom to move around their country, or out of it. I especially knew nothing of the people from Hungary.
The story itself was great, it was the mathematics that had me thinking, I am not enjoying this, I completely do not understand anything they are talking about. But if you can get through the larger chunk of mathematical concepts up to the first third of the book, then you will discover a really good story, one with a mystery and secrets that we slowly uncover through the reading of a notebook in the present timeline in Australia.
The present timeline, set in Australia is one of a largely disfunctional family, who’s younger members are trying to find their way and follow their dreams, who’s mother, Illy is feeling lost while trying to deal with her adult children and her elderly stubborn mother, Eszter, as well as a husband she’s not sure of anymore. As dreams for the future converge with secrets from the past, the family dynamics will undergo some interesting changes.
I was completely engaged with the characters, both past and present, wanting to know what would happen next and what had happened to them in the past. There’s a huge twist near the end that I completely did not see coming, which is something I love, I love being surprised when something completely unexpected happens in a story I where think I know roughly what is going to happen or be uncovered.
It’s a story of friendship, love, family, hope, dreams and mathematics. As well as persecution and fighting back any way you can.