Saturday 9 October 2010

Night by Ellie Wiesel: Review

Night is the kind of book that blows your socks off whilst simultaneously giving you the feeling of being overwhelmingly grateful for having any socks at all. It is a sparse 100 pages that shakes you to the very core. 100 pages of one boy's account of being ripped from a normal life and thrown into the nightmare of concentration camps in Nazi Germany. It is, in my opinion, a must-read. These things, however uncomfortable, cannot be forgotten just as as other atrocities being perpetrated throughout the world as we speak should not be ignored.

One thing that really stood out for me in this novel was the feeling of disbelief and denial of reality that so many of the Jewish people felt throughout the whole experience. When they were moved into the ghettos and stripped of their homes, they thought this was the worst that could happen. When they were rounded up and put on cattle trains, they thought that perhaps a better place awaited them at the end. The harrowing scene where the seemingly hysterical woman who proclaims to see fire in the train carriages (later proving to be a chillingly accurate prophecy of the chimneys at the camps ahead of them) is violently silenced by those around her only serves to highlight the unreality of the situation and the inability of anyone to truly comprehend what was happening.

How could they? How could any person possibly take in and process this kind of treatment? I tried putting myself into their shoes and found myself frozen, overtaken by the helplessness of it all. All that was left for them to do was survive, to try and get through to the other side alive.

This is not an uplifting book. There is no Hollywood ending, no light relief. It is horror after horror and then more horror. You cannot, at any point, become immune to it. You are made to sit in the sun without water with them, you are crammed into claustrophobic cattle carriages with them, you are dragged through mud and starved with them. Reading Ellie Wiesel's vivid and uncompromising narrative is the closest any of us will ever come to understanding the Holocaust from a survivor's perspective. It's not a pretty ride, but it is one that opens your mind and makes you realise - at no point can any of us become complacent. Never should we take for granted a warm bed and a good meal. At the end of this book, I settled down for the night and I swear that my bed had never felt so comfortable.

Read this book. Read it for those who survived, read it for those who did not survive and read it for those who suffer other cruelties around the world. Only when our eyes and minds are open can the world become a better place.


  1. I love your first line. You're so right.

    I remember that about the book--how their situation got worse so gradually that, by the time they realized life really sucked, it was too late.

    That awful "it was not a bird" scene is engraved on my brain.

  2. Hi Kathy! Thanks for the comment. I agree - that scene and the one of the woman being beaten on the train are seared onto my memory. It's awful what they had to endure.