I’m not sure why, but for some reason my book reviews on Amazon.com aren’t automatically linking to facebook and twitter, and since this is a blog about reading and writing, I decided to put them here. This review is about Leon Uris’ Mila 18, a powerful and moving historical novel set in the mid-1990’s. Though definitely not a “beach read,” that’s where I read much of it, thus making the contrast between the scene above and the many dark scenes in the novel even more horrific. It’s not an entertaining book, yet one you should read for reminders of what strength and courage look like.
One of the many things I enjoy about Uris’s books is the way he describes and develops his characters and the various situations in which they’re involved. He introduces the reader to Gabriela, Andre, Paul Bronski, Deborah, Chris deMonti, and several others in the beginning of the novel, and then as the book progresses you see even more of their many dimensions. For example, you might think that Gabby is a social butterfly, spoiled and pampered. You’d be wrong. She’s a strong person, a loyal one too, especially to Andre but to the others as well. And then there’s Koenig, a mean and malevolent person whose true colors become increasingly apparent as he’s thrust into the Nazi hierarchy.
Members of my writing group are fond of saying, “Show, don’t tell,” and Uris is a master of showing. No one can read Mila 18 without seeing, hearing, and smelling the sights, sounds, and odors of the battlefield, the underground ghetto, and the sewer. I saw the children eating chocolate on their way to a concentration camp, felt revolted by Stutze’s brutal murder of Max Kleperman, and smelled and “tasted” the murky sewer gas swirling around up to my neck.
Uris also reminds his readers that even in the most horrid of conditions, there is love, honor, and strength. Deep love exists between several couples, and the descriptions of their moments together are poignant. Honor, integrity, and strength are described time after time in the actions of the Jewish people themselves as they struggle against the cruelty directed towards them.
A work of historical fiction, this novel is both informative and mind boggling. I learned a wealth of information about the situation of Jews in and around Warsaw before and during WW II and was reminded to “never forget.” I used the term mind boggling because enjoyable is too light of an adjective to describe such horror juxtaposed to kindness, love to hate, and good to evil.