Soon by Morris Gletizman
Viking, 2015. ISBN 9780670078875
(Age: 14+) Part of the sequence which began with Once, in this story our familiar young Jewish boy Felix is still trying to survive in Poland at the end of the Second World War after the Soviets have driven out the German army. Having avoided death at the hands of Nazis on numerous occasions and somehow managing to continue to keep starvation at bay, he and his older friend Gabriek are now threatened by roaming gangs of Nationalist thugs.
Sadly familiar with atrocities, violence and cruelty perpetrated by German invaders, Felix is still naively hopeful and continues to be shocked and distressed by inhumanity. He is dismayed by the attitude of Poles who, having endured everything that has gone before, now harbour hatred for Jews and Slavic people, hunting them mercilessly through ruined cities and murdering without thought. As he does in the other novels, Gleitzman constantly emphasises that amongst the brutality and barbarity, individuals showed compassion, sometimes exposing themselves to great risk to assist others. Felix has a strong moral compass and his constant desire to do what is right, being honest and loyal, causes him emotional turmoil which places him in grave danger when he could otherwise turn his head and walk away.
Readers of the earlier novels will recall how a gentle humour persists in a narrative which is still completely respectful in dealing with the unspeakable events of the Holocaust. In this novel, Felix's continuing desire to practice medicine lands him in a range of situations which snowball disastrously to place him, Gabriek, a baby and a new friend in grave danger. Felix's unyielding desire to do what is morally correct makes resolving the conundrum incredibly complicated and the brave little hero who is incapable of harming others shows great courage in overcoming his own terrors to try to protect the vulnerable.
Without spoiling the story it is necessary to state that whilst hope and human kindness are powerful themes in this tale, death, violence, suffering and racial hatred are present. These elements, together with reference to abhorrent medical experimentation on captives by Nazi doctors makes this novel unsuitable for readers under 14 in my opinion. This moving tale is the product of detailed research and will serve to educate about the horrors of war and the excesses of maniacal regimes.
The author emphasises that it is not necessary to read the preceding works as a series as they effectively stand alone.