Living in the shadow of the Holocaust
Anita Diamant, the best-selling author of The Red Tent, turns her attention from biblical narrative to the story of a decidedly more modern group of Jewish women in her latest novel, Day After Night. The tale takes place in the latter half of 1945 at Atlit, a camp in Israel where those fleeing Europe and hoping for a homeland are held if they do not have papers—or if there is any other problem with their status.
Diamant focuses on four women housed at Atlit: Zorah, Leonie, Tedi and Shayndel. Although the story covers just a few months, past years are explored through the women’s varied memories of the harsh, cruel and sometimes tragic experiences they have endured. Each woman’s sorrow is her own, but the shared horror of the Holocaust and the burdens each one bears as a survivor serve to unite them in a friendship that will nourish them as they take on the challenges of starting anew. All of the women await their freedom from Atlit, although the notions of what this means, how to find it and where to go once it has been achieved are different to each. Talented, beautiful and strong, each of these women brings a different layer to the multi-faceted story of Diamant’s poignantly rendered Jewish experience.
The story is dispensed in small measures, with the lives of the four women peeled away like the layers of an onion. At times the narrative is not as compelling as one might hope; there is always the sense that the women are held at arm’s length, and the true horror of what they have experienced is somewhat muted by everyday concerns. Despite these issues, it is clear that this is a story close to the author’s heart—she lost her uncle and grandfather in the Holocaust—and she tells it lovingly. Day After Night stands out as a unique depiction of a piece of the Holocaust that is little known, and in the end, the human element of this story will captivate readers, regardless of their knowledge of the history of Judaism.
Linda White is a writer and publicist in St. Paul, Minnesota.