Wednesday 17 September 2014

WBC - A Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli

A Meal in WinterA Meal in Winter by Hubert Mingarelli
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - a few hours

Pages - 138 pages

Publisher - Portobello Books

Blurb fro Goodreads

One morning, in the dead of winter, three German soldiers are dispatched into the frozen Polish countryside. They have been charged by their commanders to track down and bring back for execution 'one of them' - a Jew. Having flushed out the young man hiding in the woods, they decide to rest in an abandoned house before continuing their journey back to the camp. As they prepare food, they are joined by a passing Pole whose outspoken anti-Semitism adds tension to an already charged atmosphere. Before long, the group's sympathies have splintered as they consider the moral implications of their murderous mission and confront their own consciences to ask themselves: should the Jew be offered food? And, having shared their meal, should he be taken back, or set free?

My Review

Three German soldiers have been given a break from shooting prisoners at their concentration camp, to head out to the Polish countryside, to track down any Jews to bring back for execution. It follows their cold journey and how they track one of the Jews and take refuge in an abandoned house before they continue their journey back to the camp. It's cold, theres not a lot of food and a Polish man joins them, taking an aggressive attitude towards their prisoner. What follows is a tense evening of hunger, anger, and decisions as the men share a meal together and bring up the decision of taking the Jewish man back to the camp for certain death, or, after sharing a meal with them, do they let him go and find some internal peace.

The three Germans are: the narrator, who is never named, Bauer a thief and Emmerich a man who is worried about his son whilst he isn't there for him. The arduous journey through the bitter freezing cold, what they discuss during their hunt and what they watch out for. Once they have captured their man and decide to be hospitable and share their food, thats when they contemplate if they should free him or now. Going through memories of what they have done to their prisoners previously and how setting this man free could impact upon their equilibrium.

To be honest, I started this 5 days ago, then read the blurb and put it down until a few days later when I read it in a few hours. I hadn't realized what it was going to be about and sometimes, when your not sure how dark a book is going to be, you need to mentally prepare for it. Whilst the book subject matter is disturbing, there is no brutality in gory detail although it does mention Jewish people being executed. The focus of this novella, and it could really be labeled a short story as it is only 138 pages long, is the capture of the young man and the meal and night they all spent together. It is something different from my normal genre choice and had Waterstones not sent me it as a review copy I may not have picked it up. The writing is very well done, it pulls you into the scene and paints the picture so vividly you shudder at some of the descriptions of the harsh weather. I would possibly read this author again, I may have to see what else they have written. A sad and haunting tale in that, I feel, anything written about the Jewish people and their treatment from the German soldiers does tend to stay with you. 3/5 for me this time, thanks to Waterstones for sending me a review copy in exchange for my honest thoughts.

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  1. This sounds like an emotional and tense read. I used to read a lot of books set in or around the Holocaust and WWII. I am still drawn to them, but not as often.

  2. Great review Lainy.

    This one sounds powerful and meaningful. It is interesting that the plot and presumably the theme of the book is centered around a meal.

  3. This does indeed sound like one of those books that stays with you. Although at times difficult to read, I find I generally get a lot out of these kind of novels.

  4. Hi Lainy, I had not heard about this book until I visited you but I want to read it now. Nice review, thank you. Barbara.

  5. I find books about the Holocaust to be very emotional and difficult at times. This one sounds intense.


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