Let Me Tell You a Story: A Memoir of a Wartime Childhood

Renata Calverley, Author
Renata Calverley. Bloomsbury, $26 (352p) ISBN 978-1-62040-149-1
Reviewed on: 06/17/2013
Release date: 11/19/2013
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-1-4088-3450-3
Hardcover - 340 pages - 978-1-4088-3449-7
Hardcover - 978-1-4713-2416-1
Hardcover - 340 pages - 978-1-4088-3452-7
Hardcover - 978-1-4713-2417-8
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In a burnished memoir, Calverley, a retired English teacher in Oxford, England, recreates her wartime years in Poland in the voice of a young, well-to-do Jewish child who is separated from her mother and shunted off to various safe houses. Blond-haired and blue-eyed, Calverley had grown up in Przemysl, the only child of a doctor who enlisted with the Polish army and a mother who taught literature at the university. After the Nazi invasion of 1939, the family was relocated to the ghetto and forced to wear yellow stars, and the mother was dismissed from her teaching job, leaving the child uncomprehending and profoundly shaken. Her mother and grandmother were taken away in September 1943, and Calverley, then nearly six, was abandoned to a series of caretakers—from her former wet nurse Marynia, who got her out of the ghetto under her skirts, to various relatives and Polish partisans, who are portrayed with particular brutishness. A stint in a nasty orphanage with a horrid older bully named Jorik capped Calverley’s episodic wartime saga. She makes it through these difficult years by losing herself in books—favorites include works by Hans Christian Andersen and Charles Dickens—until finally being rescued by her doting aunt and uncle back in Przemysl. Calverley’s memoir is no fairy tale—she brings the horrors of war vividly to life—but her survival is miraculous. (Nov.)
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