On the Third Ward

T. Degens, Author HarperCollins Publishers $14.95 (243p) ISBN 978-0-06-021428-9
``Watching Albert die, I'd thought it wasn't that difficult,'' begins this disturbing and challenging novel from the author of Transport 7-41-R . Set in post-WW II Germany, the story follows young Wanda's admittance to a hospital for tubercular children and her subsequent progress--and deterioration. She and the three other girls who share a room fight off their very tangible fear of death by staging minor rebellions (Wanda routinely throws away part of her breakfast; another buries plum pits in her cast to confound the doctors who will study her X-rays), by inventing math problems (``If my father reminds me to say please once during breakfast, lunch, and dinner, how often does he put in the very same request in 1, 2, 7, 21, 81 years? With dinner only''?) and, especially, by seeking refuge in the stories told by one of them, the so-called Empress of China. As Wanda, thoroughly isolated from the world beyond her ward, becomes habituated to the pronounced mortality of her fellow patients, both she and the author blur distinctions between the hospital and the fantasy kingdom that the Empress of China designs. The sophistication of the narrative and its strong, unvarnished themes demand maturity from readers. Ages 11-up. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1990
Release date: 01/01/1990
Hardcover - 243 pages - 978-0-06-021429-6
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