Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Richard Zimler - The Seventh Gate

It's Berlin, 1932. Sophie is a smart and sexually precocious fourteen-year-old coming of age during Hitler's rise to power. Forced to lead a double life when her father and boyfriend become Nazi collaborators, she reserves her dreams of becoming an actress for her beloved elderly neighbor, Isaac Zarco, and his friends, most of whom are Jews working against the government in a secret group called the Ring. When a member is sent to Dachau, she realizes there must be a Nazi traitor in the group. But who? Through successive mysteries, reversals, and surprises --and a race against time --The Seventh Gate builds to a shattering end. In its chilling but sensuous evocation of the time and place, Richard Zimler's novel is a love story and a tale of ferocious heroism.

Comment: I got this book from the library. As I expected, this was a successful story for me because the author's style is one I'm used to and this particular plot revolves around world war II themes, something I'm also usually interested in.

Again, the author used the idea of a man from the Zarco family trying to protect century old documents which are relevant especially because they are the proof of crimes committed against the Jewish Zarco family and Jewish communities in the Iberian Peninsula back in the 16th century.
In this book, a descendant of the family, Isaac Zarco, living in Berlin during the 30s uses the documents to explain to himself why such a situation is happening in Berlin and in the world. At the same time, those more closely connected to Isaac suffer the effects of Nazism and prejudice...

I loved this book. It's sadder than what one might think despite the theme and my poor description but it's powerfully done. Richard Zimler may have less managed books than others, as any author does, but for me this one is probably one of his best. I think a little bit must be the theme...how can anyone resist the mix of sadness and anger connected to stories based on WWII, especially because they are most likely something that happened somehow?

This story follows Sophie, the "narrator", through her life since she was a teenager in Berlin during the 30s. Since she lives near Issac she gets to meet his friends and she gets fond of them, which clashes with the way Germany now sees Jews and people not considered Aryan or perfect in their standards.
As one can imagine, this story is obviously filled with situations that wouldn't be as impressive if only we didn't know how real they were.
The author also chose to include details not usually seen in these types of books, namely the inclusion of the prejudice against others than only the Jews, people who have also been targeted, like the dwarfs, the mentally unstable, the sick, and how they were persecuted, trapped and sterilized against their will.

Again, this book was so sad but so touching, I couldn't not feel emotionally drained in some parts. Readers who like stories set in this time will certainly like the historical content, which also reveals the author's investigations. It's deeply disturbing, if course, to imagine the veracity of the situations depicted here. However, one can't get away from the impact is has too: after all, knowing these things were real is what makes it powerful.

People should not forget History but it's incredible to think so many just can't think about the facts anymore, not the same way and human are still committing crimes in the name of unmentionable and useless forces. How can humans get so low? How could people betray oneself so much?
Yet, real life, reality proves it every single day.
Books like this shouldn't be put aside but what we read as terribly descriptive fiction...happens everyday, even under different disguises or names.
So sad we are the villains and will keep on being so.
Grade: 9/10

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