Monday, September 5, 2011

'Displaced Persons' by Ghita Schwarz (TLC Tour Stop)

Synopsis from TLC page:

In May 1945, Pavel Mandl, a Polish Jew recently liberated from a concentration camp, finds himself among similarly displaced persons gathered in the Allied occupation zones of a defeated Germany. Possessing little besides a map, a few tins of food, and a talent for black-market trading, he must scrape together a new life in a chaotic community of refugees, civilians, and soldiers. With fellow refugees Fela, a young widow, and Chaim, a resourceful teenager with impressive smuggling skills, Pavel establishes a makeshift family, as together they face an uncertain future. Eventually the trio immigrates to the United States, where they grapple with past traumas that arise again in the everyday moments of lives no longer dominated by the need to endure, fight, hide, or escape.

First thoughts after finishing the last page: "Hmmm....the first part was great....not so sure about the last half."

I thought that Displaced Persons was a very original book in the way that the author told the story of what happened to the Jewish community that survived the Holocaust and the occupied countries. I was immediately drawn into the story from the beginning and felt such disgust and horror for those that were still being treated like animals long after the war ended. Even though these people were "free", they actually were still being held captive by the British and American protocols. That part of the story was fascinating to me and one that I haven't read about in any fictionalized account of post WWII. I did however, find myself lost more than once trying to get the gist of who certain people were, why they were important, and what exactly it was that they were doing. That frustrated me, but I continued on with the story because I felt connected to Pavel and Fela and couldn't wait to see what would become of them once they reached America. Unfortunately, more than halfway through the story my interest began to wane and I felt that the story took a huge U-turn and started to fall apart for me. I can't exactly place my finger on what it was that made me not care so much, but it was there.

Recommend? Yes, even though the second half wasn't as captivating as the beginning of the book. Others may not feel that disconnectedness that I encountered so I wouldn't hesitate to tell friends about this book. I do believe that the author has an important story to tell and it's certainly one that needs more light. I can honestly say that I never really stopped and put much thought into what happened AFTER the war. I guess I blindly felt that once the Jewish people were liberated life would go on as usual. And for that reason alone I think others should read this book. It really makes you understand how life comes to a complete standstill for those that have been unjustly persecuted and held hostage in their own countries.

Rating: 7.5/10

Published: August, 2011(paperback version)
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Pages: 340
Genre: Literary Fiction
ISBN: 9780061881770

Disclaimer:Thank you to TLC Book Tours for sending me a review copy. I was not compensated for my review. My thoughts on this book were in no way influenced by the author or publicist.They are my personal reflections based solely on MYexperience while reading this novel.

© 2011, Staci of Life in the Thumb. All Rights Reserved. If you reading this on a site other than, Life in the Thumb or Staci's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. I do like the sound of this one, but need to be just in the right mood to try something like this.

  2. Too bad the story took a u-turn. You'd think which such fascinating material it would be able to remain highly interesting!

  3. This does sound interesting. One of my mother's cousins was a DP after the way so it took him a while to get to this country.

  4. That's a bummer that it didn't turn out very well... this sounds like it would have been an amazing book! :):):):):):):):):):):)

  5. I do not think I have ever read a book that focuses on the refugees after they are liberated from the camps either, but based on your review, it does sound interesting and also heart wrenching how their lives although better, were still extremely difficult. Too bad the second half was a disappointment for you.

  6. I might pick it up for the reason you stated. Good review.

  7. I generally find any book having to do with WWII fascinating and this one sounds unusual but I agree, too many characters and it can get confusing.

  8. Not sure about the book now if the end made you feel like that. Can't a book just continue to be good?

  9. Looks like an interesting aspect of the war that isn't touched on often.

  10. I'm glad you finished the book even though you felt disconnected and confused in the second half. I had often wondered what happened to the Jews once they were liberated because everything had been taken from them...did they return to their old homes, move to new places?

    Sounds like an interesting book.

  11. I do really like stories like this even if they're harrowing but it's a shame it kind of petered out :(

  12. Sorry this one wasn't the stellar read you had hoped it would be. It's frustrating when the first half is good and then the second half just falls apart. I had read another review with almost the same thoughts - somewhere along the line a disconnect occurs leaving the reader disappointed. I don't think this one will be going on the list.

  13. I recently read a memoir on this exact topic - what happened AFTER the war - and I have to admit that I hadn't given it much thought prior to that. Sad but true.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts for the tour.

  14. Sounds interesting. Will add it to my wishlist. Sort of reminds me of Bodie Thoene's series.

  15. This is definitely an aspect of the war I haven't read about and I don't believe there are many books about it either. It's a shame the book did a U-turn. I hate it when that happens.

  16. Sorry you were disappointed by the second half of the book. I loved the whole thing and found it so heartbreaking. I've always wanted to know how the survivors picked up the pieces and moved on. One scene that stuck out to me was when someone tells Pavel he should remove the tattoo.

    I've linked to your review on War Through the Generations.


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