For Such a Time
In 1944, blonde and blue-eyed Jewess Hadassah Benjamin feels abandoned by God when she is saved from a firing squad only to be handed over to a new enemy. Pressed into service by SS-Kommandant Colonel Aric von Schmidt at the transit camp of Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, she is able to hide behind the false identity of Stella Muller. However, in order to survive and maintain her cover as Aric's secretary, she is forced to stand by as her own people are sent to Auschwitz. Suspecting her employer is a man of hidden depths and sympathies, Stella cautiously appeals to him on behalf of those in the camp. Aric's compassion gives her hope, and she finds herself battling a growing attraction for this man she knows she should despise as an enemy. Stella pours herself into her efforts to keep even some of the camp's prisoners safe, but she risks the revelation of her true identity with every attempt. When her bravery brings her to the point of the ultimate sacrifice, she has only her faith to lean upon. Perhaps God has placed her there for such a time as this, but how can she save her people when she is unable to save herself?
When I first learned about this story I immediately thought, A retelling of Esther set during the Holocaust? Why hasn’t anyone done this before? It really was a brilliant idea, but though I found the book worth reading, it didn’t always live up to my expectations.
Sometimes it was hard for me to keep all of the characters straight with their German names and titles. The specific Esther storyline sometimes helped things that might have at times felt unbelievable or unrealistic, but at the same time it felt perhaps a bit over-structured and there were points that I felt the strict adherence to the original story hindered rather than added to the overall plot.
Though there were good aspects to the story, the romance did make me uncomfortable sometimes. I understand that it did follow the main plot with Esther and Xerxes, but I still thought there was a bit too much kissing and sensual content for me. That being said, I was surprised for how much sympathy I had for Aric- I thought he was going to be one of those heroes I didn’t care for, but he surprised me. It’s not often that you see a Nazi portrayed in a complex, sympathetic light, but in all honesty, I don’t think it a stretch of imagination that there were at least a few who were uncomfortable and ashamed of the things they were forced to do.
For Such a Time was in many aspects a hard read- as is any book dealing with this tough and disturbing period in world history- but not an overwhelmingly depressing one. I did like this book; I just didn’t care for it as much as I had originally hoped I would. Still, I’m sure anyone fascinated with World War II or the book of Esther will want to try this one out, although due to some of the mature themes I wouldn’t recommend this one to younger readers.
Rating: 7 1/2
Rating: 7 1/2
I received this book for free from netgalley.com in exchange for my honest review.