The stork is the harbinger of Spring symbolically bringing light to the Winter darkness and anticipation of its arrival becomes a metaphor for life and hope as Yael struggles desperately to find safe haven in Nazi occupied Poland.
The impending genocide looms large over those fighting to preserve their Jewish faith. Fighting cold and hunger the teenager tenaciously clings to any semblance of normality as she seeks to outlive the encroaching enemy Unexpected love and solace are found with Alexei, a man traumatised into silence by a childhood incident yet able to provide an oasis of peace where literature and the changing seasons stimulate their developing relationship.
The endless silence heightens the senses as the passing of time is vicariously shared through the warmth and colour generated by the rise and fall of the sun as it breathes life into the landscape and burns away the harsh privations of the winter cold. The author has a real sense of nature’s extremes and its ability to reveal a human’s basic survival instincts as the harshest of physical and mental climates takes the affected to the cusp of life and death and only then do they realise what truly matters.
Yael uncovers a surrogate family in the partisans who have become the Robin Hoods of the resistance movement. They are physically entwined with the forest they inhabit; able to create uncertainty and fear amongst their occupiers as their surprise attacks play on the irrational fears of the Germans who sense an otherworldliness to the forest and the silent secrets it conceals.
The triumph of good over evil is embodied within Yael yet in casting a spotlight on man’s ability to endure the authors strips back life to the fundamentals of food, warmth and love. The search for her brother Josef becomes her quest and her reason to survive and out of unbearable loss ultimately comes life and an end to the darkness.
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