Above All There Is Hope
This is really a 3.5 Stars book, and I'm mean so I marked it as 3.
Above all The Red Ribbon is a book about hope and how without it life will be grey and brown, cold and brutal. Hope for ourselves and in our decisions, hope that our family will be okay despite evidence to the contrary, hope that our friendships will endure and that out trust is not misplaced. Hope that society will treat all people fairly and as wondrous creations that each have their part to play in the world.
Lucy Adlington recreates the horrors of World War 2 from the perspective of a young girl, Ella, who was snatched from the streets of her home and taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau. To the guards the inmates are less than human and just stripeys there to work and die as they deserve no better. They re numbers on a list and lists are important things because if you aren't on a work list you are on a death list and the chimneys are already belching flames night and day so one more on a death list is no matter. These are all things we already know abut the Holocaust but the number of people who were killed is mind-boggling and hard to understand until Ella takes us to the General Department Store and realises that the mounds of clothes, the mountains of shoes and the room full of spectacles are all taken from people just like her and her family. It was the whole room of spectacles that really got to me. Just how many people would they need to take to fill a whole room with spectacles?
Ella is under 16 and wears a yellow star. Rose is a little older and wears a red triangle and is there because of what her mother writes. They start at the Upper Sewing Workshop on the same day and have to battle to keep their place. The Boss, Marta, worked at all the best places and she needs one girl who can sew. Ella proves herself and Rose must have impressed with her ironing as they are both back for a second day and their friendship is forged whist waltzing with polishing mitts on their feet in the fitting room.
The tale of friendship between the two girls and Rose's never-ending optimism that things will turn out right for them is the over-arching theme of he book. This makes the brutality of the guards even more shocking when it leaches on to the page and, in particular, the betrayal Carla shows to Ella is shocking when it comes.
My real issue with the book is not the story told but the layout. Whoever it was in the Art Department that decided it would be a great idea to backprint the pages with scissors and pins and a red fraying ribbon needs to be immediately told to try reading a book with page backprinting. It completely distracts the eye and rips you out of the story. This tale is good enough that it needs no fripperies and would havegot 4.5 Stars if it wasn't for that pesky intereference. Apologies Ms Adlington you got marked down because of a publishing decision.
I RECEIVED A FREE COPY OF THIS BOOK FROM READERS FIRST IN EXCHANGE FOR AN HONEST REVIEW.