I was 12 when the coat was made. Nathan, our tailor and dear friend, cut it for Grandfather in the first week of March 1938. It was the last week of freedom for Warsaw and for us...Even in the most difficult of lives, there is hope. And sometimes that hope comes in the form of a small boy, armed with a troupe of puppets - a prince, a girl, a fool, a crocodile with half-painted teeth.... When Mika's grandfather dies in the Warsaw ghetto, he inherits not only his great coat, but its treasure trove of secrets. In one remote pocket, he finds a papier mache head, a scrap of cloth...the prince. And what better way to cheer the cousin who has lost her father, the little boy who his ill, the neighbours living in one cramped room, than a puppet show? Soon the whole ghetto is talking about the puppet boy - until the day when Mika is stopped by a German officer and is forced into a secret life... This is a story about survival. It is an epic journey, spanning continents and generations, from Warsaw to the gulags of Siberia, and two lives that intertwine amid the chaos of war. Because even in wartime, there is hope...
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Oh my, what a disappointment... WWII is a subject I've been interested in for a while, so I've read and watched a lot of books, movies and documentaries about it. Every time a new book about the war is released, I'm looking forward to reading it, especially if it's about Poland. That book, unfortunately, was not well researched, and has lots of incongruities.
WARNING: Some Spoilers ahead: For starts, it's never explained how the puppet boy and the soldiers communicate--in which language? German soldiers didn't usually--if at any point--spoke Polish then, and not many Polish people were German fluently. Those are very different languages, and this is a matter frequently treated in WWII literature (in The Storyteller, for example, the Jewish girl who is German fluent is a kind of a wonder exactly by that reason). If Mika spoke German, that should've been explained at some point.
Besides, I can't bring myself to believe that puppets would enchant so many people, including SS soldiers. It seems like too much to ask as suspended disbelief is concerned... But even if I could, the idea of someone caring a small child inside a coat to a bar full of SS soldiers, and after finally being able to transfer her to other people, go back to give her a puppet as a souvenir is beyond my accepting abilities... If not for the safety of the moment, I would think it wasn't a good idea because if he was so famous for his puppets, in the chance the child and the caretaker were caught, the puppet would give him away, right?
Plus, how would Jewish BOYS be mistaken for Arian ones? The circumcision is noticeable, and was done even during the war. So if it was just ONE boy that wasn't circumcised, okay, but Mika mentions several boys...
I couldn't find any reason for his cousin to stay in the ghetto when he escapes, or for him not to stay with her if he loved her so much. (Let's try to forget the fact they're were first cousins ugh!)
Even worse is the part after the end of the war, when the Soviets are painted as freedom heroes, instead of another bunch of invaders who made life in Poland still horrible for decades after the end of the war. As it seems by this book, Stalin soldiers made Poland free, comfort the population, gave them monuments as gifts and punished the Germans as they deserved. It really wasn't like that. The Russian years are remembered as a terrible time in Poland.
And all Max's Odyssey, taking almost as many years as Ulysses to come back home after the war didn't convinced me and wasn't all that explained.
I realize my review is not with the majority and I may seem harsh, but I expected more and I think this could have being a good book.
The narration was very good, though, and made me finish the book.