What the critics thought of Rachel Seiffert’s A Boy in Winter, Caroline Moorehead’s A Bold and Dangerous Family and Al-Britannia, My Country: A Journey Through Muslim Britain by James Fergusson
Two lesser known aspects of the second world war were explored in fiction and non-fiction this month. Rachel Seiffert’s novel A Boy in Winter is “a deeply moving and … morally complex fictionalisation of the mass extermination of the Jewish community in a Ukrainian town”, wrote Lesley McDowell in the Sunday Herald. “What Seiffert does so well is to make us care immediately and passionately about the fates of every individual … the consequences of her stark examination, in pared-back, precise prose, will stay with you for a very long time.” In the Literary Review, Suzi Feay praised her “restraint” and “artistic tact … Without overt moralising, Seiffert’s focus rests on the sane and the normal, the vaster numbers who allowed the unimaginable … Without wasting a word, Seiffert follows their journey with an implacable calm, although outrage lurks under the surface of every word.” The Sunday Times’s Nick Rennison also declared it “a fine novel that locates small, flickering lights of hope in an otherwise desolate landscape.”
Caroline Moorehead’s A Bold and Dangerous Family uses thousands of documents to piece together the lives of a family of Italian anti-fascists, the Rosellis. “Moorehead tells their tale well, but as an end to her trilogy [of books about wartime Resistance] it feels a bit of an anticlimax,” wrote Miranda Seymour in the Daily Telegraph. In the Times, Leanda de Lisle found that “the creepy description by the author of the naivety of the good and the seductive powers of the bad touches a nerve … a haunting reminder of the fragility of liberty and the dangers of complaisance.” For the Financial Times’s Tony Barber, “Moorehead, a distinguished biographer and historian, tells the story … with sensitivity, erudition and balance”. The Literary Review’s Jonathan Keates called it “a major contribution to the study of anti-fascism, further enriched by … Moorehead’s vivid portrayal of interwar Italy and Europe”.