“It was around Lilith’s seventh birthday that Ally’s nightmares began. What sort of mother dreams about her child dying? She thought. She only had herself to blame, for having brought her into the world. For having to live in endless flight.”
I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I enjoyed the premise and direction Armando took the book. But I found that his writing style and a particular event in the book didn’t click with me as a reader. Let’s start with what I liked about this book. I can tell that Armando had researched what was happening in Germany and Cuba during the times this book is set. He integrated all these facts to create a fascinating story. I enjoyed that he chose to focus his book on a topic that hasn’t been written much in historical fiction. The first part of The Night Travelers focuses on a child deemed inferior to the Nazi Regime not because of their religion but because of the colour of their skin. It was interesting and horrifying seeing what happened to these children during these times. I also like exploring and learning more about Cuba during the 1940s and 50s. It’s not a place I get to visit often in books.
One of the things that fell a little flat with me was Armando’s writing style. Now don’t get me wrong, this book is really well written. The storyline progresses cohesively, and I never felt lost or confused with what was going on. Armando’s writing is elegant, but I thought this story lacked emotion even with this elegance. There were a lot of horrible, tragic events in this book that should invoke some emotional response from me, but they didn’t. It felt like he glossed over or rushed through these events. Characters dealt with their emotions in a detached manner, and that is not what I want to see from the characters in a book.
The other thing that bugged me is when Lilith was sent away to Cuba with strangers. This whole event, in my eyes, was flawed. Ally clearly loves her daughter, but she never offered to go with her daughter to Cuba. It was like the idea never came to anyone’s mind. There was no explanation for why Ally couldn’t go; she was in perfect health, there was no war going on, and in my mind, she would have been safer travelling with her German mother than with a Jewish couple. The Jewish couple involved never intended to go to Cuba, so it was not like Ally was asking if her daughter could tag along with them. The whole event didn’t make sense in my mind and needed to be thought out better.
I firmly believe that every book has its reader; in this case, this book wasn’t meant for me. I love historical fiction because it often brings out those big emotions, good or bad. And this book didn’t do it for me. But there are readers out there who will love this book and enjoy the story Armando created.
Thank you, Simon and Schuster Canada, for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.