The German Money
A Review by Steve Hartov

It is a rare thing nowadays to discover a writer who can paint. Yet in his new novel, The German Money, Lev Raphael delivers a carefully composed canvas of muted winter colors, stone grey urban structures and violent splashes of family discord. In his most recent works, a series of mystery novels set in the competitive atmosphere of university back-biting, Raphael demonstrated his wit and ability to draw one into his boldly sketched characters. But in this new work, the writer gets to the heart of the matter, with a scalpel. Since the close of the Second World War, there have been hundreds, perhaps thousands of books penned by Holocaust survivors and their children. We have traveled this rutted road of literary guilt, torture and inevitable nightmare, and most often been rewarded with the gory details of the Jewish experience under the Nazis. However, in The German Money, we come upon a family of silence and secrets, viewed through the eyes of its narrator and his two siblings, Simon and Dina. With the death of their mother, a survivor who steadfastly refused to share a single detail of her wartime trials, the siblings contest not only the emotional scars wrought upon them by their mother’s distance, but her inexplicable decision to reward just one of them with the funds of reparation. Her motivations for doing so, and the shocking surprise ultimately revealed, culminate in a twist that the authors of such previous books could not have imagined.
Raphael’s talent for physical description is outstanding, but his ability to capture the emotional picture of life among such ruins is unequaled: “The silences in our family were as clear and dramatic as semaphores.” And while The German Money might center on the mystery of a deathbed motivation, it is not this ultimate revelation that keeps us turning the pages. This novel is a finely executed quest, a voyage of discovery, and at last a hopeful tribute to the ability of the damaged human heart to heal.

Steven Hartov is the co-author of the New York Times best seller, In the Company of Heroes.

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The German Money
PUB DATE: September, 2003
PAGES: 208
TRIM: 6 x 9
ISBN: 0-9679520-0-X
PRICE: $14.95/ Trade Paperback Original

Lev Raphael On NPR - Hear the interview!


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