Fake Papers Survival Lessons from Grandma's Escape by Aaron Rockett
Published: self published in May 2019
Available on Amazon
Reviewer note: I was given a copy of this book to read and review. The opinions are my own. If you are interested in more information or in purchasing this book, click on the book cover which will take you to the book on Amazon.
Fake Papers, by filmmaker Aaron Rockett, is the biography of his Jewish Grandmother, Letty Schmidt. Aaron's mother died when he was a young child, his grandmother Letty tells him the story of her escape from the Nazis during World War II. Many years later, Aaron's work in Afghanistan causes him to confronts his feelings about his family and Jewish heritage; he seeks the full history from his grandmother in her waning days.
The Plot: Although technically a biography, this book reads more like a work of fiction. I had to keep reminding myself that the characters were real. This is not a criticism, in fact the book really pulled me in, unlike some dry biographies I've read.
The story of Letty Schmidt, a Polish Jew, begins in Antwerp where her family has fled. With an absent father, and an uncertain mother, Letty and her sisters, Suzy and Annie, are thrust into the role of decision makers. Staying one step ahead of the Germans, Letty and her family flee from one precarious town to another. Hungry and desperate the family ties begin to dissolve as survival becomes all consuming.
Letty's story is one of love, trust, betrayal and fear. The reader is taken on a harrowing journey as a young girl, forced to fend from herself in a cruel adult world, grows up too soon. As a dying old woman she learns to face and accept the scars that have shaped her life and relationships. She survived the war but, survival always comes with at a price.
The Characters: Letty and her sisters are well drawn, each with a distinct personality. Her mother is especially vivid, her pain and fear was palpable. The photos added to the story but I felt like they were icing on the cake.
The History: The author has a firm grasp on the history of the day and guides his readers through the events of the war that impacted Letty and her family. I found the reprehensible actions of the French Vichy Government to of particular interest. Family photos complement the story, especially of Letty in a Jewish workers camp.
The writing: The prose is simple and straightforward. There are some minor issues that might annoy grammar divas, but overall the pace and style were fine. I enjoyed the quirky chapter titles and discovering what they meant.
Conclusion and recommendations: I enjoyed reading Letty's story. I think it's very important to record the lives of our ancestors not only for posterity but for the lessons learned from them. I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in history, especially stories of the Jewish people in Europe during WWII. For those who have a special interest in the recording of family history, I think this book offers and excellent example.
I rate this book 4 Stars
1 Star: Not good at all, do not read!
2 Stars: Read only as a last resort, no other books available
3 Stars: Good, enjoyed it, will recommend with reservations
4 Stars: Really good, read this book!
5 Stars: So good, I might read it again sometime! Highly recommend