Read of the Week

The Yellow Bird Sings

Jennifer Rosner

Pan Macmillan

Review: Karen Watkins

It’s 1941 and soldiers arrive at Róza’s parents’ home in Gracja, Poland. They ransack her father’s workshop, smash his work benches, steal his tools, spill varnish everywhere and break one of his violins.

Róza’s husband Natan was shot in a trench he was forced to dig. A few weeks later the soldiers return, rounding up Jews to take them to concentration camps.

Meanwhile, Róza and her 5-year-old daughter Shira hide in a cupboard before escaping to shelter in a neighbour’s barn.

To stay safe they must be still and silent, which is almost impossible for a little girl.

But music pulses through Shira’s veins as a yellow bird does the singing for her when her mother whispers a story of a girl in an enchanted garden.

Notching up the days, Róza realises that in order to save her daughter’s life she must send her away.

Shira ends up in a convent where a nun recognises her musical talent and organises violin lessons.

Meanwhile, Róza escapes to a forest where she survives on roots, berries and bark before stumbling on a camp of Jewish resisters. But she never gives up hope of finding Shira.

The story was inspired by a woman’s experience of World War II when she was hidden in an attic with her mother and told to keep quiet.

This heart-rending debut novel is an exquisitely written compelling story of love and determination.

Jennifer Rosner lives in western Massachusetts with her family.