Publisher and Publication Date: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. February 23, 2021.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Source: I received a complimentary hardcover copy from G. P. Putnams’ Sons. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction with a World War II time period.
Rating: Okay to good.
Link @ G. P. Putnam’s Sons. This link has an audio sample.
Link @ Amazon
Link @ Barnes and Noble
About the Author:
Alexis Landau is a graduate of Vassar College and received an MFA from Emerson College and a PhD in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Southern California. She is the author of The Empire of the Senses and lives with her husband and two children in Los Angeles.
An interview by The Poisoned Pen bookstore:
Vera is a Russian Jew who is living in France with her husband and young daughter. Vera’s husband is Max. Their daughter is Lucie.
After the German Nazi’s occupy France, Vera and Max are sent to an internment camp. They leave little Lucie with a friend named Agnes. Vera feels this is the best place to ensure Lucie’s safety. Vera meant to return soon for Lucie. What Vera didn’t know, until the opportunity is upon her, is she has a chance to escape France and relocate to America. She is hoping Max will follow her. Vera cannot take Lucie with her, she must leave her with Agnes.
The story is dual time periods. Vera reflects on memories of France and the departure, and her new life and relationship in America. Some of the story is Lucie and her experience. Some of the story is Sasha’s life.
When I read a story with multiple characters, especially a child, I wonder how the story would read if the voice of the story is a child? A child reveals a story with a unique voice. Their perspective of life, people, and themselves reflect a different viewpoint. Further, there is an innocence that brings a heavy emotional atmosphere to the story.
When a story is told from an adult perspective almost always a romantic element is attached. A romantic element can add to or take away from the heart of the story. Those Who Are Saved is already an emotional story because parents have been forced to leave behind their young daughter in a country at war and with a pogrom of killing Jews. But, Vera is the main voice of this story. Her thoughts, fears, insecurities, and loneliness is a heavy burden she carries. Her inner life is back in France, but she is living in sunny California. I don’t care about Vera’s new life in America. I don’t care about who she has now decided to have sex with. I don’t care what kind of clothes she wears or the parties she attends. I care about Lucie who has been left behind. Lucie is the reason I felt pulled to read to the last page. Lucie is the heart of the story. Everything else is chicken feathers.
Sasha is a character I like from the first moment of introduction. He loves his mother. He is hard working. He is a man of grit and determination but with a touch of tenderness. He serves his country in a time of war with perseverance and distinction. He has a dream that gets a setback, but he chases that dream like many Americans. He needs a hug and a kiss.
Poor Max. I hardly know him. His character is more like a prop that’s used every once in a while. He shows little emotion. His character is not developed. He is just there. However, Max shows one example of how people grieve.
I love the writing style, the choice of words, and the arrangement of those words that bring a smooth rhythmic sentence.
Those Who Are Saved has both internal and external conflicts the characters act to overcome.
Themes in the story: grief, sacrifice, honor, courage, love, bravery, war, marriage, and perseverance.
Over-all, Lucie and her plight is the main reason I wanted to read to the last page. The rest of the characters circle around with their own individual stories. Sasha’s story is my second favorite-after Lucie. Vera not so much. Max not at all.
I feel Those Who Are Saved shifts too much away from Lucie, and takes on adult situations and agendas.