The darkest days in history of Nazi Germany through a woman's eyes

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
322 Pages
Reviewed on 10/06/2016
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Trudi LoPreto for Readers' Favorite

Emilia is a very moving and powerful book that will touch your emotions by hurting your heart, and making you angry. Emilia is a very strong-willed young woman whom we meet at the beginning days of the occupation of Poland. We meet Emilia’s family and read in horror as they are forced to leave their home and board the train that will take them to the concentration camp. Emmi is forced to witness killings, beatings, and people starving to death. She survives because she is young and pretty and the Nazi captors take notice of her. She suffers their sexual attacks to stay alive and to get her family extra food. She is often beaten, forced to give her body, but because of it she receives the easier and preferred jobs, keeping her safe throughout the war. When the Russians and Americans finally arrive to liberate all of the concentration camp prisoners, Emmi moves on to living as a free woman. She takes with her all of her shame, pain and memories and has to learn how to survive in the new world of freedom.

Emilia was a hard book to read because of all the sadness, but it was also uplifting to watch Emmi do what she had to do and come out of it at the end of the tunnel. I cried, I hurt for the inhumanities that took place, I cheered when something good happened. Ellie Midwood has written a story that needed to be told. Her writing is beyond excellent and I found myself immersed in the book. This is a book that must be read to understand what really happened in the concentration camps and the anguish that was endured. I highly recommend this book to all history buffs and anyone who enjoys a good book.

Heidi Fischer

"Emilia" is the story of a young German, Jewish woman's struggle for survival in WW2. Our protagonist endures a nightmare existence of rape, starvation and brutality but she is a fighter and her effort to stay alive, whatever the cost, is not in vain. Despite the horrific subject matter, "Emilia" is an engaging read. The author's voice is raw and gritty (no fluffy, purple prose here) and I found her frankness somehow endearing and relatable. The pace of the story is excellent (no need to skim or skip any boring bits) as it transitions beautifully from one scene to the next. Ultimately, I felt that the book was about acceptance and moving on but that's just my interpretation. If you like fiction from this era and can cope with some rather disturbing images, you'll really get into this thought-provoking read.

Michael Putegnat

We would all desperately want to say of Ellie Midwood’s novel “Emilia” that it was dystopian. There is terror, horror, humiliation, the struggle to survive…as in “The Road” or “The Handmaid’s Tale.” But, disturbing as those classics are, at least they are imagined. We can awake from them, like from a terrible nightmare. But we can’t, just as Ellie Brettenheimer cannot. Because the undeniable truth is that in the suburbs of Danzig, Poland, in May of 1941, the Nazis had already begun the long process of exterminating the Jewish people when we meet Emilia, a teenager, and her family. And we wince, fearing with them, what is to come.
The story of survival in the Concentration Camps has been told, but Ellie Midwood has given us a window into it from the perspective of a young girl, who must struggle against convention and conscience in the choice between life and death. It isn’t long before we are alongside Emilia, wondering as we turn each page where her story will take her and us. We witness her transformation from child to woman. And soon we are understanding something of what it would take to survive and wondering too if we had the stuff to manage it.
I am not sure that a documentary account of such an experience can fully reveal the sense of a human being confronted with such inhumanity in a world without hope or relief. It is one thing to hear of it; quite another to feel each hour of it. It is a testament to great skill that the author managed to so compelling and realistically capture in words what she could only know from others and do so with such precision and authenticity.
It is not possible to read “Emilia” and not be moved. For all the horrors of those times and circumstances, this is a story of remarkable courage: a celebration of the resilience of the indomitable human spirit. The reader will come away chastened but uplifted, and very glad of the experience.

Sherrill Wark

This well-handled historical novel, *Emilia*, begins innocently enough with Emilia’s father patiently explaining to the family: “They are after the religious ones, and we … go to the synagogue once a year for Yom Kippur, that’s how religious are we!” He then predicts the lie of the story: If we comply with what they tell us, we’ll be fine.

As a former editor so stickler for em dashes and the proper use of commas, etc.; against the overuse of such words as “just” and “only”; and seeing the word “who” used in lieu of “whom” in some spots, I found myself subconsciously reaching for my blue pencil—a work this powerful deserves the highest quality edit. But as I got more and more involved with Emilia, knew her better, I didn’t give a damn if a few sentences ended with double punctuation, I cared only for the protagonist.

As the story of Emilia unfolded, my discomfort increased page by page. How could things possibly get worse for her? They can and they do.
First, the family is removed to a ghetto where a beautiful young Emilia is forced by the Unterscharführer to “exchange favors” to keep herself and her family alive. Her only comfort is in knowing that she is not the only young woman shamed by violent and repeated sexual assault. They are moved again and again, each situation worsening for Emilia, now on her own. She learns that there are not only enemies outside the barracks but inside as well, the inside enemies often more selfish and cruel.

I won’t give anything away, whether Emilia survives or not; I will leave that up to the reader to decide. Besides, the phrase “a testament to the strength of the human spirit” is beyond cliché when applied to this work, it’s insulting. *Emilia* leaves a mark.