The Historical Novel Society Reviews ‘A Berlin Love Song’
Perfectly pitched to YA readers, this is a beautifully evoked love story between a Romani girl and a German soldier during WWII. The events unfold from both viewpoints: Max, who looks back to the feelings that overwhelmed him as a seventeen-year-old, encountering dark-haired Lili for the first time. And Lili, a trapeze artist from a circus family, whose love for a middle-class Berlin gadjo was always doomed.
Sarah Matthias set out to write about the under-documented persecution of Romani people under Hitler. She succeeds here quite brilliantly. We see the build-up of the Reich, the events of war and the dire experience of the camps through the disbelieving eyes and love-fogged brains of these two characters and their very different families.
The main story thread is a poignant one and has the ring of emotional truth, but the novel touches on many other emotional complexities in war. Max, a reluctant conscript, gets sucked into the camaraderie and glory of being a gunner. Not all the SS guards in the Romani concentration camp lack humanity.
This is a long read that is well-paced and always absorbing. Matthias is adept at evoking family life and its daily details: ‘I stared at her legs with a brotherly eye. Were those real silk stockings or just gravy browning and a line of pencil?’ She skilfully weaves in Romani words, stories and customs, such as when Lili risks telling a long Zigeuner (Roma) story to Doktor Mengele, notorious in real life for his experimentation on prisoners.
I loved everything about this book, from the freshness of the writing: ‘Helmuth roared into the farmyard on his motorbike, scattering hens like skittles’, to the harsh intensity of a romance ensnared in the dark events of the Romani Holocaust. One for every library and older-teenage bookshelf.The Historical Novel Society
The Ham & High and Islington Gazette feature Sarah’s latest novel ‘A Berlin Love Story’
26th April 2017
Local North London newspaper, the Ham & High have featured ‘A Berlin Love Song’ in an article drawing attention ‘The Forgotten Holocaust’ and an exhibition taking place in London in May
THE FORBIDDEN ROMANCE BETWEEN A ROMA GIRL AND A HITLER YOUTH BOY
26 April 2017 by Bridget Galton
Ham and High & Islington Gazette
Angela Merkel has called the genocide of the Roma by the Nazis “the forgotten Holocaust”.
Speaking at the 2012 unveiling of a memorial in Berlin’s Tiergarten marking the death of 220,000-500,000 Roma and Sinti, the German Chancellor hoped it would now receive “the attention it deserved.”
Mass executions of Roma and Jews in Ukraine between 1941-1944 is the harrowing subject of a forthcoming exhibition at JW3 in Finchley Road.
And Highbury author Sarah Matthias published a novel on April 6 to coincide with International Romani day, about the forbidden relationship between a Hitler Youth member and a Roma girl.
A Berlin Love Song follows teenage trapeze artist Lili Petalo whose circus family go into hiding during the war but end up in the Zigeunerlager (German for gypsy) camp in Auschwitz.
She falls for Max who is initially an enthusiastic Hitler Youth member but later reluctantly joins an SS Panzer division defending Caen after the D Day landings.
“We know about homosexuals and Jews but why is there so little about the Roma and Sinti exterminated by the Nazis,” asks Matthias.
“Why did it only make the footnotes of history books?”
It was a 2011 exhibition at Berlin’s Deutsches Historisches Museum that set Matthias investigating what the Roma called Porajmos. (great devouring) “It was the first time a German museum had looked at how Hitler managed to dupe an entire nation. A small corner was devoted to the persecution of the Roma and Sinti communities.”
Growing up, Matthias’ next door neighbour was a German Jewish refugee who had been in Auschwitz. Her own father had been in the RAF and she was vitally aware of the legacy of the conflict.
“I have always been interested in the Second World War. Our neighbour Mr Adler was a dentist who had fled Germany. I remember when he used to talk about his experiences this respected professional would become very emotional and shake and cry.”
Matthias believes the Roma’s story has been largely untold because of the ongoing marginalisation of a group whose rich culture is largely an oral tradition.
“I’ve thought a lot about this and there isn’t a written linguistic tradition as with other persecuted groups. They are less articulate in writing – there are few Roma diaries or memoirs about their experiences, so it’s not surprising that the more conventionally eloquent Jewish community received more attention.”Read the Full Article Here
Reviews of A Berlin Love Song
11th April 1017
Sarah’s latest novel was published on 8th April, coinciding with International Romani day.
Love Reading 4 Kids, a website to help choose books for young people, have presented some reviews of Sarah’s latest book ‘A Berlin Love Song.’
In a nutshell: an unusual and unforgettable wartime love story – Lili Petalo is a trapeze artist in her family’s circus, growing up part of a warm, loving family, proud of her heritage and the Romani customs that inform all they do. Max is fascinated by Lili from their first meeting and gradually a friendship develops that turns to love. But this is 1942, and love between a Romani girl and a German boy is forbidden. The fate of the hundreds of thousands of Romani people who lost their lives in the Nazi death camps has been described as ‘the forgotten Holocaust’; Sarah Matthias paints a vivid portrait of the people and the culture Hitler attempted to destroy and succeeds too in making her young heroes Lili and Max living, breathing characters. An enthralling story of love and loss that deserves to be widely read. Andrea Reece
You can read the full reviews by clicking here.
Some of the Lovereading4kids Reader Review Panel members were lucky enough to read and review the book.
Talia Jacobs, age 15 – ‘A soon to be bestseller, there are no words to describe how much I adored this beautiful novel. A haunting, bittersweet story about forbidden love, set in the harsh reality of the Second World War.’
Humaira Kauser, age 19 – ‘A Berlin Love Song is a sweet, heartfelt story that pulls on your heartstrings…. Max and Lili’s love story is one I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.’
Lucy Minton, age 13 – ‘A Berlin Love Song by Sarah Matthias is a beautiful read, its compelling story intertwined with intrigue and danger and, of course, a bewitching romance.’
Amy Laws, age 15 – ‘A beautiful story- I flew through the pages.’
Izzy Read, age 16 – ‘Story’s like this remind me that war is a tragedy; tearing family’s and lives apart. I recommend this to lovers of Anne Frank’s Diary.’
READ THE FULL REVIEWS HERE
Welcome to 2017 and a year of great publishing from Troika Books!
On 8th April, International Romani Day, we will publish A Berlin Love Song by Sarah Matthias. Set during the Second World War it tells the story of Lili, a trapeze artist from a travelling circus, and what happens when she meets and falls in love with Max, a German boy and unwilling recruit to the SS. This story of two young people daring to love against the rules is unforgettable.
A visit to the Deutsches Historische Museum in Berlin inspired Sarah Matthias to find out more about Hitler’s persecution of the Romani people, described by Angela Merkel as ‘the forgotten Holocaust’. Sarah’s book is both a celebration of the Romani way of life, and the powerful, moving story of two individuals caught up in history.
Troika MD Martin West says, “Sarah brings the past to life in vivid, page-turning stories. A Berlin Love Song is one of the most compelling and moving stories you will read all year.”
Discover this wonderful story before anyone else!
We have a special sampler of A Berlin Love Song. Send a request for a copy to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will send copies to a lucky 25 people.
A Berlin Love Song, 978-1-909991-40-8, £7.99 pbk, 8th April 2017
Troika acquires YA holocaust novel
Independent publisher Troika Books has bought a YA novel about Hitler’s attempted extermination of the Roma and Sinti people.
A Berlin Love Song by Sarah Matthias is about a Romani girl who falls in love with a soldier in the SS and was inspired by the author’s visit the Deutsches Historische Museum in Berlin.
During his time in power Adolf Hitler murdered 220,000-500,000 people in the “parajmos”, or what German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called the “forgotten Holocaust”.
Troika m.d. Martin West said: “I published Sarah’s début novel, The Riddle of the Poisoned Monk, at Catnip and have always loved the way she brings the past to life in vivid, passionate, page-turning stories. A Berlin Love Song takes Sarah’s writing to a new level and we are extremely excited to be publishing it.”
West acquired world rights from the author and will publish on 8th April next year to coincide with International Romani Day.
From The Bookseller