Title: The Deceptions
Author: Suzanne Leal
Publisher: Allen & Unwin, 2020
Suzanne Leal has published two previous novels—The Teacher’s Secret and Border Street.
She was the senior judge for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards from 2017 to 2019.
Suzanne is a lawyer experienced in child protection, criminal law and refugee law.
This current novel, published in 2020, is a work of fiction. However, it was inspired by a story as told to Suzanne by her neighbour, who, along with his wife, was a Holocaust survivor.
The novel centres on the main character Hana, who tells of her life and experiences as a young Jewish woman during the Second World War. She lives with her family in Prague, then is interned in a Jewish ghetto in Theresienstadt. There she meets Karl, a Czech gendarme, who has been assigned to the camp. This event leads to catastrophic changes in the direction and outcome of Hana’s life.
From this premise, the story moves back and forwards over time and countries, as Hana’s life, and the family she creates, evolve. No one person is left unscathed by their life’s experiences.
The novel brings together the present and the past, when the titular deceptions are finally disclosed, and the repercussions for all are tragic.
The author has taken a story of the Holocaust and written a novel that is gripping. It is not an easy read. Suzanne Leal has written in graphic detail life in the concentration camp to which Hanna was eventually sent. It opens our eyes to the horrors experienced by so many millions of people, and the long term effects of the war on extended families.
It is confronting, but these stories need to be told, and Suzanne Leal has certainly done that in The Deceptions.
Reviewed by: Linda Young, July 2020
Ballarat Writers Inc. Book review group