I approached this with a lot of false expectations based on the title and description. I was really delighted because, while this is a WW II era novel written by a German Jew, the perspective is very different from any I have read. Anna and her family (secular Jews for starters) were among the first to see the signs and flee Berlin just prior to the Nazi's rise to power. What this book chronicles is not the countless horrors of Nazism, but instead a family's experience as refugees - first in Switzerland, then France, and finally England.
I was in a unique position to compare this one with another immigrant experience novel (also based on real life events) - Inside Out and Back Again - because I read them back to back. While I found Inside Out and Back Again slightly more 'special', both are extremely well written and evocative of time and place and experience. The perspective of both novels is uniquely and totally convincingly childlike - something that can be quite hard to achieve when looking back with adult knowledge and hindsight. Anna, despite leaving a fairly privileged life in Berlin, almost completely embraces the upheaval - seeing it as more of an adventure than an abandonment of all that is comfortable and familiar. Naturally, she is less aware of the gravity of the situation - mainly because the bulk of the true atrocities of the era hadn't actually happened, but also because she is a child and sees the world as such.
I was struck by how *real* the parents are allowed to be in this novel. In a genre awash with either absent, impossibly perfect or deeply flawed parents it is so refreshing to encounter adult characters who are multifaceted. Anna's father is clever and talented, but can be distracted and self-absorbed at times. Anna's mother can be impatient and short tempered and has severe shortcomings when it comes to domestic matters. And yet, they are both loving and conscientious parents trying desperately to do the best by their children in uncertain times. And, in fact, we find at the end that the family unit has been strengthened by their experiences. They've grown closer living in small spaces and learned to appreciate the important things in life by getting by on less. Take that Hitler!
Because of it's generally upbeat tone I think this would be a fantastic book to give or share with a child as an introduction to the time period. Highly recommended!