I Am David, Anne Holm
I read this book for one of the RL book groups I belong to. I'm a bad book group member, because I can't read on a schedule and I can't make myself read a book I don't like. It's even worse when I'm reading something that I really don't want to put down. In this case, I'm enthralled with Vera Brittain's Testament of Experience. But I'd actually bought a used copy, so I thought I should at least make the effort.
I reluctantly sat down with it last night, planning to read the first chapter (and all but planning not to like it and just skim the rest). But by the end of the first chapter, I was intrigued enough to keep reading, and I ended up reading straight through, curious to find out what happened to David, the title character. That could be a golden rule for books: it has to make me care enough about what happens next to keep reading.
This book, first published in 1963, in Danish, won some major awards. It has been made into an English-language movie and my copy of the book is a movie tie-in. It is the story of David, a twelve-year old boy who has lived his whole life in a concentration camp (we never learn where exactly the camp is located, even in what country, but the book is set in the 1950s). As the book opens, the camp commandant offers him a chance to escape, telling him to make his way to Italy and then to Denmark, where he will be safe. David believes the offer to be a trap, but he finds himself taking the first step to freedom, and where that leads him makes up the rest of the book. Eventually we learn more about David, as he learns more about the world outside the camp, and the mystery of his past is revealed.
I had to keep reminding myself that this is a book for children, because the language and some of the plot elements strained my willing suspension of disbelief, but a child or teenager would probably not even notice. The first part of the book, with David on his own, relying on his intelligence and his hard-won survival skills, reminded me of Jean George's My Side of the Mountain, which I read over & over again when I was younger - a less fraught story about survival.
Now back to Vera Brittain.