Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Across Great Divides by Monique Roy

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Publication Date: June 19, 2013
Formats: Ebook, Paperback
223 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

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01_Across Great DividesAcross Great Divides is a timeless story of the upheavals of war, the power of family, and the resiliency of human spirit. When Hitler came to power in 1933, one Jewish family refused to be destroyed and defied the Nazis only to come up against another struggle—confronting apartheid in South Africa.

Sixteen-year-old Eva and her twin sister, Inge, witness their lives in Berlin change before their eyes. Their best friend, Trudy, betrays them when she becomes a member of the Hitler Youth. A valuable family heirloom, a beautiful emerald and diamond pendant necklace, is confiscated by the Nazis as they continue to harass Jewish families and businesses.

Their younger brother, Max, a member of the underground resistance, sees even greater danger ahead. Their father, Oskar, a diamond merchant with a thriving business, refuses to leave his beloved Germany and believes Hitler will eventually fail. Their mother, Helene, the elegant matriarch of the family, holds her family together.

The family is conflicted whether they should leave home. But after the devastation of Kristallnacht in 1938, they finally flee Germany with the help of the underground resistance after hiding many diamonds. They seek refuge in Antwerp, but war follows them as Belgium is occupied by the Germans.

A young German man, a nun, a countess conspiring against the Nazis, and a winegrower secretly hiding Jewish children, help them to escape Europe. They hike over the Pyrenees Mountains while eluding German patrols and Spanish informers. Then, they spend agonizing days on a ship bound for Rio de Janeiro that is targeted by a German U-boat. As Rio’s diamond business is corrupt, they decide to go to South Africa, another diamond market.

In Cape Town, Eva encounters an impoverished colored woman, Zoe, who is in need of work. The family hires Zoe as their maid and shields her and her daughter, Zola, from the dangers they face in the slums of District Six and from the horrors of apartheid, which are all too reminiscent of Nazi Germany.

But, when Max gets into trouble with the South African police over his participation in an anti-apartheid march, will he be subject to imprisonment?

In a thrilling conclusion, the family comes to terms with the evils of society, both in their memories and current situation in South Africa.


Discovering that this novel is based on the true experiences of the author's grandparents  enhanced my appreciation of the characters.  Such an inspiring story of survival needs to be preserved.  I received a free copy of this book via the blog tour in return for this honest review.

An incident involving the Belgian Resistance that occurred in Across Great Divides led me to discover a highly unusual event in the history of the Holocaust.   Thanks to an action of the Belgian Resistance, there was a mass escape of Jews from a train headed to Auschwitz.  Find out more at Attack on the Twentieth Convoy on Wikipedia.

A spotlight on a non-Jewish German character allowed us to see a glimpse of life in a Zulu village.  I had read a bit about Zulu culture in Mala Nunn's Emmanuel Cooper mystery series which takes place in 1950's South Africa, but I still know little about the traditional Zulu shamanic practitioners.  The information included in this book about their ceremonies was tantalizing.  Some further information can be found in the Wikipedia article Traditional Healers of South Africa .

I liked seeing Max's anti-apartheid activism, but I was far more impressed with Eva's kindness toward her African servant which was actually very courageous.  I was reminded of  the subversion against apartheid by the Indian South African characters in The World Unseen by Shamim Sarif which I reviewed on Book Babe here.  Powerless minorities in South Africa such as the Jews and Indians had less reason to maintain apartheid than the dominant Afrikaners.  For Jews who had fled Nazi Germany like the protagonists of Across Great Divides, the link between apartheid and Nazi ideology was painfully obvious.

Occasionally, I did notice that some crucial background was missing.  For example, one character seemed to have had unlikely success in South Africa considering what was mentioned about his background.  Then I realized how it could have happened.  This character probably had suffered discrimination in Germany and couldn't pursue his original career.  Reconstructing this missing struggle in my mind made so much more sense of the character and his choices.

I was also somewhat disappointed with the portion of this novel that took place in Brazil. Although my interest in Jews in South Africa was one of my motivations for choosing to review this book, I  also have a fascination with Brazilian history and culture. So I wished that there had been more detail about the family's temporary stay in Brazil.

Across Great Divides was a quick read, but it was full of impact.  It's very possible that any additional details would have attenuated the novel's thematic focus to some extent. Readers may be satisfied with what Monique Roy has given us.   It does make a strong statement against prejudice.


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About the Author

02_Monique RoyMonique loves writing that twitches her smiling muscles or transports her to another time or place. Her passion for writing began as a young girl while penning stories in a journal. Now she looks forward to deepening her passion by creating many unique stories that do nothing less than intrigue her readers.

Monique was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and her grandparents were European Jews who fled their home as Hitler rose to power. It's their story that inspired her to write Across Great Divides, her debut, historical fiction novel.

Monique holds a degree in journalism from Southern Methodist University in Dallas and is also the author of a children's book Once Upon a Time in Venice. In her free time, she loves to travel, play tennis, pursue her passion for writing, and read historical fiction. In 2008, she was chosen by the American Jewish Committee's ACCESS program to travel to Berlin, Germany, on the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, to explore German and Israeli relations along with 20 other Jewish professionals from across the U.S.

Discover more at Monique Roy's website. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Across Great Divides Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, June 16
Review at 100 Pages a Day

Wednesday, June 17
Spotlight at Passages to the Past

Thursday, June 18
Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Friday, June 19
Spotlight at The Never-Ending Book

Monday, June 22
Review at Room With Books

Tuesday, June 23
Review at Book Babe

Wednesday, June 24
Review at Book Nerd

Thursday, June 25
Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews

Friday, June 26
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation
Excerpt & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

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