When fifteen-year-old Yael takes refuge in the forest, it’s not because she’s a stroppy adolescent looking for adventure. This is Lithuania in the 1940s and, as a Jew, Yael’s very survival depends on her ability to stay out of sight. But when her companion dies, Yael seeks shelter on a nearby farm. Aleksei, the young owner and village outcast because of myths surrounding his disability, is initially reluctant to help her, conscious that it means putting his own life at risk. But, little by little, the pair grow closer, becoming lovers until the encroachment of a Nazi encampment forces Yael once more to flee.
But for those who appreciate action and adventure, there’s plenty in the second half of the novel when Yael joins the partisans in the forest, learning to fire a rifle and scrounging snippets of news of her brother, Josef, the only other member of her family might still be alive. Here, much as she relishes the attentions of Maksim, the leader of their group, she misses Aleksei and wonders if they can make a life together if the atrocities ever come to an end. But Yael faces a more personal challenge in the final months of the war.
The Song of the Stork is an optimistic coming-of-age story of love and survival amid the horrors of the Second World War. Having met the author last year in the audience at a Nottingham book launch, I was delighted when Legend Press offered me the opportunity to read his most recent work.
Do check out the other posts on the blog tour. (Mine for Underneath kicks off in two months’ time!)