Richard Yaxley, This is My Song, Scholastic Australia, 1 March 2017, 176pp., $16.99 (pbk), ISBN: 9781760276140
“Love is a kind of agony… when you’re away, there’s none of that. You can imagine they’re okay. They don’t age, they don’t fall down, they don’t get rolled on… I was away for long enough to get myself to the stage where I didn’t want to go back because of what I might find. That damned agony, in layers.”
From the viewpoint of the three members of a family, This is My Song tells the story of the generational consequences of World War II and the persecution of the Jewish race in a modern and freshly eye-opening way.
In the 1940s, Rafael Ullmann is a musician and an adolescent when taken to the ghettos with his family by the Nazis. But what he finds and witnesses both there and in the formidable and disreputable Auschwitz will change him, and drain him of music forever.
In the 1970s, Annie Ullmann lives on a Canadian prairie with her mother and father- Rafael Ullmann. Living each year for the return of the goshawk and its haunting song, she longs to be as free as the bird with which she has such a bond.
Thirty years later, Joe Hawker lives in Brisbane with his divorced mother, Annie Ullmann, and longs for two things- a) to be a Cow Historian, and b) to impress his singing teacher by finding a hidden depth to fuel his songs.
When he discovers a song written thirty years ago by his grandfather, he may have found what all three of them were looking for.
The generational aspect of the three stories is extremely artfully written, with the language and contexts of each separate time being clearly distinguished and utilized within the writing. The comparison of context and culture between the three stories is clear and adds to the character development of the three characters- each with their own story and endearing characteristics to reel in the reader.
Seeing how their lives progress through the eyes of their offspring is also another interesting aspect that adds to the novel, giving different perspectives on lives to which the reader has already been privy.
Overall, This is My Song is subtly used to tell the story of the generational discord and effect of the persecution of the Jewish race during World War II. Showing the consequences through the lives of three very different protagonists, the novel is a great read for anyone interested in World War II, ancestry, and a deeper view on the histories of immigrants and survivors of WWII.
A deep and resonate read for anyone 12+.
Reviewed by Amy Cooper