Book Review - The Earth is Singing
8th August 2017
Harsh, poetic and painfully vivid, The Earth is Singing is a powerful reminder that we must never forget the past, and that we should always strive for a better future.
For fifteen year old Hanna, life is changing more quickly than she can adjust to. Once a normal teenager with a loving family, beautiful home, and promising future as a dancer, her world quickly spirals out of control when the Nazis arrive in her home town of Riga, Latvia.
The reader is thrust immediately into a world that has been turned upside down with the bombing of St Peter's Church, Riga. Hanna's mother states that 'If they can destroy St Peter's, they can destroy anything', and it is terrifying just how accurate her early words are in reflecting the events of the rest of the novel. Nothing remains sacred in Riga, and reason is lost entirely under a leadership that seeks to destroy without any logic or sense of humanity.
As the regime becomes more controlling, the elements of Hanna's life start to unravel until all that is left is one solid thread of her family. But the thread is fragile, and as the story continues, it frays and falters under the weight of Nazi control.
Imagery plays a vital part in the construction of the novel, and at times it is so vivid that your senses become completely controlled by Curtis and you are left tasting the bitter emptiness of Hanna's life and smelling the stench of cruelty in her shrinking world. Curtis transports you to an unimaginable place, yet her description is so strong that your mind is filled with the ghetto and your eyes cannot unsee the barbaric treatment of humans whose only crime is their religion.
One of the most shocking elements of the novel is not the cruelty of the Nazi party - this is clearly expected - but the cruelty of those individuals that were supposed to be Hanna's friends and family. Abused by some, ignored by others, and betrayed in the worst way imaginable by one, the novel shows us how basic human kindness can be stripped away so rapidly when a group of people are deemed to be worthless.
There is no happy ending to this novel, but perhaps to give it one would have been an insult to all those who lost their lives in the Holocaust. This is not a novel that will leave you feeling happy and content, but it is a novel that everyone should read. We should never overlook the horrors of our past, because to do so would be to pretend as though it never happened. Only 150 names were recorded of Jews that had survived the occupation of Riga between 1941 and 1944 - 30,000 were known to have lived there just before.
Read this book and remember them. Read this book and hear their story.
We also want to thank Ellie Fletcher for sending us her thoughts on the book.
'The book is very emotive and I found myself fully engaged and teary eyed at points. [...] this book had me hooked and was finished in a matter of 2 evenings - this book accomplished what very few had, making me interested in reading again.' Ellie Fletcher age 16