By the time we reach adulthood, most of us have read a significant number of novels about the Holocaust. This is no surprise considering the seemingly endless amount of heartbreaking, spellbinding, and beautifully written material. The horrific, unimaginable, and unspeakable atrocities that took place continue to be a source that spurs the imagination of many an author, poet and filmmaker. And even many years later, we still can’t seem to get enough of the genre. The unexplainable will never be explained — yet, it’s difficult to keep from trying to understand.
Thus, hats must go off to an author who approaches this much-explored topic in a new and quite imaginative way. This is exactly what author Jillian Cantor has managed to do with the novel, In Another Time.
The story takes place in 1931 Berlin and provides rich, historical detail of Germany at that time period. It also covers the beautiful and tragic romance of non-Jewish bookshop owner, Max Beissinger, and the Jewish, Shabbat-observing, budding concert violinist, Hanna Ginsberg.
Their interfaith love story is at the heart of the novel. Added to that challenge is a secret Max holds, one which he is almost afraid to explore. But once he does, he believes it can help save Hanna should Germany prove to become as dangerous as he fears it will be.
The story is told in alternating viewpoints and non-chronological order, which makes the reading of it very intriguing. Written in a beautiful, ephemeral prose style, the novel explores life in Germany before darkness completely falls. It provides the perspectives of both Jewish and non-Jewish citizens, who are losing the country they love to the madness of Hitler and the Nazis.
When Hanna awakes in a field outside of Berlin in 1946, she has absolutely no recollection of the past ten years. Her mind is completely blank. The reader follows her as she reconnects with her older sister, Julia, who is now married with children and living in London, and attempts to rebuild her life. Her one constant is her devotion to the violin and she valiantly pursues her dream of becoming a world-class concert violinist. Through it all, including her attempt to regain bits and pieces of the ten years she has lost with the help of a psychiatrist, her love for Max remains steadfast.
Cantor has written a number of award-winning novels for teens and adults, including the critically acclaimed The Lost Letter, The House Count and Margot. In Another Time is a striking addition to her impressive collection.
Rochelle Newman Rubinoff is a freelance writer living on the North Shore of Chicago.