What an ingenious premise – a middle-aged Jewish family man finds an old and decrepit, but very much alive, Anne Frank living in his attic. I expected to 100% completely love this book just based on the brilliant concept. Unfortunately, I found its use of blatant shock tactics and disrespect completely unbearable and I had to struggle to read to the end.
Plot summary – Solomon Kugel has had enough of the past and its burdens. So, in the
hope of starting afresh, he moved his family to a small rural town where
nothing of import has ever happened. Sadly, Kugel’s life isn’t that
simple. His family soon find themselves threatened by a local arsonist
and his ailing mother won’t stop reminiscing about the Nazi
concentration camps she didn’t actually suffer through. And when, one
night, Kugel discovers a living, breathing, thought-to-be-dead specimen
of history hiding in his attic, bad very quickly becomes worse.
So I’m fairly hard to offend. You wouldn’t think it, but I am. Seriously though, the way Anne Frank’s memory is treated in Hope: A Tragedy frankly disgusts me. I’ve sure there’s some massive Point that I’m simply not getting and it’s supposed to Mean Something, but I don’t really care.There are probably people reading this thinking what an idiot I am and can’t I calm down and think about it more – I have. I really have. And, frankly, I’m still disgusted.
The title of the novel pretty much sums up the concept of the novel – hope is mankind’s biggest downfall. If we all refused to hope then we’d all be much happier and none of the Wars would have happened. Hitler was an optimist, after all, and optimists are the pestilence of society. I can roll with this – I don’t like it or agree with it, but it’s not an uninteresting idea and I wanted to see where the author was going with it.
As you can imagine, it ends up being a fairly depressing read. Kugel, the protagonist, is so morbidly whiny that he doesn’t actually seem real somehow – more like a stereotyped 12 year old Goth girl who constantly moans about suicide and death. He annoyed me quite a lot. And yes, it’s not meant to be realistic fiction, but I DON’T CARE!
There was no need to tell her about the woman in the attic, there really wasn’t. Why upset her? He would deal with it on his own. How difficult could it be to get an elderly Holocaust survivor out of your house? He’d play Wagner. He’d get a German Shepherd. When the UPS man had gone, he’d tell her it had been a man from the Gestapo, asking a lot of questions. A lot of questions.
Did you shower yet, honey? he would call downstairs to Bree. Because if you showered already I’m going to shower now.
She’d be out in a day.
Piece of cake.
There are characters in this book who you loathe just because you know real people exist just like them and it disgusts you. This isn’t a fault of Shalom Auslander, but my abhorrence of Kugel’s mother nearly made me stop reading. She was born in 1946 but pretends to be a Holocaust survivor – she hides bread in the sofa and screams every morning because she heard that’s what the survivors do.
It’s just shock value. That’s all this book is. When you take out the author’s rape and pillage of Anne Frank’s memory, exploded chipmunks, decapitated cats and Kugel sticking his hand inside a half-dead deer, there’s not much less. It seems to me like an attempt to trick readers into thinking that ‘shocking’ means ‘good.’ It doesn’t.