It is 1942 and Joseph Bernstein, a young Belgian Jewish boy, is separated from his parents and taken into hiding to prevent him being deported by the Gestapo. This heart rending story is first person narrated by Joseph who tells us at the beginning of his story how he remembers one day sitting on a tram with his mother with their yellow stars concealed: "...we were supposed to wear yellow stars, but my father, skilled tailor that he was, had found a way of making our coats so we could tuck away the star and produce it when necessary. My mother called them our `shooting stars': there one moment, gone the next." And this, it seems, is an analogy for Joseph's situation - his life with his parents was there one day, and gone the next.
Joseph is told that he will be staying with Father Pons, a catholic priest, who will take care of him, keep him safe and prevent him being deported; he is given a new identity - he is now to be known as Joseph Bertin, and it is impressed upon him that in order to survive, he must conceal his Jewish heritage. Joseph is taken to Villa Jaune, an orphanage filled to capacity with children of both Jewish and Christian faiths, where Father Pons risks his life daily so that he can keep his boys safe. But Father Pons is not just a guardian of the children his care, he also becomes a guardian of the Jewish faith itself. As the threat of the Gestapo gets nearer and nearer, Joseph grows closer and closer to Father Pons and, whilst he fervently hopes that his parents survive, he also starts to wonder how he will ever be able to leave the catholic priest who means so much to him.
Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, a playwright, novelist, writer of short stories and one of Europe's most popular authors, has written a poignant, sensitive and thought-provoking fable, that although is short in length, examines the larger themes of love, faith, courage and humanity.
Also recommended by the same author: The Most Beautiful Book in the World: Eight Novellas