14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars memorable and unusual take on the Holocaust
As well as murdering 6 million Jews, Hitler did his best to exterminate the Gypsies. This is the story of how just one escaped, Yenko, from a copper-working Romany tribe, thanks to the sacrifice made by his heroic mother, and his own luck and intelligence. His birth, childhood and journey into manhood against the background of the Nazi rise to power make history live...
Published on 30 July 2004
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Started out well
Fires in the Dark follows the fortunes of a Roma family in the years leading up to world war two and the war years. The history of the Roma people and their treatment is a subject I hadn't read about before. The historical aspects of the book were excellent and I will be looking for more to read on the Roma. As a novel the characters didn't work out for me. When Yenko...
Published on 13 Aug. 2007 by Mme
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars memorable and unusual take on the Holocaust,
By A Customer
As well as murdering 6 million Jews, Hitler did his best to exterminate the Gypsies. This is the story of how just one escaped, Yenko, from a copper-working Romany tribe, thanks to the sacrifice made by his heroic mother, and his own luck and intelligence. His birth, childhood and journey into manhood against the background of the Nazi rise to power make history live. Doughty is herself part-Romany, and writes with real passion and insight as well as what looks like a lot of research. Her characters break your heart.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What a brilliant book!,
This is a wonderful book, moving and passionate. The characters are real and touchable. The story is full of the kind of true detail that's completely absorbing. It tells the story of a Romani family and how their lives are destroyed by the Nazi's. Its a tough subject, but this book is really worth it. It doesn't shy away from the realities, but neither does it dwell unnecessarily on the worst of it. The places and major events are based on fact. So I learned a lot, as well as being totally gripped by a brilliant story. Buy this book!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Gypsy Holocaust,
"Fires in the dark" by Louise Doughty
I enjoyed this author's "Stone cradle", a story of Romani in the United Kingdom, so much that I determined to read others if I could find them.
This is the one I found, dealing with the lives of East European Romani from 1927 to 1945.You will be aware of what happened in Europe over that period.
Emil, whose secret name is Yenko, is one of the main protagonists. We follow him while his group is on their travels, in winter settlements, cherry harvesting and other things, watching as life and travel become much more difficult for them as a result of increasing government burocracy, new travel papers etc, all of this being aimed at making it easier to keep track of the Romani and to control them.
We read of invasions, battles, conquest by the Nazi armies, and eventual round-ups of the Romani groups, followed by transportation to concentration camps.
Emil escapes, following urging by his mother, and makes his way to Prague where he lives out the war, working on the black market as the only method available to him to keep safe and make a living. Near the end of the war he goes back to the camp to see if any of his family have survived.
This is a brief summary of a harrowing, and yet hopeful, story. There is plenty of incident, personality clash, humour and horror. I was surprised to learn that, per head of population, more Romani died under the Nazis than Jews, horrifying as the Jewish experience was.
I recommend that you read this book. No matter how good a person you are, I think you will be an uplifted and even better person as a result.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wide-ranging, ambitious and brilliantly achieved,
Up to now, Louise Doughty has written fairly small scale domestic dramas, entertaining but limited in their scope. With this book she stakes a claim as a serious novelist tackling the biggest issues and succeeds brilliantly. The history of a gypsy family in eastern europe during the second world war can only be a tragic story. Doughty turns an unflinching eye on the worst that humans can do to each other, with an anger that is barely suppressed, but without resorting to simplistic value judgements. The story is dark and the misery is piled up until you wish for some joy to lighten the mood, but Doughty builds your interest in her characters so that you can't stop reading.
The subject matter of the book is likely to put off a lot of people. Sadly, anti-gypsy prejudice is alive and well, from Romania to Norfolk. This matters to Doughty and she has devoted energy and passion into this book. Don't be put off. Read this book.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I could not put it down,
By A Customer
I had only the vaguest idea of the gypsy Holocaust, so found this a fascinating and very moving story. It begins with the struggles of Anna, a coppersmith Romany, to give birth to her son Yenko and ends with Yenko as the sole survivor of his tribe marrying a fellow-Romany orphan girl whom he met in a concentration camp. In between have come acts of cruelty and compassion. including Yenko's escape from the camp and murder of two elderly people in order to assume "gadjin" identity. It has you rooting for the whole tribe while knowing they are doomed by prejudice on both sides.
A compelling story. I am very glad to have discovered a new author.
4.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent Thriller,
The subject matter of the book rightly demands attention. The novel is epic...time and place are ambitiously stretched but in a way that seems completely fitting. This is not a misery novel thank goodness but more a well crafted historical thriller whose moods and settings happen to be miserable for no other reason than historical accuracy. This is a tale that charts the destruction of the Roma people of Bohemia and Moravia during world war 2.
All epic tales have a epic statements to make and this novel describes a culture whose arbitrary enemies were intent on annihilation. First the social structures of the Roma were dismantled, then the individuals and finally their bodies and souls. Yet as always a phoenix rises from the ashes and the portrayal of Yenko's transformation of personality is told most convincingly. Despite losing the obvious manifestations of his culture, those very things his father taught him to be proud of, he retains and triumphantly grows something "Rom" within of even greater strength and adaptability.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fires in the Dark,
This review is from: Fires in the Dark: The Longest Journey Leads You Back Home (Paperback)
I think the combination of reading a good story, learning about different cultures and history rolled into one makes this book fascinating, sad, and thought provoking. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it as the story came to life for me. I will be reading Louise Doughty's other books to see if they are of a similar quality.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars moving and absorbing tale of gypsy Holocaust,
Anyone who has previously read Doughty's elegant comedies will be very surprised by this, a historical novel apparently based on her own family history. Fires in the Dark follows the fortunes or Yenko, a Romany boy born on a hot summer's day, through the darkness and suffering of the 1930s depression and Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia, the concentration camps and th Prague uprising of 1945. A bold, gripping story it is most impressive in marrying the sweep of history to small details of gypsy life.
Initially, it is Anna, Yenko's mother, who dominates the novel and Yenko (who has to change identitites to stay alive after escaping the camp) is never as vivid a character. Anna is full of strength and energy, and the way she keeps her son alive by begging with him, and sacrifices herself to ensure his escape is an extraordinary piece of writing. I loved the way we see ourselves, "gadjos" through gypsy eyes, seeing how and why they think us dirty, ugly etc. Their torment through illness, starvation, persecution and imprisonment is described with great compassion, and one feels this is a story that needed to be told because the virtual eradication of the gypsies in many parts of central Europe is forgotten beneath the weight of Jeiwsh suffering. One of the many horrors in the concentration camp is in fact the hatred of Jews, who are considered vermin even below the gypsies; when they are taken off to Auschwitz it is believed they are going to a sanatorum.
Yenko survives partly because a bullying guard,Cacko, takes a fancy to him, and partly because he is prepared to do terrible things to the gadjos once he escapes. I could have done with more of this, because the parts describing his brutalisation are the best. Even if these horrors have been described by Primo Levi etc., they never fail to stun.
However, the novel is occasionally let down by the style. Some readers will get no further than the first page, in which "skylarks ascending and plummeting with pointless enthusiasm." Actually, skylarks do this because it's the way they catch insects, and not pointless at all.
Get past this, and you'll find a fine book, compellingly told.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book!,
I bought it after a read about it in the Guardian, comparing it to Dostoevsky...it's wonderful to find someone living writing about big, tragic things instead of small, trivial ones. The first chapter isn't so great, but after that it really gets going. The way Yenko's starving mother begs for her child, the way his father stands up to prejudice against Gypsies, their suffering and death in the Nazi camps made me want to cry. When Yenko gets away and murders the old couple it was horrible but just the way I imagine anyone would behave after going through all that. I thought this a fantastic book, the best I've read this year besides Rose Tremain's The Colour.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book,
This review is from: Fires in the Dark (Kindle Edition)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book- it gave a very vivid picture of a different lifestyle through one of the worst periods in world history. I feel as if I have gained a better understanding of the gypsy way of life, which I found fascinating - I am now reading 'The Stone Cradle' by the same author.
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Fires in the Dark by Louise Doughty (Paperback - 19 Jun. 2014)