This book describes the lives of a Jewish family, 7-year old Malka Mai, her elder sister, Minna and her mother, Hannah, a doctor, between September 1943 and March 1944 when they are forced to leave their Polish home and flee first to Hungary and then, it is hoped, to Yeretz-Yisrael where their father is living. During their flight, Malka falls ill and has to be left with a family in the hope that she can be reunited with her family when the threat has passed. The story describes, from the perspectives of Malka and her mother, their subsequent experiences and the resultant physical and emotional effects that these produce. By the end of the book all are unrecognisable as the individuals we met at its beginning.
Malka was written for children but could equally be read by adults. Unfortunately, the main characters remained frustratingly two-dimensional and the most vivid writing describes the feelings of her mother's guilt for leaving her behind and of Malka's own relief when she met individuals who helped her despite the dangers to themselves and her despair when this security was taken away. The author describes the feelings of Malka's desperate hunger and of her loss of her doll, Liesel, who is as much a character as her family in the first half of the book.
This book was translated from the original German by Brian Murdoch. In an afterword the author described meeting Malka, then a mother and grandmother, in Israel in 1996 and hearing her story which was fragmentary because of her youth and the way that her mind had protected her by suppressing many of her experiences. Mirjam Pressler, the author of "the Story of Anne Frank" and "Shylock's Daughter", has taken these elements and weaved a fictional story from them.
I would recommend this book because it reflects part of Europe's history that is still within personal memory. However, on completing it I was left with a feeling of dissatisfaction. Others might have a different opinion.