Kanada by Eva Wiseman is the story of a young girl named Jutka, who dreams of going to Canada, where her cousin lives. She currently lives in Hungary during World War II, where, being a Jewish girl, she undergoes a lot of hatred, her friends (and potential romantic interest) turn against her, and school used to be fun until she was forced to leave. Eventually, Jutka gets deported to Auschwitz and ironically, gets put to work in “Kanada”, a storehouse which housed belongings of the dead. When liberation arrives things are still immensely difficult for her and throughout the novel, you follow Jutka through her pain as she dreams about better times and places; especially her dream to go to Canada.
It is very sad to see the world through Jutka’s eyes, especially when she gets separated from her friends and has to stay home as she’s banned from attending school. The hatred from some of the characters just makes you want to seethe in anger at how horribly they’ve treated Jutka and her family. It almost wants you to jump in and throttle these people. It’s very well written in the first person point of view, and Jutka is portrayed as just a normal teenage girl with friends and family she loves with the world turning upside down in a matter of months. The book is somewhat divided into several parts so you go through various stages of her life. It is tragic to read, naturally, yet the chapters are short and detail and the narration is clear and concise. Reading this book won’t take long as it is very interesting, and you want to know the outcomes of some of the people she knew and the fate of Jutka herself.
What I thought was interesting to see is the sudden maturity and development of Jutka the moment she enters the camp and the sudden losses she encounters. I admired her for her struggle to survive, and her ability to speak up when others stayed silent. Throughout the book she constantly dreams, especially dreams of Canada and living there. I believe those dreams were the key to her survival, and they kept her hope alive among the pain and suffering of those around her and the constant threat of death over her shoulder.
I was afraid of what she was planning to do with the rest of her life, but when she came right down to her choice, I was happy for her and agreed with it. I suppose the only problem I have with this book is the outcome of Tamas. He was horrible to Jutka and thought he should have been left to rot. However, that’s just my opinion. I enjoyed the ending. Unlike some of the Holocaust fiction I have read in the past, this one leaves a glimmer of hope for her, albeit bittersweet. The reader can only hope for the best for Jutka.
Overall, it was a good read. It shows a great deal of strength in the face of hopelessness and suffering. We can definitely learn a lot from Jutka and what she’s been through.
I give it a 9 out of 10.