One Christmas a few years ago, we arrived in Scotland and rushed off almost immediately to a Christmas play at the MacRobert in Stirling, with me feeling anything but Christmassy, and wondering why we always had to be so hectic. Very soon I knew why we were there, when one of the actresses sang Stille Nacht in German. I don’t know why this familiar song makes me happier in German, but it does.
A Candle in the Dark by Adèle Geras has that same magic, and I would urge everyone to buy a copy now, for Christmas. Get a packet of hankies while you’re out shopping, because you’re going to need it.
This short book begins with Kristallnacht in November 1938, and finishes only six weeks or so later, but Adèle has packed a lot into her story. We learn the horror of what went on in Germany at that time; and little things like your best friend not speaking to you any more, or having to leave your cat behind.
Unusually for the Kindertransport genre, the reader gets to see the English setting before the German children arrive, and that, too, is very enlightening. Clara and Maxi arrive just in time for the school’s Nativity, and it’s the learning to take part in this which gets me all teary and Christmassy. Stille Nacht turns up, and so does Hannukah.
I’ll go wipe my eyes again.