This is the story of Charlotte Salomon, a Jewish artist born into a family stricken by suicide in Germany just before Hitler’s rise to power.
Being a female artist is still a struggle in these times, but being Jewish is worse, so although she holds tremendous promise she must keep a low profile. At least she has her great love to console her – even if that love is secret and snatched in small moments.
After her father is detained and tortured she escapes from Germany, but still she is not safe. The war pursues her to her bolt hole and the madness that has haunted her family is closing in on her too.
Charlotte Saloman was an artist I had not heard of before reading this book, but her story is one I think should be shared. Not just because of her artistic genius but also because it is a mirror to agonies that so many went through during the second world war and none of their stories should be forgotten.
This is an unusual book, the writing is style is not like any that I can recall having read before. David Foenkinos writes in short, sparing sentences. They are almost rhythmic, as if he’s written a thousand haiku’s then mixed the order of them up a bit. It works, but probably only in this book. The rest of the book is a little off kilter too, it veers from a biography to a novelisation to a memoir of the author’s own search for the artist. In many ways this really is high literature, yet it managed to retain its accessibility. It inspired me to search for examples of the artists work, and I know that if there were to be an exhibition near me at any time I would go because of having read this book.
I wish life had been better to Charlotte, but I am grateful that there is this memorial to her. I think she would have appreciated it’s honesty.
NB I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in return for an honest review. The BookEaters always write honest reviews.