Friday, 9 July 2010

Foreign Language Friday: I am David by Anne Holm

Dear Blog,
Foreign Language Friday returns, after my not having done it last week *sigh* I didn't mean to, but if I can't do it on Friday then it's not Foreign Language Friday, is it?! 
Speaking of which.  Although people rarely actually comment on my reviews, it would be good if any of my 62 followers would be nice enough to reccomend some cool foreign-language novels I haven't reviewed yet.  I don't want to run out.

Name: I am David (originally published as  David)
First Published In: Danish
Translated By: Anne Kingsland
Summary (from Goodreads): David's entire twelve-year life has been spent in a grisly prison camp in Eastern Europe. He knows nothing of the outside world. But when he is given the chance to escape, he seizes it. With his vengeful enemies hot on his heels, David struggles to cope in this strange new world, where his only resources are a compass, a few crusts of bread, his two aching feet, and some vague advice to seek refuge in Denmark. Is that enough to survive?  David's extraordinary odyssey is dramatically chronicled in Anne Holm's classic about the meaning of freedom and the power of hope.

Review: I got a copy of this a few years ago...I think it was my eleventh birthday...and I re-read it a couple of weeks ago.  And, well, we all love a good bit of Danish literature now and again, don't we? (the answer is YES).  Even if I've probably outgrown it slightly. But I suppose anybody from ten to a hundred could read it and still enjoy it, really. 

If I was to say one thing about I am David, it would be; this is a very strange book.  It begins in a concentration camp somewhere in eastern Europe.  Because I am a geek, I figured out that if he has to go directly south to get to Thessaloniki  (Salonica), then he probably starts off in Ukraine, Romania, possibly even eastern Poland, though he gets to the coast relatively swiftly so I doubt he was that far off, and it'd have been easier for him to just cut across Germany to get to Denmark.
Anyway, it's set in a world that's sort of like ours but seems slightly different.  For one thing, a 12-year-old boy certainly wouldn't have spent his whole life in a concentration camp, for two reasons.  1) he would have died by then, surely, and 2) the second world war went on for 6 not 12+ years.  Sorry.  That's the geek in me again. 

Although the story itself was moving, the writing seemed strangely distant, and almost kind of wooden in some places.  I suppose this probably fitted into the context of the story; other vaguely similar books like The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and The Silver Sword, less seems to be more and supposedly is better at getting inside the characters' head.  After all, the main characters of the aforementioned books go through some pretty scary stuff (and I'm pretty sure that I am David is the least...erm...harrowing out of them).  But still, he's 12 and he travels across Europe on an epic journey that would make most hitchikers jealous.  Anyway, although I guess it kind of fitted the story, I wasn't too taken by the writing style, which seemed to watch David from a distance rather than live with him, and sounding almost calm even at the beginning of the book when he was escaping from the concentration camp.

So even though I couldn't really get inside his head, I thought David was likeable.  He was resourceful, clever, trustworthy (perhaps too much so at some points) and it was strangely endearing the way he didn't fit into the outside world.    And he keeps going!  I like him for this.  If I was by myself, running from Them, I would just curl up in a little ball and cry.  And then realise that I was free and be all "Booyah!  Europe is mine!  I am free!  Goodbye, concentration camp!" Such is my madness. 
It's a very moving book.  David's journey is inspirational, hopeful, and so on.  Ultimately  it is full of the triumph-of-the-human-spirit and kindness-of-human-beings and endurance that human beings like. 

One thing I didn't really *get* was the ending.  It seemed slightly rushed and didn't really make sense, even when I re-read the last couple of chapters a few times.  But regardless of how believable/realistic it was, at least it was a happy ending, which after everything David went through is what he deserved. 

Summary: if you don't mind the weird ending and the strange writing style, then I am David is worth reading and makes you think in a calm, quiet sort of way.  Rating: 3. 

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