Book Reviews

‘The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.’ Alan Bennett

“Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.” ― Franz Kafka

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Inflicted - Ria Frances


In 1942, as Europe suffocates under the grip of Nazi terror, Anna Levinsky a young Jew, is incarcerated in the ghetto of Theresienstadt. Striving for survival in abominable conditions, during the unveiling of adulthood, Anna's improbable fate hinges on the mercy of others. In the early, wintry days of 2010, sixteen-year-old Theo Drew emerges from a family tragedy trailing a corrosive secret. When guilt threatens to overwhelm him, Theo flees to a deserted woods beside the sea, seeking oblivion. As Anna and Theo’s worlds inadvertently collide and a delicate friendship severs the barriers between age and experience, the truth and the past unravel, revealing the essence of human salvation.



Inflicted is a memorable and impressive debut novel. I found the story incredibly moving at times, and the narrative is heartfelt and touching. It depicts friendship between an older lady, Anna Levinsky, and sixteen-year-old Theo Drew, a friendship across generations that is borne out of kindness, a need for understanding and compassion. Anna is kind towards Theo, offering him advice about bullies and about the tragic situation within his family. Theo, for his part, provides a listening ear for Anna to share her past, one she has scarcely ever spoken of to others, and listening to Anna's story, Theo is taken out of himself and temporarily able to distract himself from his own burdens.

`...listening to her story jolted him out of the cycle of self-pity that had controlled his feelings for so long.'

Through Anna's story, recounting her harrowing experiences during the Second World War, concentrating particularly on the years from 1942, when, as a young Jew, she was held in the concentration camp in the ghetto in Theresienstadt, we see evidence of the great spirit and strength she demonstrated when younger in order to survive, and through Theo's story we see the guilt he carries with him and the sadness that has torn through his family. As a girl and then a young woman, Anna endures terrible hardship, witnesses horrendous acts and is forced to grow up fast.

`I am now a different Anna to the one who left Prague and entered Theresienstadt; half adult, half child with the adult half forced to emerge and stand to attention.'

As Anna enters Theresienstadt in 1942, we see directly through her eyes the terrible reality of the place;

`...a grid of murky, run-down streets with blocks of non-descript buildings rising from its grimy depths. These edifices, naked in their neglect seemed to hang their shabby heads in shame, capitulating to their decay.'

Ria Frances does not pull any punches or hold back, the honesty in the storytelling was a real strength of the book for me, whether it is the actions and behaviour of Theo's mother, or the lengths that Theo himself goes to in order to harm himself and take his pain away, or the details of what Anna endured in the ghetto, these are people going through pain and anguish of loss, or self-loathing, or horrendous treatment, and their experiences are frankly depicted.

For me the author shows a real insight into what makes people tick, what hurts them and what makes them stronger, the connections people forge, and this comes through in the thoughts and words of her characters.

I don't want to give away anything about the storyline but I would say that although I felt Anna's story was the stronger of the two, and very vivid in terms of detail, evidently well researched, powerful and believable, I nevertheless also found Theo's gradual journey of self-discovery well portrayed.

This story is powerfully told, emotional and very moving, tragic yet brimming with kindness and certainly not without hope, and written with compassion and honesty. I'm very glad to have read it. 

Review copy via amazon vine


  1. This sounds really good.

    Books that take place in multiple timelines are very popular these days. I do think that such novels still have a lot of potential.

    I can see how Anna's story would be the most interesting.

    1. Thanks for commenting Brian. I liked how the two timelines were done here, and how they came together. Anna's story was absorbing.

  2. I can see why Anna's story would be the stronger of the two. This sounds like an interesting book if a bit grim. I'll have to look for it. Thanks for sharing!

    1. It is very sad at times, very difficult, but uplifting in showing the strong human spirit. Thanks!

  3. This sounds powerful and I tend to love stories set in this period, they really showcase strength of character.

    1. It really is a very powerful story and I find this setting fascinating too, Anna is an incredibly strong character. Thanks for commenting :)

  4. This sounds really interesting, Lindsay!

  5. This sounds like something I would really like. I am drawn to books set during and around WWII. What you wrote, "the author shows a real insight into what makes people tick, what hurts them and what makes them stronger, the connections people forge . . . " especially has me interested in giving this one a try. Thank you for your insightful review, Lindsay!


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