Published by: Random House Australia
ISBN 13: 9780857980403
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Four out of Five
The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth is along the same lines as two of her other books, The Wild Girl and Bitter Greens, mixing fable and historical fiction into one heck of an amazing book. Previously tackling Rapunzel with the time of the Sun King, Louis XIV and Dortchen Wild (the girl next door to the Grimms) which means many different fairy tales… we now have a retelling of the Grimms’ Beauty and The Beast, set in Nazi Germany.
Ava is a young girl, overwhelmed by what’s happening to her country. Though she isn’t directly targeted (being the third daughter of a non-Jewish family), she is hurt and overwhelmed by what’s happening around her, especially as their close family friends, the Feidlers, are Jewish. She sees the injustice and barbaric horror, but there are few ways to speak out about it. Her bravery for the little ways she fights back is noticed by a member of the army, Leo, who seems to agree with her and yet is strong and proud for his place in the very army she detests. Thrown together, this novel explores their different sides of view as they try to survive what their home has become.
There are many stories about this time of history – a tricky thing to tell due to how raw it is for some people still today – and yet, Forsyth handles it well. We see concentration camps and how people so easily turned on life-long family friends, and it doesn’t shy away from some of the most terrible parts of our history.
My favourite in this tale was Leo. He’s the love interest of this novel, yet he’s not shown in stunning form – at the beginning it’s quite unsettling how demanding he is so soon and yet tries to cover it as begging and placating ‘I’m so in love’ (as if that’s supposed to be romantic? Run, Ava!), and it is a delicate line between how he both loathes elements yet also takes pride in others.
Whilst few books can beat Bitter Greens in my eyes, this book is beautifully rendered, and deserves a read immediately.