Book review – Chasing the King of Hearts by Hanna Krall

Chasing the King of Hearts coverRelaying the experiences of Izolda, a young Jewish woman living in Poland as the Nazi regime comes into force, Chasing the King of Hearts is that rare thing – a story of an extraordinary series of experiences made utterly relatable.

Few of us (thank goodness) will ever face the persecution endured by Izolda and her friends and acquaintances, but so vividly is her character portrayed by Hanna Krall as translated by Philip Boehm that empathy is unavoidable. This is a girl who has loved, had a change of heart, and loved again – a girl who takes pride in her height and ‘sturdy legs’. She lives in a world where there are people with ‘bad’ looks and ‘good’ looks – the latter being those than can pass convincingly as Germanic.

Izolda’s ‘good’ looks and her pragmatism keep her alive, as she learns to trade whatever it takes to survive, from tobacco to cyanide to her own body. Continue reading