Book Review: Night

“Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere.” –Elie Wiesel, Night

Title: Night
Author: Elie Wiesel
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Hill and Wang
Publication Date: January 16, 2006
Source: My local public library

Synopsis:

A terrifying account of the Nazi death camp horror that turns a young Jewish boy into an agonized witness to the death of his family…the death of his innocence…and the death of his God. Penetrating and powerful, as personal as The Diary Of Anne Frank, Night awakens the shocking memory of evil at its absolute and carries with it the unforgettable message that this horror must never be allowed to happen again.

–Adapted from Goodreads

My Thoughts:

This is another one of those classic books that I somehow made it out of my primary/secondary school years without reading. I always meant to pick it up and read it, but just never got around to it until this spring. When I tried to check it out from the library I was shocked that there was a waiting list. This book was originally published in English 1960…I never expected it to still be this popular in 2012. If nothing else, I felt like this was a fitting testament to the quality of this work and the importance of Wiesel’s story.

From the beginning, I was drawn into Wiesel’s narrative. The story is told very matter-of-factly and in plain, simple language, which is part of what makes it such a great read for primary and secondary school students. At the beginning of the book we meet Eliezer, a devout Orthodox Jewish teenager who simply wants to uncover the mysteries of his faith and live his life in peace. Quickly, his world is turned upside down as he is forced from his home to a tightly-controlled ghetto, and then finally to a concentration camp.

I think the most surprising and poignant aspect of this story (and I had several of these moments during while reading this book) actually occurred for me at the beginning of the book when Moshe the Beadle tries to warn the Jews of Sighet (where Eliezer lives) of the Nazi death camps. He tells them of his flight from death and urges them to flee the country, but the population dismisses his claims and simply does not want to listen. I don’t doubt that his story was difficult to believe (I mean who wants to think that humans can be that cruel to each other), but I found their stubborn refusal to believe his story (even in the face of increasing evidence that he spoke the truth) particularly tragic and heartbreaking. In my mind this highlights an underlying (and in this case dangerous) tenant of human nature–our faith in one another’s humanity. Acts such as the Holocaust go against the natural order of things, so the denial of it by the Jews of Sighet is understandable even as it’s heartrendingly tragic.

When I mentioned to an acquaintance that I had begun to read Night he stated that he wasn’t sure why this particular work had received so much attention in the Holocaust literature genre. He wasn’t trying to say that he didn’t think this story (or Holocaust literature in general) was unimportant, he merely felt that this account was not a great work of literature (i.e. “it’s sort of a listing of historical facts”). To a certain extent I can see where he might be coming from–there are certainly no big words or fancy metaphors in Night. But I think it is precisely the plain language and stoic telling of the story that give it power and staying quality. Wiesel doesn’t philosophize or even really pass judgement on his tormentors, he merely relates the events as they occur. This allows a general audience to grasp and understand his message without getting caught up in complicated literary devices.

Overall, I think my thoughts on this book can be summarized by the first sentence of the most popular review of Night on Amazon.com: “this may be the best and worst book I have ever read.” It is a tragic, heartbreaking, and deeply moving memoir that explores one of the darkest sides of human nature, and is a book I think everyone should read.

What Others Had To Say:

*Let me know if you’ve posted a review of this book and I’ll add a link to it!

My Review In Four Lines:

  1. Rating: 5/5 stars
  2. What I liked: Honest and brave telling of his horrific experience
  3. What I didn’t enjoy as much: The only thing I would ask for is “more.” I think an epilogue (or something of that nature) that gives some details about his life after liberation would be useful for most readers (or at least this reader).
  4. I would recommend this book for: Everyone

***

Linking up with Blonde…Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

Note: I did not receive any compensation whatsoever for this book review.
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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jennie
    Jul 13, 2012 @ 13:09:32

    I re-read this book every few years to not forget what happened. I agree with you that the simplicity of the language and narrative lets the content take centre stage. And rightly so, really.

    Reply

    • exlibrisheather
      Jul 13, 2012 @ 13:16:40

      Agreed. This is not a story that needs to be bogged down with complex language. I borrowed my copy from the library, but I’m thinking about buying one so I can re-read it sometime as well.

      Reply

  2. Shoshanah
    Jul 13, 2012 @ 19:21:20

    I’ve never actually read this one. I do remember other students at my high school having to read it, but it was never assigned the the classes I took. But I would like to read it someday, and I think I’d get a lot out of it.

    Reply

  3. Ann
    Jul 13, 2012 @ 21:22:18

    I randomly picked this book up at a yard sale a few weeks ago (50 cents….score!). It is in the “if I run out of other stuff to read” pile. Ill def. have to bump it up the list.

    Great Review!

    Reply

    • exlibrisheather
      Jul 14, 2012 @ 07:48:57

      I love used booksales, and that is certainly a good score! In addition to all the the things I said in my review, I should also note that it’s short, so it wouldn’t require a massive time investment out of you. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply

  4. Trackback: Top Ten Favorite Books I’ve Read During The Lifespan Of My Blog « Ex Libris

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