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Title: Where David Threw Stones
Author: Elyse Hoffman
Published: 27th of September 2022
Format: Digital – 442 pages
Hello Hello! How are you?
Today I have the immense pleasure of bringing you my review for Where David Threw Stones by Elyse Hoffman, currently on #BlogTour with Dave and the team over at @The_WriteReads.
When I heard about this book going on tour I jumped at the chance to read it as I hadn’t been able to offer more than a spotlight on The Book of Uriel tour that we hosted last year. But historical fiction, especially about or set during WWII is one of my favourite things, so I’m very happy I got the chance to read this more recent book this year!
Thank you as always to Dave for letting me be on the tour and thank you to the author for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
“Welcome to the Brennenbach of Midnight! The Curse Hours have begun.”
West Germany, 1968
When ten-year-old David Saidel’s parents are murdered by Neo-Nazis, he is sent to live with his grandfather in the anti-Semitic village of Brennenbach. David, miserable and lonely, finds solace in his kindly Grandpa Ernst, who has one strict rule: never go out after midnight.
One night, when David breaks curfew to search for his missing dog, he discovers why Ernst is so serious about his curfew: Brennenbach is cursed. When midnight strikes, the town is thrown back to 1943, the height of Hitler’s reign.
During the Curse Hours, the Nazi ghosts that infest Brennebach are just as dangerous as they were in life. They’re hunting for David because they think David is the last remaining member of the Kogan family. Whatever happened to the Kogan’s caused the Curse, and David and his grandfather won’t be safe until he finds a way to end it.
Through the help of a little girl named Maria Rahm, the daughter of a vicious Nazi Lieutenant, he sets out to uncover the truth behind the Kogan’s. Can he end the Curse that plagues the town of Brennenbach before it claims another victim?
Trigger warnings: violence, murder, WWII depictions and mention, mentioned suicide (multiple), bombs, life in wartimes, grief, loss of parents, loss of children, blood, gore, concentrations camps (including the violence, hatred and murders done there), mentions of Auschwitz and Treblinka, violence and hatred against Jews, anti-Semitism, murder, Neo-Nazis, anti-Nazi vigilante murders.
Where David Threw Stones by Elyse Hoffman is a WWII historical fiction that I am so glad I read during the tour. Thanks to the previous tour, I discovered this author’s genre but had no time to read The Book of Uriel save for a few chapters at the start. I knew that I needed to read more by her so when this book was announced on tour, I jumped at the chance.
This is a very unique, heart-warming but also heart-wrenching and hard-hitting read. I instantly fell in love with young David Saidel’s character who has made a pact to never smile again since his parents’ murder, especially since he blames himself. This pulled at my heartstrings so much and watching David grow up, open up, realise he was not to blame and finally smile again brought tears to my eye.
I loved the premise of this book as I also love time travel, which this sort of is but not really. More like the town and its inhabitants revert back to 1943 for 5 hours a night. When David discovers this he is utterly shocked but realises why his grandfather gave him a very strict curfew when he arrived in Brennenbach. Even though the town is well into the 1960s, and you would think a lot more liberal after everything that happened during the war and in the fallout, however, when David turns up in town and doesn’t hide his bright ginger hair or his kippah, people immediately lash out and him and spew hate. It was terrible to read these chapters since we all know Jews were completely innocent and weren’t the terrible “vermin” Hitler and his SS men drilled into the world. No people deserved any of the hate and violence that they faced and yet the people of Brennenbach visibly learned nothing of the war as they remained hostile to David for a long time.
I was so worried for David during the “Curse Hours” because he was in so much danger and found himself in really bad situations a few times. However, I was also eager for more chapters during the Curse Hours because he slowly made friends with the most unlikely people. I don’t want to say much, but seeing David make friends and the town slowly get to know him, realise he wasn’t a terrible pest on the town and that he was just a human being really warmed my heart. I also loved seeing Brennenbach during this time period, which sounds terrible but what I mean is that it was all so vivid and real, and the reading experience was just so good!
I was really surprised by where the plot took us, and quite honestly nearly started sobbing when David revealed the Curse in an extremely tense and dangerous way. I was so worried for him and I just said ‘WHAT?’ ever so loud and my whole family turned and looked at me and I couldn’t get a word out of my mouth. What I will say, because I don’t want to spoil you, is that this book carries a very strong and important message that in the end will leave you a sobbing but also smiling mess on the floor when it all wraps up. I never ever in a million years expected THAT, I did have a theory which was not too far off but still fairly because I had the times wrong in my head, but wow, when I read those lines I just… I don’t think I’ve ever been so speechless all while my head was screaming and running around… I still can’t but WOW. What a plot twist! Incredible!
I loved the characters and so many of them grew on me, first obviously David and his Opa (grandfather), and then Alfons, Milo and a few others. I just had to smile every time David almost did and it was such a pleasure reading about these characters. I could picture them perfectly and found them to be very realistic, very palpable and despite the multiple atrocities we read on page and learn about from the past, found them also very human, especially at the end. As I said, the ending carries a very strong message which has always been important in remembering what happened during WWII and changing the worldview to never let anything like this happen again.
Finally, I thought the writing style was very fluid and just beautiful. It is a really hard book to read at times, but it was also effortless if that makes sense. It just felt right – I’m sure you’ll know what I mean if you’ve read a “just right” kind of book before! Elyse Hoffman is an incredible author with such an amazing talent for writing about these characters, this time, the ideologies and atrocities of the war. She has become an auto-buy author and I’ll sign up to every single subsequent tour Dave hosts for her, and I think you should too!
MY THOUGHTS AND RATING
As you can tell from another very long review (SORRY!), I absolutely adored this book. I mean, it always makes me feel a bit weird saying I love WWII historical fiction because of everything that happened during that time, but it’s more of an “I love learning about this time because it’s both horrific and fascinating and it’s important to know and remember everything we can” kind of way. I can’t explain it better than that, but anyway, this was an incredible story. I knew what I was getting into from the blurb and I knew that during the Curse Hours it was going to be really vivid and terrible (which I am not triggered by but please read the TW before embarking on this read) but I also never ever imagined the reason for the Curse of Brennenbach, it was so bewildering but also made complete sense.
The writing style was solid, beautiful and terrible and poignant, hard-hitting, heart-wrenching, heart-warming – you name it, it had it. This was a long book and it took me a long time to read it, but the time sped by so fast for me and it felt like it hadn’t taken me long at all. During the Curse Hours, I felt like, as a reader, I was also propelled to that time to witness everything not just through the words I was reading, but also through the feelings I was experiencing and the images the author managed to send me. I can only think of one other author who has managed quite this kind of reading experience, which is Patrick Ness with his Chaos Walking series.
I gave Where David Threw Stones by Elyse Hoffman 5 stars. When I finished it last night I gave it 4.5 stars, but from sleeping on it and letting my brain get around that reveal and everything else that happened, I realised that for me, this book deserves all the stars and absolutely no less. The author gives a voice to the atrocities of the past, to remind us in the present what our ancestors did or what was done to them, and most importantly gave a voice to Jewish people during the war while bringing forth the message of redemption, courage, forgiveness and peace. It was absolutely stunning.
If you love WWII historical fiction with great characters who grow, learn from their mistakes and help others, with an important message of accepting one another regardless of faith, nationality or physical appearance, if you love books with a bit of a fantasy twist and like being sent back to the past and if you love MASSIVE twists that rip your heart out and make your brain explode (all in good ways, I promise), then this is absolutely the book for you. I cannot recommend it enough.
I’ll be making my way through this author’s backlist as soon as I can, because wow – just wow.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – ELYSE HOFFMAN
Elyse Hoffman is an award-winning author who strives to tell historical tales with new twists. She loves to meld WWII and Jewish history with fantasy, folklore, and the paranormal. She has written six works of Holocaust historical fiction: The Barracks of the Holocaust five-book series and The Book of Uriel. Elyse’s books are the way to go if you love history and want to read some unique stories.
That’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed reading this post and will want to give this book a try, it is definitely worth it.
See you soon, stay safe,