Far Above Rubies, by Cynthia Polansky is a novel based on a Dutch Jewish woman who actually did exist during World War II. The fictionalized account demonstrates how one woman tried to save her six stepchildren from death at Auschwitz.
Sofie Rjinfeld, was a young woman confronted with circumstances beyond her control, and her choices, which were in her control, mystified me. There was no reason for her to be deported, she was not chosen to be, yet decided to go along with her six stepdaughters. Why?
Many consider her brave, and the story line more or less depicts her as such, but within the underlying portrayals, I felt a sense of something lacking. I began to wonder why a woman would voluntarily allow herself to be deported with her six stepdaughters, while her husband remained behind. Was it altruistic or was there another motive? Was she naive or was she ignorant, or both? Was it denial as to what was actually occurring or was it true selflessness?
In any event, I found this book to be lacking in extreme details, and felt the author skirting issues and circumstances that could have been told with more compelling inclusions. I never felt that Sofie Rjinfeld had much depth to her. She was young, and did not necessarily fit the mold of a woman of affection. She tried in her way to bring harmony into the home, but did not grasp the brevity of what she undertook.
I did not find the events to be vividly illuminating. Were their details? Yes, there were. Were they enlightening to me? No, they weren’t. It is as if the situations were skimmed over, a bit sweetened. I did not find intensity within the pages. Did Polansky do a decent job with word imagery? Yes, she did. Her images, although vivid, did not seem to acutely define the situations. She did do her research, I give her credit for that. But, along with the research, the events in the story line were not intense in portrayals.
Maybe I have read so many Holocaust historical novels by other writers that rings true to the accounts mentioned in them.
One thing I did like about the novel was Sofie’s will to survive, no matter what. I liked the fact that she did, in fact, act motherly and caring for her stepdaughters while in Auschwitz. There were times the humane side of her did shine through as she tried to help her stepchildren, along with the human side of her, as far as her protecting herself from being selected for death. Overall her intentions were good, yet the fact that those stepchildren died and she survived did not mesh with me.
What amazed me were the post war situations. I found it difficult to accept the circumstances of her life after the Holocaust. It mattered not to me that she felt a sense of comfort in her living conditions. For her to become involved in the experiences she did, seemed a bit far-fetched to me, and the author’s creative edge crossed borders, in my opinion.
What could have been a compelling read was lacking in depth and in writing style, as far as I am concerned. It could have been told more powerfully. I felt disappointed, expecting to find some inspiration, as I continued to read, but that was not the case. Some might feel otherwise, and that is fine, we each have our own ideas on book content and how it affects us.
Far Above Rubies, by Cynthia Polansky, although based on true events, was not presented in a way that captivated me.