The Kiss: A Novel, by Scott E. Blumental, is the author’s attempt at portraying the Holocaust through a musical overtone.
I have read quite a few Holocaust novels in which music was a foundation for the story. Blumenthal’s presentation was not a unique or new idea regarding depicting the Holocaust through music, or how music played a role in the Holocaust. There have been quite a few novels and nonfiction books where music is a predominant Holocaust theme.
Music was a source of comfort and a way of uniting the Jews during the Holocaust, and I am speaking about the Jews imprisoned in the camps. It was the one commonality they shared, which also was a form of documentation. Prisoners crafted instruments, sang, put on performances that the Nazi authorities at the camp asked of them, or hummed musical melodies within the confines of their imprisonment to bring them comfort.
Music was also used by the Nazis to diminish any happiness or joyful thoughts the Holocaust prisoners held. Often when hearing music, they would break down and cry, realizing what they are missing, reminding them of their former lives, evoking more misery in them, due to their circumstances.
I did not like all of the characters in The Kiss, but that is fine. The reader does not have to like all characters in a book. I wish that Blumenthal had expanded more on the music aspect, especially regarding the trios playing at events, and how people responded. I felt a flatness in the story line, due to the lack of more in depth depictions.
The Hassidic “magical, surreal or mystical” aspects in the story line detracted from it in my opinion. I think those portions of the book would have been better left unsaid. I didn’t find any purpose in them. In Judaism, Kabbalah is an intense form or train of thought relating to an endless universe, and if the author was trying to portray that through the characters, he fell a bit short, in my opinion.
Overall, the writing, itself, was filled with excellent word-imagery. In my opinion, Blumenthal tried to incorporate Hasidism, legend, mysticism and reality, together, in one story line, and for me it didn’t all tie together and work effectively. The basic story line was a good one, but for me it was not enough in its entirety.
The Kiss, is a good novel for high school students, and young adults. I give Scott E. Blumenthal applause for attempting to portray the Holocaust through music.