2020 Flatiron Books
Finished on January 19, 2021
Rating: 3/5 (Good)
In Poland, as World War II rages, a mother hides with her young daughter, a musical prodigy whose slightest sound may cost them their lives.
As Nazi soldiers round up the Jews in their town, Róza and her 5-year-old daughter, Shira, flee, seeking shelter in a neighbor’s barn. Hidden in the hayloft day and night, Shira struggles to stay still and quiet, as music pulses through her and the farmyard outside beckons. To soothe her daughter and pass the time, Róza tells her a story about a girl in an enchanted garden:
The girl is forbidden from making a sound, so the yellow bird sings. He sings whatever the girl composes in her head: high-pitched trills of piccolo; low-throated growls of contrabassoon. Music helps the flowers bloom.
In this make-believe world, Róza can shield Shira from the horrors that surround them. But the day comes when their haven is no longer safe, and Róza must make an impossible choice: whether to keep Shira by her side or give her the chance to survive apart.
Inspired by the true stories of Jewish children hidden during World War II, Jennifer Rosner’s debut is a breathtaking novel about the unbreakable bond between a mother and a daughter. Beautiful and riveting, The Yellow Bird Sings is a testament to the triumph of hope―a whispered story, a bird’s song―in even the darkest of times.
Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, particularly novels about World War II. However, it's been a few years since I've read anything set during that time period (as I was getting burned out on the subject), so when a neighbor loaned me The Yellow Bird Sings, I decided to give it a try.
It took me a little while to get engaged in Roza and Shira's story and the first half felt somewhat repetitive and, oddly (due to the difference in time periods), reminiscent of Emma Donoghue's bestselling novel, Room. The pace eventually picked up in the second half and I was eager to see what the future held for Shira.
My favorite sections of the book centered around Shira's music lessons and I found myself wishing for a soundtrack, so I could listen to the classical music mentioned. I can easily picture Shira and her violin teacher, Pan Skrzypczak, playing those beautiful pieces together and for this reason, would love to see the book optioned for the big screen.
The Yellow Bird Sings is a fairly quick read and while categorized as general fiction, it could easily cross over to Young Adult fiction. I enjoyed it, but not nearly as much as some of my favorites of this genre (The Book Thief, All the Light We Cannot See, City of Thieves, and The Nightingale, to name a few). The ending was somewhat disappointing, but overall I would recommend this to those who enjoy historical fiction.