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January 25, 2021

The Yellow Bird Sings

 


Fiction
2020 Flatiron Books
Finished on January 19, 2021
Rating: 3/5 (Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

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.

12 comments:

  1. Thanks for the review.

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    1. You're welcome, Mystic. Hope you are doing well.

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  2. I am burned out on WWII as well. Have been for years but this one sounds like something I could like, given the young girl's character.

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    1. Ti, I was ready to read this after a break from WWII novels, but it fell a little short. Let me know how you like it, if you do give it a chance.

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  3. Music and WWII sounds like a winning combination to me. I understand the comparison to Room from your description.

    The Book Thief is my absolute favorite book. I didn't enjoy City of Thieves so much, but maybe that was because I listened to it. I own The Nightingale and hope to get to it soon. All the Light We Cannot See is one of those books that's always checked out at the library. Maybe one day I'll stumble on a copy.

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    1. Jen, I wish I had gone back through the book and made a list of all the music before returning it to my neighbor. It would be nice to have a playlist of all the pieces.

      I The Book Thief is my all-time favorite WWII novel, but there are many more that I loved, too. I hope you get to The Nightingale and All the Light We Cannot See. They're both on my To Be Reread list.

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  4. Oh I'm glad you reviewed this one -- as I've had it in my library queue for awhile but wasn't sure much about it. I have read the four WWII favs you mention and liked those ... but I'm a little on the fence .... perhaps I'll still get to it. thx for the review.

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    1. Susan, I would love to hear your thoughts on this one, should you get around to reading it. Looking at the reviews on Goodreads, I'm in the minority.

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  5. Lots of people I know love historical fiction, especially stories about World War II, and I'm glad that I can now share your thoughts about this book with them.

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    1. Deb, I plan to put together a collage of all my favorite WWII books, for future reference. This will wind up on a second collage of those I've read, but didn't love. Stay tuned!

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  6. It is always so interesting to read about that time period in history. So many stories of survival and courage. I wouldn't mind giving this one a try one of these days.

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    1. Iliana, I enjoy the different perspectives from various countries. This one was set in Poland, which I don't think I've read about before.

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