Paperback: £ 6.99
I saw the film of this a few years ago, VERY long but well worth the watch.
I was given the book as part of the 'Books to Films' set I've mentioned in my Best Books of 2011 post. I wasn't aware it was a book until I received this lovely set!
It's a memoir of Wladyslaw Szpilman's time during the first world war. It is very short in comparison to the film, but I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. It is beautifully written. There is a lot of emotion in some parts but there is an air of detachment to it also. This could be because Szpilman wrote the book very shortly after his ordeal during the war ended. The detachment could be a self protection thing.
Some parts of the book were shocking and horrifying. There are details of murders, raids and mass killings that I have not come across in other things I have read about WW2 that upset me hugely. They are written about in a very matter of fact way which is not surprising as they were a frequent and almost everyday occurrence for poor Szpilman.
In the film, Szpilman seems to an extent (and in search of a better word) cowardly. He seems to run, and run, not care for others and only look out for himself. In the book it is highly different. He is forced away from his family when the clearing of the ghetto starts, he is made to run and hide even when he doesn't feel he wants to and he wants to stay with his family or not bother with the continuous hiding which is taking a great toll on him.
The diary extracts from the German soldier who helped Szpilman (sorry, his name escapes me now) are a very stark contrast. As they are diary entries they are more immediate, but they also seem more controlled, formulaic and to an extent prescribed. Yes, this soldier is speaking of his disgust at what the German's are doing but there is something that seems slightly false and clinical about his outrage and anger. Of course, he had to contain it and not show his superiors as no doubt he would have found a fate similar to the Jews in the book, but there still wasn't the passion I was hoping for.
All in all, this is a great memoir. Very interesting, engaging and thoroughly educational. Not one for those who are overly young or who get upset easily though!