Cover Image: The Postcard

The Postcard

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Member Reviews

Totally forgot to post this review after reading this book over the summer. This was so well done—it has also sold extremely well in our store, and has seen a resurgence in sales recently due to the conflict in Israel and Gaza.

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A gorgeous, beautifully written, heartbreaking WWII story. The characters felt like they were my own family. Very emotionally engaging. I thought about this one for a long time after I finished.

Highly recommend. 5 stars.

Thank you to NetGalley and Europa Editions for an advanced readers copy of this book.

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This book is exceptionally timely as antisemitism is on the rise around the world. An interesting read with a slightly different approach than other Holocaust books. Everyone should read this.

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“It is the gaps left within us by the secret of others that keep on haunting us throughout our life” - Hungarian-born French psychoanalyst Nicolas Abraham.

In “The Postcard” Anne Berest grapples with the gaps left by her family members lost to the Holocaust, while touching upon complex yet important issues of loss, transgenerational trauma, memory and identity.

“The Postcard” is narrated in a way that goes back and forth between the present and the past. In one storyline, Anne (based on the author herself) receives a mysterious postcard with the names of her Jewish family lost to the Holocaust. Anne doesn’t know any details about their past, but coalescence of various events which remind of her Jewish ancestry works as an impetus to discover who sent the postcard and why. Together with her mother, Anne sets off on a private investigation into her family’s past. In another storyline we follow Berest’s Jewish family of Rabinovitch during World War II. As the Rabinovitch family struggles to find a safe place in the world, constantly moving and starting over again in another country, we learn that antisemitism had been rooted into European society long before the Holocaust happened.

These two interwoven storylines work in order to convey a deeper understanding of the whole - Anne doesn’t only discover the details about her family, she also tries to understand the significance of her ancestry in the present world as well as its connection to her own identity.

While “The Postcard” turned out to be quite a positive reading experience for me, I felt Berest's writing, especially its evocative quality, was slightly uneven. I understand the author's intention to include as many details about her family members as possible, so the author had no choice but to fill in the gaps, yet sometimes the rendition felt slightly stilted and superficial. Despite these gripes, I appreciate the elegiac character of “The Postcard” and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in this part of the history.


Many thanks to Europa Editions who kindly provided me with an advanced reading copy via NetGalley.

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A great read that I have mentioned and recommended to my subscribers in multiple videos on my booktube channel so far.

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I have increased the number of non-fiction books I read in any given year, and books with a narrative style like this one are usually more appealing to me.
The author thinks back about her family life for several reasons, events that occurred in her life and she thinks back about an anonymous postcard that listed the names of her family members, most of whom were lost in the war. She sets out on a diligent pursuit of her family's history, and every investigative step is followed by a tale of facts that her mother has somehow already uncovered by that point. The mother gives out information when she feels like it, although she has much more she could say, but leaves it for another day. Since that is not a format I usually appreciate when people are generally telling me a story, I wish the author had avoided the constant back and forth (unless she wanted us to feel as frustrated as she does at the roadblocks).
The style will work better for those people who like to ride along with the narrator as they piece together the full picture. I am not one of those people, and that is one of the main reasons I struggled with the book.
The content is unique - it focuses on an average family and their myriad struggles to make something of their lives, only to be blindsided by a war that they do not have personal stakes in. The family in question do not have a strong affinity to their Jewish identity, which makes for an additional talking point.
I would recommend this book to readers who want to investigate a different angle of life during Hitler's reign and the kinds of people it affected.
I received an ARC thanks to NetGalley and the publishers, but the review is entirely based on my own reading experience.

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4.5 stars. Thank you to Net Galley and Europa Editions for the ARC in exchange for my honest review. This story immediately pulled me in. It starts with the Berest family receiving a postcard with no information except four names -- Ephraim, Emma and children Noemie and Jacques -- all family members killed at Auschwitz. 15 years after it's receipt, Anne and her mother set out to solve this family mystery. The book jumps back and forth between present day as the duo travel to France to find more information and what happened starting in the 1930s and what happens in a community where the people were whisked away never to return. The storytelling is wonderful and not only told the story of a mother and daughter and a family devasted by the Holocaust but also pre/post World War II in France and neighboring countries. I had previously read Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay and was aware of France's involvement with rounding up Jewish people and sending them to the camps. But I appreciated that the author spent some time on what happened to people who were rescued from the camps as I feel this aspect is not usually focused on. I highly recommend this book!

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An unforgettable autofictional thriller that brings alive the experience of surviving the Holocaust.

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In this eloquently written family story, Anne Berest has presented a carefully recreated portrait of a small Jewish family lost to the Holocaust. In 2003, her mother Leila received a postcard of the Opera Garnier in Paris with an unusual message: four names listed, Ephraim, Emma, Noemie, Jacques; these were Leila’s grandparents, aunt and uncle who died in the Holocaust. After Leila’s initial discussion of this postcard and what it’s possible meaning could be with her husband and daughters, it was filed away. Until some ten years later, when Anne was pregnant, consigned to rest and spending time with her parents. On the eve of becoming a mother Anne wanted to know more about those who had come before her. And the seeds of this story were born.

Actually, as becomes obvious, the seeds began earlier in searches Leila had made through various archives in France to track her family’s history. But Anne, already an investigator and writer, would go much further. This story combines biography, history, recreation of some events with fact based historical fiction, and a loving restoration of a full family story. Along the way, there is much to learn about the Parisian arts culture pre-war, the way that Jewish people tried to exist in various places in Europe before the war, the insidious methods that the Nazis used to remove those they wanted gone, etc.

Although I have read other literature of this time, I still found much that was new in addition to the deeply human story. The translation appears to be excellent and the tale flows.

I recommend this book to all history lovers, those interested in biographies and also those interested in a different view of a family searching the Holocaust.

A copy of this book was provided by Europa Editions through NetGalley. The review is my own.

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“For almost forty years, I have tried to draw a shape that resembles me, but without success. Today, though, I can connect those disparate dots. I can see, in the constellation of fragments scattered over the page, a silhouette in which I recognize myself at last: I am the daughter, and the granddaughter, of survivors.”

In 2003 the author’s family received a mysterious postcard with no message on the back except for the names of four family members who died during the Holocaust, the author’s maternal great grandparents and two of their children. Fifteen years later the author is grappling with how to explain and pass on her Jewish heritage to her daughter and launches into a quest to better understand her family’s story prior to and during WWII with the hopes of uncovering who sent the anonymous postcard and why.

“The Postcard” chronicles this investigative journey, perfectly walking the line between historical fiction and narrative non-fiction as the story jumps between the author’s present day genealogical research alongside her mother and the constructed story of the lives of her family members from the early 1900s through the tragic events of the 1940s. As a family historian myself, I loved how “The Postcard” at its core was about how understanding the threads of connection that run from generation to generation is essential to having a rooted identity in the present. Fascinating, poignant, and haunting, this is a book that will stick with me for a long time.

I would highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in true accounts about WWII and the Holocaust, memoirs that examine the intergenerational impacts of trauma and the burdens inherited from the past, or books about family secrets and memory-keeping. Honestly, I think anyone who enjoys gripping non-fiction that reads like a well-written novel would enjoy this book. "The Postcard" is easily the best work of non-fiction that I have read so far in 2023 and it will definitely have a place on my year end non-fiction favourites list.

"There are, in the genealogical tree, traumatized, unprocessed places that are eternally seeking relief. From these places, arrows are launched toward future generations. Anything that has not been resolved must be repeated and will affect someone else."

*DISCLAIMER: I received an eARC of this book from Europa Editions through NetGalley for the purposes of providing an unbiased review.*

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I really loved this story. It's long but it doesn't moves fairly quickly. It covers some hard topics, so be prepared, but it's a fascinating mystery as well as a beautiful family drama. Highly recommended.
I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher and Netgalley.

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This is a difficult story that follows what happened to members of a Jewish family through WWII in France. Based on the story of her family, the author weaves a heartbreaking story that is discovered when a postcard arrives with the names of 4 family members lost during the Holocaust. Research, memories, and long-lost letters help fill in the missing details. One of the saddest sections for me that I’ve rarely read about previously was the sobering details when the too few survivors returned to France. The reactions of the French citizens who still didn’t really know what had happened was painful to read knowing what we know now.
I thought the translation was excellent since I would have never thought it wasn’t written originally in English.

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“What does it mean to be Jewish? Maybe the answer was contained within another question: What does it mean to wonder what it means to be Jewish?”

The Postcard by Anne Berest is a wonderful story consisting of a list of names with no explanation whatsoever. This list will lead readers to a wonderful story about discovery and identity. The book follows different timelines as readers will be introduced to the family's history as immigrant Jews from Russia in Europe prior to and including the holocaust. Present day in 2019, after all the postcards are sent, Anne decides to delve into her family history with the help of her mother Leila. Anne hired a private investigator and a handwriting expert to find the hidden truths of their family and the family's lost history.

It is a book that made family, identity, and culture as the main theme of the whole story that can invoke feelings of nostalgia, hope, and love throughout reading. I am very impressed with this book as it checks many of the feel good things I seek when reading a book.

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“What does it mean to be Jewish? Maybe the answer was contained within another question: What does it mean to wonder what it means to be Jewish?”

If any question can encapsulate a theme, this one can—to wonder what it means to be part of a culture, a thread of history from which you had been severed. The Postcard is about a list of names with no explanation. A list that will prompt a discovery and a change of heart and direction. It is a story of the choice to detach from one’s past only to find that DNA is stronger than one’s philosophy. It is a snapshot of France during World War II, a condemnation for its role in the Holocaust, its attempt to bury that role in euphemism. It describes familial bonds, heroism, hate, addiction, abandonment, but mostly it describes finding and belonging.

Thanks to Europa Editions and NetGalley for this eARC.

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The Postcard is an incredibly moving and heartbreaking biographical fiction novel based on the author's family. In 2003 a postcard arrives at Anne's family home depicting the Opera Garner in Paris. On the reverse of the postcard are the four names Ephraim, Emma, Noemie and Jacques, Anne's Great Grandparents and their two children who all perished in Auschwitz in 1942. The book follows different timelines as we first learn the family's history as immigrant Jews from Russia in Europe prior to and including the holocaust.

In 2019, many years after the postcard was delivered, Anne decides to delve into her family history with the help of her mother Leila. Along with a private investigator and a handwriting expert Anne searches for hidden truths and tries to piece together her family's lost history. She is determined to find out the mystery behind who sent the unsigned postcard years before.

The book is beautifully written about family, hope, love, loss and the author's search for identity as the granddaughter of a holocaust survivor. I'm left feeling so many emotions and awed by the resilience of this family.

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A deeply felt THANK YOU to @europaeditions and @netgalley for a copy of this book.
This book is part history and part fiction that blends together beautifully. I am a huge fan of World War 2 books and enjoyed this one immensely. The beginning of the book contains the names of many characters and can be overwhelming, however a friend of mine who had read it told me not to give up and so, I continued on. I am so glad that I did.
The Postcard is a deeply moving story of family tragedy and loyalties both in the present and during a terribly disturbing time in the history of the world. There are both terrible times and happy family memories.
I LOVED this one!

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This novel was a huge hit in France and has now been translated into English by Tina Kover. It follows a woman as she searches throughout France to find out who has sent her a postcard with the names of her relatives that were killed in the Holocaust written on it. What follows is a sweeping account created through the passed on memories of a French Jewish family's fate during the Holocaust. It touches on so many aspects of French history at the time, from the deportation of Jews, to the French Resistance, to the fate of intellectuals. Through one family tree the entirety of France's occupied history finds itself chronicled, in all its infamy and heroism. It also reveals how the past is not anywhere on earth, but inside us, and travels, dropping its mysterious seeds in our psyches, speaking to us from beyond the grave.

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Wonderful book, part memoir, part historical fiction. This is the story of the Rabinovitch family, who left Russia and travelled to Poland, Palestine, France and elsewhere. Specifically it is the story of one branch of the family. In 2003, a postcard arrives at the home of Lelia, daughter of Myriam, and addressed to Myriam. It lists 4 names: Miriam’s parents, her brother and sister, all killed in Auschwitz’. For 15 years, the postcard sits in a drawer until, Anne, Myriam’s granddaughter decides to learn the story of her family.

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I read a lot of WW2 books. Whether it's fiction, non-fiction, or memoirs, I feel like I've covered so many aspects of the war and the people involved. Reading The Postcard, however, made me realise there will always be new depths, greater heartache, and ongoing generational grief; the subject can never be fully told. 'The uniqueness of this catastrophe lay in the paradox of its insidious slowness and viciousness. Looking back, everyone wondered why they hadn't reacted sooner...'.

After receiving a mysterious postcard, listing the names of four family members who died in Auschwitz, questions begin to be asked. Despite burying the postcard in a drawer, to be forgotten, it was too late to smother the burning question: why? Painstaking research pieces together the life of these four family members, whose journey just began when they were forced to flee their Russian homeland after the Revolution. 'You must understand something. One day, they'll want us all to disappear.

This book is biographical fiction but really more like a saga; stories within stories. Lifetimes. It was cruel, it was heartbreaking, it was mystifying, it was redemptive. Most of all it was educational in the stark reality of what was and what still is. The absolute horror of concentration camps and knowing your neighbour may have betrayed you or, have been complicit in their silence as your relatives were rounded up for transportation is hard to reconcile. Harder still, is knowing that this abomination of history has not resolved, nor even diminished racism and hate. The inter-generational collateral damage persists. It is our collective responsibility to never forget or, 'there will be no one left to remember that they ever existed.' I recommend this book to anyone.

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Moscow, April 1919
“Nachman picked up a small pencil and moistened its tip between his lips. His eyes still fixed on his children and grandchildren, he added, ‘Now, I’m going to go around the table. And I want each of you—every one of you, do you hear me?—to give me a destination. I will go and buy steamer tickets for everyone. You must leave the country within the next three months; is that understood? Bella, I’ll begin with you—it’s simple; you’re coming with us. I’ll write it down: Bella, Haifa, Palestine. Ephraïm?’
. . .
Before closing the dining room door, Nachman asked them all to think carefully, concluding, ‘You must understand something. One day, they’ll want us all to disappear.’”

More than 90 years later, an anonymous postcard is delivered to a woman in Paris. There is no return address, but there is a roughly written list of four names printed on the back.

“ Then she read the four names, written in the form of a list. Ephraïm Emma Noémie Jacques They were the names of her maternal grandparents, her aunt, and her uncle. All four had been deported two years before she was born. They died in Auschwitz in 1942. And now, sixty-one years later, they had reappeared in our mailbox. It was Monday, January 6, 2003.”

I’m not sure if there’s a genre called fictional biography or not, but that’s what this is. The author is the daughter of the woman who received the postcard, and while she’s curious about it, it’s not until her little girl asks questions many years later that she feels compelled to follow it up.

The family story begins early in the book as historical fiction, which I was surprised to find less engaging than I expected. The family moved several times, trying to stay ahead of the growing hounding and victimisation of Jews, who were considered ‘the other’ or outsiders, no matter where they’d been born or how long they’d lived there.

If a country or politician needed a scapegoat, Jews were handy and accepted by the rest of the general public. Paris became unsafe, but many in the Jewish community hoped the French would stick by them.

It became more interesting to me as the investigation ramped up and the relationship between mother and daughter was featured. Anne has a six-year-old daughter of her own, Clara, whom her mother picks up from school on Mondays so they can spend some time together.

“ ‘Grandma, are you Jewish?’
‘Yes, I’m Jewish.’
‘And Grandpa, too?’
‘No, he isn’t Jewish.’
‘Oh. Is Maman Jewish?’
‘So I am, too?’
‘Yes, you are, too.’
‘Okay, that’s what I thought.’
‘Why are you making that face, sweetheart?’
‘I really don’t like what you just said.’
‘But why?’
‘They don’t like Jews very much at school.’ ”

When Lélia calls her daughter later to tell her of the conversation, she struggles to speak. She is a chain-smoker and all of her movements and speech are interrupted and punctuated by lighting of cigarettes, sometimes stalling for time. When she finally manages to tell Anne of Clara’s questions, Anne is beside herself with anxiety.

“From that moment onward, I was on the case. I wanted to find the author of the anonymous postcard my mother had received sixteen years earlier, whatever it took. The idea of finding the culprit became an obsession. I had to understand why that card had been sent.”

Her mother still has the card. Determined to track down the sender and the reason for the card, Anne leads the hunt, beginning with helping her mother unpack and unpick the childhood memories she has hidden from herself.

My Goodreads review includes a photo of the actual postcard, front and back

Their detective work is amazing – there is so little to go on. They study every mark on the card, the stamp, the postmark, the shapes of the letters, and they contact everyone they can think of who knew or might have known some member of the Rabinovitch family. They travel in person to visit, to question, to compare Lélia’s memories with what they can see today.

Once I was caught up in the story, I was completely hooked. I really thought they were grasping at straws – and whatever other cliché you can think of about a hopeless cause – but never underestimate the power of women like these or a family like theirs.

If you’re a recently reformed smoker, you may have trouble with Lélia’s non-stop chimney effect and the frequent references to needing to unfug the car when they’re driving. [My word – seemed apt].

Terrific biography and fiction and history that deserves the accolades it’s getting. Thanks to NetGalley and Europa Editions for the copy for review.

Below is the source of the photo I used plus an excellent article and a couple of family photos.

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