A Life of the Twentieth Century is the story of Aya, who lived through the loss of her parents before the age of 3. At the age of twelve she was sent to a boarding school in Budapest, that closed after one year, because the Nazi army marched into the city.
Aya was left totally alone to face the Nazi occupation, and to experience all the horrors of the war. She faced many life threatening situations, such as prison, bombardment or even the possibility of being executed on the spot, without really comprehending the gravity of it all.
The end of the war was supposed to mean liberation, the return of hope and freedom for most people, however it didn’t happen for Aya, who was part of a youth group on her way to Palestine. The destination of this youth group was to reach Italy and the Jewish Brigade. They crossed the Alps on foot from Austria to reach Italy.
As they reached their destination Aya met a soldier from the Jewish Brigade, who was supposed to be her Hero, her Saviour, but turned out to be the devil incarnate. From day one, this soldier of the Jewish brigade took control of Aya’s life when she was only 15 years old.
After divorce, destitute and once again alone, she had no direction and almost no hope, when from deep inside her a small voice said; go back to school. It took all her courage to apply to university, where she was accepted and after 5 year was granted a B.A. and a Diploma of Teaching. She spent the rest of her life teaching, and as she contemplated her life she said to herself that if she had had all the choices in the world, she would have chosen teaching.
I am not entirely sure what I expected from this book, but it wasn’t entirely what I got. I really don’t know what I was expecting. More, maybe? I’m really not sure.
I am not completely dissatisfied; I’m just not 100% satisfied.
I felt that a majority of the book was boring and drawn out. Which I guess when you are following one’s life, it can be boring.
There were parts where things picked up and definitely were more interesting and held my attention for a period of time before it would drop off again.
One thing I have to say is that throughout the entire book, the entire story – Aya is one tough gal. She never gave up. She pushed forward and the things that I feel would have knocked me down, only seemed to push her forward.
In short, without giving too much away; the books begins with Aya being sent to live with family who then ship her to different family in a time when Hitler was ruling (and Aya is Jewish).
She goes off on her own and eventually is taken away – something that evoked a lot of emotions from myself and later one, evokes a lot of emotion from her. Unfortunately, her emotion comes “better late than never”.
Her “husband” is something else all in itself and really, how Aya could handle him and stay by his side – let’s just say, she’s nicer than I am!
One thing that evoked a lot of emotion was the relationship with her children as they got older. Being an outsider reading the book, I could see both sides of the relationship and really felt that no one was to blame. Both sides had very valid emotions, but I know that it wasn’t either for either side.
I really loved that Aya followed her dream. She was successful. She was superb! Her strength is none to compare.
While I personally found the book one that I struggled to read, the story is a fabulous one that is quite inspirational.
About the Author
Irene Even was born in Hungary. As a child she lived through the Second World War, using false papers to survive. After the war, she immigrated to Palestine, lived in a Kibbutz, then later married and immigrated to Canada with her family. She returned to Israel to teach English and remained there for twenty-two years. Having written her memoir, A Life of the Twentieth Century, she now lives in retirement in Montreal.
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