By John Lawton
Review by Tamara Bila
The second book I would like to review for the class is one I was hesitant to write about. Not only because of the sensitive material but because its subject matter is from events before the contemporary period. I chose to review it because it is a challenge to analyze a modern take on a historical activity. If any of you read my midterm, I did a similar experiment there, which I found enjoyable, so I am testing out this style of assignment for my future classrooms here. The other reason I chose this piece is that I read it for the first time when it was published in 2010. For the last decade, I have never quite been able to push it out of my mind, and that is one way the public knows when a piece of writing deserves to be called literature with merit.
John Lawton, the author of A Lily of the Field, published his work through Grove Press in New York, NY 10003, in 2010. The ISBN-13 is 978-0-8021-4546-8. Lawton was born in the United Kingdom in 1949 just four years after the end of WWII. I think that his age has a lot to do with his writing inspirations and subject matter. The basis of the story is a young cellist living in Vienna being torn apart internally as she watches the world be torn from WWII in front of her. She befriends Dr. Szabo, and they navigate and keep each other alive in internment camps. They are days away from death, have no food or other basic survival necessities, but the one thing she does have is music. She uses her skills as a cellist to earn her, and Dr. Szabos keep. They are changed forever, from the events of this war, but trying to explain all the trauma to someone that was not there will never indeed be possible. Here I will summarize a few lines from chapter 77 that show how the raw emotions caused by those years of abuse will stay with these victims forever. Many years after the war is over, a friend is asking how they were able to re-adjust back to the natural world. The main character is confused, and must stop the conversation by saying:
“My old job? Ah… the war, I… died in the battle, you know.
You died in the war?
I died in Auschwitz, and no one noticed.”
He left so many pieces of himself on those grounds that nothing will ever be as it was meant to be. This book is a must-read because it shows the challenges that humans face emotionally, psychologically, and physically, but also how hope can be found in even the most devastating of places. Community is the driving force behind perseverance.