This Rebel Heart

Knopf. Apr. 2022. 448p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780593381243.
Gr 9 Up–“What else is a lie?” Eighteen-year-old Csilla’s old fears arise when she hears the shout at a political exoneration of her parents, who have been murdered—and now forgiven—by Hungary’s Communist regime. It’s autumn in 1956 and revolution is brewing in the capital, Budapest. But Csilla’s not sure she’s going to be around for whatever’s coming. As a Holocaust survivor, Csilla feels the daily pressure of antisemitism and hears the Danube River whispering the secrets of the dead yet she is also acutely aware of her father’s participation in atrocities as a member of the Communist secret police. The silence and shame surrounding Csilla’s family motivates her to help a handsome, rebellious student, Tamás, discover the fate of his male lover. Her fellow-feeling for Tamás soon sets Csilla into the midst of the revolutionary tumult. Should Csilla flee the country, or demand recognition of festering injustices and hidden truths? Watching both Csilla and Tamás is Azriel, an angel of death visiting Budapest as a witness to what he suspects is an imminent disaster. Using fabulism and rich prose, Locke deftly articulates the complicated layers of traumatic history shaping Csilla’s story. The question of complicity leaves no one innocent and demands compassion alongside responsibility. The novel guides readers through complex ethical situations where there is no promise of justice.
VERDICT Vivid, suspenseful, emotionally grounded, and heartbreaking, this book grapples with vital ethical debates about memory and democracy that makes it essential reading for lovers of historical fiction.

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