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Deceptions by Suzanne Leal

The Deceptions: a stark treeless forest in a snowscapeA review by Emma Streeton

In 1943, a young woman is taken to a Jewish ghetto outside Prague where one of the guard, a Czech gendarme, is quickly drawn to her. Believing he will offer her protection, Hana reluctantly accepts Karel’s advances only to find herself alone and abandoned in Auschwitz. Decades later, Karel carries his regrets to Sydney where he and his family try to make a new life for themselves. At the same time in England, Hana continues to come to terms with her past experiences by hiding who she really is. One hint at the title, The Deceptions.

I started this book after putting my bookworms to bed one evening. My intention was to just get into the first chapter or two, but I couldn’t put it down and I was up until 1am reading. I only went to sleep because my hubby moaned about the light from my bedside table! I raced home the following afternoon and put my bookworms in front of the television (very unlike me!) so I could shut myself away and finish it. Needless to say, this book grabs a hold of you and it doesn’t let go. I didn’t want to skip anything and yet I needed to know what happened next and how the story would end for all the characters involved.

Exceptional Characters

Leal does an outstanding job creating such real and deeply affecting characters. I adored the construction and development of each and every one of the main characters who were involved in the story, whether I actually liked them or not! The intensity of the tension in parts of this book had my heart racing in the hope of how things would work out. The atmosphere was gripping, vivid, mesmerizing and emotive. I felt deeply immersed within the turmoil and chaos of wartime madness.

Gripping Plot

The plot and context was another huge asset for this novel. Just when you think that this is going to be a straightforward historical retelling, it’s not. It’s an emotional roller coaster with twists and turns that only add to the depth of the story instead of distracting from it.

The Deceptions definitely deals with some heavy content. I’d be lying if I said some of the chapters don’t provoke moral unease and deep sadness about what takes place in our world. However, there is humanity in this book and a sense of hope throughout.


The Deceptions utterly gripped me from the beginning and stayed with me long after I had turned the last page. To sum it up, it is an incredible read and by far one of the best books I have picked up in 2020 thus far. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys WWII historical fiction. A remarkable story with unforgettable characters.

If you like this book you may also enjoy reading, The Girl From Munich by Tania Blanchard, Stasiland by Anna Funder and The Toymaker by Liam Pieper. Emma also loves books like the Labyrinth of the Spirits.

Book details

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
ISBN: 9781760875275
Imprint: Allen & Unwin
Pub Date: March 2020
Format: Paperback – C format, 288 pages
Category: Fiction, historical fiction

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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