Light At The End Of The Day by Eleanor Wasserberg

A review by Emma Streeton

The Light at the End of the Day focuses on Alicia and her family, who flee Krakow to escape the Nazis. In their flight, they leave behind all their possessions. This includes Alicia’s most prized object: the portrait her father commissioned of her.

As they move from country to country, desperate to find safety, their once luxurious life in Krakow seems like a memory of another world. But Alicia never forgets the painting and what it represents. After the war she resolves to find the artist and recover it.

Historical

The Light At The End Of The Day is a heartbreaking tale of a Jewish family torn apart by war. The story draws heavily on the experiences of author Elanor Wasserberg’s own family, making it all the more poignant.

I have a real soft spot for historical fiction, so I was very excited to get stuck into The End of the Day. Although not a gripping page turner, I was not disappointed. The ending stayed in my thoughts for a long time afterwards.

Conflicting characters

I could not decide whether I liked the characters or not, particularly the main characters of Alicia, her mother Anna and painter Jozef. As a child, Alicia is sullen and a little conniving. Wasserberg highlights these traits through the narrative making Alicia, at times, quite a frustrating and unlikeable character. However, as the story continues and the years pass, we see Alicia forced to grow up and deal with unthinkable suffering and loss. This shapes her character for the better and helped me understand why the painting (Alicia’s portrait) was just so important to her. Throughout the story the painting is a kind of talisman for Alicia and her determination to track it down ultimately helps her survive.

The verdict

Wasserberg’s story shows the absolute chaos war brings to families and communities. It highlights how easy it is for people to become separated and lose each at a time of utter confusion. Knowing that this really did happen and continues to do so makes Light at the End of The Day all the more arresting and heartbreaking.

Beautifully written and well researched, this is a story of love, survival and remembrance. It is a story that may well have you in tears at the end. It is a story worth reading and one you will be happy to recommend to other fans of historical fiction.

Book details

Rating: 3.5 out of  stars
ISBN: 9780008164164
ISBN 10: 0008164169
Imprint: Fourth Estate (HarperCollins)
Released: 2020
Format: paperback, 416 pages
Category: fiction, historical fiction, Jewish

Light at the end of the day: a sunset glows over a city