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Katarina: A Novel

Review

Katarina: A Novel

In this semi-autobiographical novel, eight-year-old Katarina is bewildered by the hullabaloo surrounding her Jewish heritage in World War II Slovakia. Raised by her unobservant aunt Lena after her parents are killed in a skiing accident, Katarina knows next to nothing about her supposed religion and heritage. In public school, she's a Jew. In Hebrew school, she's a heathen. But in her heart of hearts, she's a Catholic.

Taught in secret by her stepfather's maid, Katarina knows the history of the saints by heart and even goes to mass. Her Catholic lessons prove valuable when her aunt and uncle pass her off as a Catholic and leave her with a peasant family, promising to return in two weeks time. When two weeks have come and gone several times over, the superstitious villagers grow fearful of the red-haired (rare in Slovakia) Katarina and begin to accuse her of cursing their livestock. And when they discover she is Jewish, they cast her out.

Left with nowhere to go, Katarina wanders from village to village, hungry and alone, constantly at risk. She eventually seeks refuge with her uncle's former maid, and it is Anka who comes up with the plan that saves her life. Throughout her three-year ordeal, Katarina is sustained by her faith in her saintly protectors, the unexpected acts of kindness and courage on the part of others, and her belief that everything and everyone she loves will be awaiting her at the end of the war.

By the end of the war, Hitler's killing machine had eradicated nearly six million Jews. The number of survivors is less clear. Author Kathryn Winter is one of those survivors. In KATARINA, her first novel, Winter has successfully drawn on some of the her own experiences growing up Jewish in World War II Slovakia to create a remarkable story that is as gripping as it is believable.

Reviewed by Tammy L. Currier on April 1, 1998

Katarina: A Novel
by Kathryn Winter

  • Publication Date: April 1, 1998
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
  • ISBN-10: 0374339848
  • ISBN-13: 9780374339845