Title: Streets of Tears
Author: Larry J.dsy Hilton
Genre: Historical Fiction
Streets of Tears explores a family as they navigate life, love, and death in the face of depression, genocide, and war. From The Great War, the Roaring 20s, the rise of Nazism, World War II, and Hitler’s death, Streets of Tears uniquely spans time to explore the lives of the people caught in the middle of this tumultuous time period that leaves them forever changed.
Viktor and Else Baur are struggling to make ends meet in Vienna, where they try to feed, clothe, and protect their children, Fritz and Elke, from the economic, political, and social hardship that surrounds them. Early in life, Fritz and Elke Baur understand they are caught in a time and place where they must be careful of what they believe. As they grow, they are faced with the reality behind their allegiances. Will they be on the side of peace or power?
In Streets of Tears, each chapter begins with a short paragraph that provides historical context for the year, place, and people that will be featured. This helpful addition to the chapters clarifies the story’s timeline, sheds light on historical turning points, and adds color to the setting by incorporating cultural nuances that may be misunderstood.
The book is told from multiple perspectives, though the narrative focuses mainly on the Baur family. With the change in perspectives, there is also a change in time. Though the book spans nearly three decades, it is not told chronologically. Many of the chapters flash backward and forward in time.
At times, it’s difficult to keep track of the characters, what stage of life they are in, what historical events have (or have not) happened, and what direction the plot is moving. In addition, the frequent change in perspectives and inconsistent flashbacks/flash-forwards impedes the pre-war tension that is rapidly building. Organizing the book chronologically, or separated into “parts” by character, would have cleared up the confusing bits while also creating a “natural” peak for the plot—it is based on history, after all.
Gritty or serene, gray or colorful, the descriptions of the setting are as vast and extreme as the conditions of these characters’ worlds. Some of the most captivating moments focused on the characters’ memories attached to their homeland. In one scene, a character admires architecture that is filled with fond memories from their childhood but has now been tainted by the war. Moments like these are a refreshing break from the logistics of politics and war and give readers enough space to feel the sorrow and loss the characters are experiencing.
Elke is the most compelling character in the Baur family. From her experiences as a member of the Hitler Youth to being taken prisoner by the Americans, there is a lot to explore in her life story. Readers will find a depth and richness in Elke’s character that no other character has. Her emotions and contemplations are flushed out, making her incredibly sympathetic and easy to connect with.
Streets of Tears is a perfect introduction for readers that are looking to dive headfirst into the history of the world wars and The Holocaust. Chock-full of history, emotion, and depth, Streets of Tears explores the pervasive, infectious pathology that killed millions. In this historical fiction novel, the setting takes center stage, immersing readers back in time that humbles us to remember the beauty and wickedness in life.
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