Sunday, December 18, 2005

Tiger in the Attic: Memories of the Kindertransport and Growing Up English by Edith Milton

Like the children in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Edith Milton and her sister Ruth were sent by train to live with strangers in the English countryside to escape the dangers of World War II. Unlike in the C. S. Lewis story, the sisters were not English. They were Jewish, born in Karlsruhe, Germany, and were part of the Kindertransport program, which sent 10,000 Jewish children to live in England. Their mother, who was born in Alsace and claimed that she was French, was on her way to America. They would not see her again for seven years.

In The Tiger in the Attic, Milton tells the story of her seven years in the kind care of "Aunt Helen" and "Uncle Bourke," the British couple who accepted the sisters and treated them like their own daughters. Uncle Bourke's job as a prison warden took them to several regions of the country where English accents varied. Always conscious of her foreignness and afraid of being revealed as a German to her schoolmates, Milton tried to become very English, even winning a Shakespeare recitation contest. With her adoptive parents she struggled with the rationing and other hardships of wartime England.

The strength of The Tiger in the Attic is its frank descriptions of the author's experiences and her reflections on their meaning. In the latter chapters she tells of her life as a writer and her visits back to England and Germany. Avid readers of memoirs and World War II readers will enjoy this book.

Milton, Edith. The Tiger in the Attic: Memories of the Kindertransport and Growing Up English. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2005. ISBN 0226529460

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