“I am dead to the world’s tumult
And I rest in a quiet realm
I live alone in my heaven
In my love and in my song.”
-From What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper
Who are you when everything is stripped away? Who do you become when your possessions, family, and dignity have disappeared and you are left bare? The future can seem impossible when you start with nothing.
In What the Night Sings, Gerta has endured two long years in a German concentration camp. Surviving with her is the hint of a song and her dream to sing. In front of her is her heritage, a people she doesn’t know and overwhelming decisions about who she is to become. Gerta didn’t even know she was Jewish and now that empty part of her past makes moving forward even more difficult.
Gerta befriends Lev, a traditional Jewish man who represents Gerta’s personal struggle to shed the traditions of a people and follow her dreams, to be free of others’ rules and sanctions for her. Can her personal dreams survive a Holocaust and thousand year old customs? Will it become another prison? Music has sustained through all the horrors. Will it be part of her future?
Stamper embeds ink wash illustrations within the text. In the Author’s Note she describes how she took some direction from “slow cinema” to tell her story, using elements from directors like Tarkovsky and Tarr to create haunting pieces of art. These gorgeous additions add to the already powerful story. Her use of language and the role of music in Gerta’s life makes this story stand out in a sea of Holocaust books.
– Review by Catherine, Main Library