The Good Doctor of Warsaw by Elisabeth Gifford
publication: January 5th 2021 by Pegasus Books
Set in the ghettos of wartime Warsaw, this is a sweeping, poignant and heartbreaking tale, based on the true story of one of World War II's quiet heroes - Dr Janusz Korczak.
'You do not leave a sick child alone to face the dark and you do not leave a child at a time like this.'
Deeply in love and about to marry, students Misha and Sophia flee a Warsaw under Nazi occupation for a chance at freedom. Forced to return to the Warsaw ghetto, they help Misha's mentor, Dr Korczak, care for the two hundred children in his orphanage. As Korczak struggles to uphold the rights of even the smallest child in the face of unimaginable conditions, he becomes a beacon of hope for the thousands who live behind the walls.
As the noose tightens around the ghetto Misha and Sophia are torn from one another, forcing them to face their worst fears alone. They can only hope to find each other again one day...
Meanwhile, refusing to leave the children unprotected, Korczak must confront a terrible darkness.
Half a million people lived in the Warsaw ghetto. Less than one percent survived to tell their story. This novel is based on the true accounts of Misha and Sophia, and on the life of one of Poland's greatest men, Dr Janusz Korczak.
When reading WII stories so many times you hear only about the bad things that happen, in The Good Doctor of Warsaw we meet Dr. Korczak who takes many of those bad things happening and protects the youngest from them. The Good Doctor has run an orphanage for years, he believes the Germans will realize that what Hitler is having them do is not what Germans stand for, and he thinks the children will not be as affected by the war. He is not quite right is in his beliefs, but he stands by them, he protects the children, and he does what he needs to be done to keep them fed, clothed, and sheltered. I am amazed at what he is able to get accomplished by knowing the right people, going to the right places, and not giving up when he is told NO!
Dr. Korczak is definitely a hero in this story but there are others that help in the running of the orphanage and I loved their stories just as much. Misha and Sophie are wonderful, strong, and caring. Together they are perfect, apart they struggle but manage to hold on to their dreams, the love, and their hope. They never give up hope that they will be together, the nightmare they are living will come to an end, and that love will be strong.
The Good Doctor of Warsaw is a hard book. It tells truths that we do not want to acknowledge, it tells stories that will make you cry, and it tells of strength, love, and perseverance. I loved this book. I loved how real it was. I loved how much it made me feel. I loved that it did not color over the hell that people went through during WWII. If you are looking for a book of real stories this is the book for you. I devoured it and as I read the last page I felt sorrow for those who lost so much but also hope for those that did what they had to just to stay alive.
***Thank you Jen Rivera at Pegasus Books for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
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About the Author:
Elisabeth Gifford grew up in a parsonage. She writes for The London Times and the Independent and has a Diploma in Creative Writing from Oxford University and a Masters in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway College. She lives in Kingston upon Thames in England.
Advance praise for The Good Doctor of Warsaw:
“I could scarcely put it down. Vivid and chilling but utterly inspiring."—The Daily Telegraph
“A story that should be told and retold. Gifford's version is readable and extremely powerful.”
“With powerful themes of loss, hope, and what it means to be human, The Good Doctor of Warsaw is a brave, moving, and important book with a message we need now as much as ever.” —Katherine Clements, author of A House of Ghosts
“Powerful, harrowing, and ultimately uplifting. Elisabeth Gifford has achieved an extraordinary blend of fact and fiction.”—Andrew Taylor, author of The Ashes of London