The Children of Willesden Lane | Bookreporter.com

The Children of Willesden Lane

Review

The Children of Willesden Lane



THE CHILDREN OF WILLESDEN LANE is a wonderful little book --- at
times heartbreaking but, ultimately, inspirational. It tells the
true story of Lisa Jura, who in 1938 was a promising 14-year-old
pianist living happily in Vienna with her close-knit Jewish family
and dreaming of following the musical footsteps of Mozart,
Beethoven, Schubert, and Strauss. But when the Nazis started
closing in, her parents were able to secure one, and only one,
berth on the Kindertransport, the so-called "children's
train" out of Austria. Forced to choose, Lisa's mother and father
made the difficult decision to send Lisa, their middle daughter, to
safety.

Lisa's parents had hoped that she could live with relatives in
England. However, that plan did not work, and Lisa soon became a
displaced person. The title of the book refers to the wartime
children's hostel at 243 Willesden Lane in London, where Lisa
eventually (and fortunately) found a home with other young Jewish
refugees.

Most of the book follows Lisa's life during the war years. It is a
moving coming-of-age story of the friendships Lisa made, her
attempts to continue her musical training, her worries about the
family she left behind, and her efforts to help her younger sister,
in particular, to escape from Austria and join her in England. The
book also opens a window on the joys and hardships of everyday life
in London during World War II. It reads much like a novel, but no
reader will mistake Lisa Jura --- a frightened, lonely, determined
young woman --- for a fictional character.

THE CHILDREN OF WILLESDEN LANE has obvious parallels to other
Holocaust stories, such as SCHINDLER'S LIST by Thomas Keneally and
SOPHIE'S CHOICE by William Styron. SOPHIE'S CHOICE is similar,
especially as a Holocaust story set outside of Nazi-occupied
territory (specifically, in New York) --- but because it is a
novel, not a true story, some readers will find that SOPHIE'S
CHOICE cannot be as touching. SCHINDLER'S LIST recounting of a
German Catholic industrialist whose concentration camp/factory
helped 1300 Jews to avoid Nazi gas chambers is based on a true
story, but it is much larger in scope and more historical in style.
I thought THE CHILDREN OF WILLESDEN LANE was just as powerful in
its own way, probably because of its very personal scale; it brings
home the way the Nazi horrors affected one teenage girl.

By the way, the author of THE CHILDREN OF WILLESDEN LANE is Mona
Golabek, Lisa Jura's daughter. Mona Golabek is herself an
accomplished pianist who has won many honors and prizes, and who
has performed with many of the world's finest symphonies (such as
the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Tokyo Philharmonic) and
conductors (including Zubin Mehta, Andre Previn, and Michael Tilson
Thomas). Mona Golabek has also been the subject of several PBS
musical specials.

I believe THE CHILDREN OF WILLESDEN LANE will quickly and
deservedly become a bestseller. I don't know anything about the
movie business, but it is easy to imagine this as a successful film
as well. This is truly an extraordinarily uplifting book.

Reviewed by Michael J. Dooris (mjd1@psu.edu) on January 21, 2011

The Children of Willesden Lane
by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen

  • Publication Date: November 30, -0001
  • Genres: Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 0446527815
  • ISBN-13: 9780446527811