Title: The Yellow Bird Sings
Author: Jennifer Rosner
Genre: Historical Fiction
Goodreads Rating: 4.11
Source: Borrow Box Audio
In Poland, as World War II rages, a mother hides with her young daughter, a musical prodigy whose slightest sound may cost them their lives.
As Nazi soldiers round up the Jews in their town, Róza and her 5-year-old daughter, Shira, flee, seeking shelter in a neighbour’s barn. Hidden in the hayloft day and night, Shira struggles to stay still and quiet, as music pulses through her and the farmyard outside beckons. To soothe her daughter and pass the time, Róza tells her a story about a girl in an enchanted garden:
The girl is forbidden from making a sound, so the yellow bird sings. He sings whatever the girl composes in her head: high-pitched trills of piccolo; low-throated growls of contrabassoon. Music helps the flowers bloom.
In this make-believe world, Róza can shield Shira from the horrors that surround them. But the day comes when their haven is no longer safe, and Róza must make an impossible choice: whether to keep Shira by her side or give her the chance to survive apart.
Inspired by the true stories of Jewish children hidden during World War II, Jennifer Rosner’s debut is a breathtaking novel about the unbreakable bond between a mother and a daughter. Beautiful and riveting, The Yellow Bird Sings is a testament to the triumph of hope―a whispered story, a bird’s song―in even the darkest of times.
Continuing with my love of historical fiction I decided to listen to this one on a whim. I love stories based around war and learning more about our history, I just hoped that it wasn’t going to be a slow burner and the story would evolve from Jews hiding in a hayloft.
What made this story stand out for me was the music element. As a musician myself I can fully appreciate how much blood, sweat and tears go into becoming an accomplished musician, just like any craft. Jennifer captures what being a musician means and feels like, her words transcend any that I could possibly use and I loved Shira’s musical journey. I could relate a lot to her teacher and imagine the pride he must of felt when he saw her skills develop.
I’m pleased to say that the part of the story that takes place in the barn is relatively short and we quickly move onto a story filled with deeper hope, longing and survival. I can not imagine what life must of been like for Róza and some of the decisions she had to made don’t bare thinking about. The bond between her and Shira is imperishable, heart breaking and true. Their love for each other was carried through their unspoken words, music and faith, which was made even clearer with the delicate and poignant ending.
The most heart breaking part of this story is highlighted in the author’s note at the end. Róza and Shira were just one of many who’s lives were torn apart by the war, there were many lost children and families who never saw one another again. To think this is based on real events is deeply saddening and a part of our history that we should never forget. It almost makes the current circumstances seem some what less sacrificial in comparrison.
Jennifer Rosner’s writing is beautiful, honest and breathtaking, I can not wait to see what she writes next.