“The Boy Who Didn’t Want to Die describes an extraordinary journey, made by Peter, a boy of five, through war-torn Europe in 1944 and 1945. Peter and his parents set out from a small Hungarian town, travelling through Austria and then Germany together. Along the way, unforgettable images of adventure flash one after another: sleeping in a tent and then under the sky, discovering a disused brick factory, catching butterflies in the meadows – and as Peter realises that this adventure is really a nightmare – watching bombs falling from the blue sky outside Vienna, learning maths from his mother in Belsen. All this is drawn against a background of terror, starvation, infection and, inevitably, death, before Peter and his mother can return home.“
I really enjoy historical stories, as I think it is important to understand the past – it is not only through non-fiction we can learn this. Even better if, for recent history, they are written by someone with lived experience, as ‘The Boy Who Didn’t Want to Die’ is. Peter Lentos has written an accessible retelling of his experience which builds empathy and understanding of an extremely difficult period of history.
In his retelling of his experience of the Holocaust as a young child, Peter Lentos invokes emotion throughout; I definitely shed a few tears as I read. It is well written and speaks of his own emotions, as well as the reactions of others throughout his experience which I found both tragic and fascinating that there were so many different ways of coping and acclimatising to the situations that were forced upon them throughout the war.
I’ve read several books written about the Holocaust – I’ve visited Auschwitz, too – but never considered it from the perspective of a Hungarian as their part in the war is rarely mentioned, and it has prompted me to research more about this, and the communism the country experienced afterwards. Having visited the country, it is a beautiful place and connecting the destroyed city of Budapest in the story with the one I saw was beyond imagination.
It’s a book I am really glad I’ve read this year, and if you want to order your copy (out January 2023) you can order it here.
📚 Book gifted