“The One I Was” by Eliza Graham

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untitled“I am ready to be happy now”, the end line of the book, got me intrigued as it kind of resonates with my current mind set. It had also good recommendations on goodreads.com.
I read it almost in one go, which is my indicator of the quality of the writing. Page after page, my mind was traveling back and forth in time, from late 30s in England and in Germany to modern times. I admired the ease and elegance with which the author balanced through extremes of the history of anti-semitism in the nazi Germany, on one hand, and the benevolent goodwill of a British family who provided a home to six Jew boys who had the chance to get out of Germany in a Kindertransport/special train, on the other hand, all interlinking very personal stories of its many lively characters.
The book is a splendid tribute to empathy. Towards others and towards the self. In search of forgiveness, Rosamond Hunter chose a career of an end-of-life nurse. It brought her to her childhood home – Fairfleet – when she accepted to take care of Benny Gault, known to her as Benjamin who first came to Fairfleet, England, in 1939, having fled Nazi Germany on a Kindertransport train. She spends with him his last days and they revisit together their life stories. They discover the love they shared for Harriet – Rosamond’s glamorous grandmother who was war time pilot – and Benny’s benefactor. Benny confined to Rosamond his life-time secret of having took the place of a Jewish boy, his beloved friend, whom he helped pass the medical exam and who died on the day the Kindertransport train was leaving Germany. Will let you discover why he did that as it is also a lesson of empathy and forgiveness in a son-father relationship.
Graham’s characters are quite complex. Rosamond is a loving daughter who also adored her grandmother, a proud sister, a professional truly dedicated to the last breath of her patients, a lover who would not settle for second best when it comes to men in her life, a women who experienced pregnancy loss only to understand that having life to continue through her is what is she wants most. Will let you discover the rest.
The book is from a mental shelf where I store books which make me subtly smile when I think about its characters.

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