by Susanne Gervay
Angus & Robertson
Harper Collins 2021
Everything about this book invites you into an adventure – the title, the cover, the information about the story in the blurb on the back – but it is even more compelling when you know that the author, Susanne Gervay, drew her inspiration for this tale from her own family history. The setting(s), the characters, and the historical events recorded in this book all came from her family’s experience as the survivors of Nazi persecution in Hungary during the second world war.
This is not some dry family history or memoir, however. Heroes of the Secret Underground is a gripping time-slip mystery, where the main character and her brothers are whirled back in time, back to the place where their grandparents struggled against a cruel regime, and where they get caught up in the terrible events, and work to help save the children living with such extreme danger in a world where everything has turned against them.
The story for Louie and her brothers, Bert and Teddy, starts in Sydney – in the hotel run by their grandparents – and with the discovery of a gold locket, but for the most part, the three children are on the run, hiding in occupied Budapest and racing against time and tide to save themselves and their friends (who just happen to include the people who later become their grandparents) from the Nazis who have taken over the city.
It is a story filled with great sadness, but also of hope, and is very relevant in today’s society. There is a lot to learn from the courage and heart of the people in this story, a story filled with suspense and drama and strength.
Author, Susanne Gervay, puts her heart and soul into this exciting adventure, with secrets to be discovered before the past, the present, and the future can be reconciled. I recommend this book for anyone who loves a good escapade, a healthy spattering of tension and uncertainty, and a heart-warming conclusion.
I love it for the adventure – and I’m always up for some time travel – but I also appreciate the research that went into creating the sense of authenticity and the integrity of the history and setting for that adventure to take place. The glossary and the author’s note at the end are an important addenda to the story, creating an invitation to join Susanne Gervay in her fight for justice by becoming aware of issues from the past and how they still inflict pain today.
Reading books like this – and taking on board the message they bring – makes us all better people.
And it’s a jolly good read, too!