One Hundred Saturdays by Michael Frank

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The remarkable story of ninety-nine-year-old Stella Levi whose conversations with the writer Michael Frank over the course of six years bring to life the vibrant world of Jewish Rhodes, the deportation to Auschwitz that extinguished ninety percent of her community, and the resilience and wisdom of the woman who lived to tell the tale.

With nearly a century of life behind her, Stella Levi had never before spoken in detail about her past. Then she met Michael Frank. He came to her Greenwich Village apartment one Saturday afternoon to ask her a question about the Juderia, the neighborhood in Rhodes where she’d grown up in a Jewish community that had thrived there for half a millennium.

Neither of them could know this was the first of one hundred Saturdays over the course of six years that they would spend in each other’s company. During these meetings Stella traveled back in time to conjure what it felt like to come of age on this luminous, legendary island in the eastern Aegean, which the Italians conquered in 1912, began governing as an official colonial possession in 1923, and continued to administer even after the Germans seized control in September 1943. The following July, the Germans rounded up all 1,700-plus residents of the Juderia and sent them first by boat and then by train to Auschwitz on what was the longest journey—measured by both time and distance—of any of the deportations. Ninety percent of them were murdered upon arrival.

Probing and courageous, candid and sly, Stella is a magical modern-day Scheherazade whose stories reveal what it was like to grow up in an extraordinary place in an extraordinary time—and to construct a life after that place has vanished. One Hundred Saturdays is a portrait of one of the last survivors drawn at nearly the last possible moment, as well as an account of a tender and transformative friendship that develops between storyteller and listener as they explore the fundamental mystery of what it means to collect, share, and interpret the deepest truths of a life deeply lived.

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

One Hundred Saturdays: Stella Levi and the Search for a Lost World by Michael Frank

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A compelling read, an important story, of unique style, for a lesser known circumstance of historical events and setting depicting the lives of people living on the Island of Rhodes during WWII who were sent to the concentration camps operated under Nazi Germany. I’d recommend it to anyone. Would make for an excellent book club discussion.

Thank you to Book Club Favorites at Simon & Schuster for the free copy for review.
Expected publication: September 6, 2022.

The Story
For nonfiction, biographical read, I’d say it was mostly fluid in its telling, this changing with the tides in soft and subtle ways with rich, deep meaning that was captured well, coupled with simple and mundane circumstance which I was not sure if it was purposeful or not, but brought some perspective in any case.

Mixed racial, ethnic, and heritage aspects, was a stand out for me, as it did not shy away from the vernacular and direct language use in describing the origin, depth, meaning, and connectivity to the storyline. Appreciated the distinguishing attention to cultural influences as both primary and secondary use as commentary.

Would have liked the details of rituals and meaning in Judaism.

The Writing
I enjoyed the writing. Unconventional storytelling through a more documentary, sit down interview style. The journey of sourcing material was a part of that. Sometimes I felt more compelled, sometimes it took me out. But the uniqueness in this style is still to be celebrated as an aspect of storytelling as it stands. The 100 aspect, as told was well-organized, I felt chronologically supported and explained without jumping back and forth too much like is typically frequent for survival stories.

Deeply appreciated the language integration. Etymology for words, was enhancement to the storyline which can stand alone as it, but brought context.

Some of the terminology was a bit sanitized, a bit politically and socially corrected for modern day consumption which was my least appealing aspect about the book, but didn’t distract me too much. Become mostly a mental note of how some references were a little bit appeasing as I read on.

Characters
As a nonfiction, memoir/biographical story, this is hard to comment on, but I would note that I didn’t always have point of reference for the characters other than what happened to them at times. Some of the relationships were a bit less difficult to pinpoint and shape, where I didn’t catch the personal connectivity to them or their connection to their circumstances at hand. Perhaps it was the mundane daily tasks without recognized emotional expression. Or that the emotion overall that was not depicted as well, but I think that might have come down to the writing style and bringing out more circumstance as impact rather than inter-relational attributes. Attributes such as stamina, loss, love, fear, joy, ambivalence or even the physical attributes such as bodily changes or emaciation over time. This would have enhanced the collective nature or undertakings, even if not part of the source material, as the commentary would have been the alternative place for such as was seen in the other areas of writing in the book.

The integration of full color paintings to tell the story was exceptional.

I will look forward to more from this author and the story told.

View all my reviews

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