“The Color of Light” by Helen Maryles Shankman: Review and Giveaway

I received this book for free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

“The Color of Light” by Helen Maryles Shankman:  Review and GiveawayThe Color of Light by Helen Maryles Shankman
Published: 2013 by Stony Creek Press
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Pages: 557
Format: Paperback
Source: TLC Book Tours
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Tessa Moss is a young Jewish woman attending a classical art school in New York City.  Her biggest project of the semester is an artistic exploration of her family’s history during the Holocaust.

The founder of the school, Raphael Sinclair, is a vampire.  When Rafe walks past one of Tessa’s paintings, he sees the name “Wizotsky” written on a suitcase.  This brings back painful memories of his former love Sofia Wizotsky, who was killed at Auschwitz.  Tessa reminds Rafe of Sofia, and he quickly finds himself falling in love with her.

Rafe and Tessa each have their own day-to-day struggles that complicate the relationship.  Tessa had been dating her boss, Lucian Swain, after nursing him through a breakdown, but Lucian doesn’t appreciate Tessa and cheats on her with a professor.  Tessa is devastated, and Lucian’s new girlfriend seems to have a personal vendetta against her.  And although Rafe founded the academy, half the board members hate him and wants to hire modernist professors and depart from the school’s classical mission.  There’s a rule against dating students, and any involvement with Tessa could tip the scales against him.

Combining a vampire novel and a book about the Holocaust is difficult.  When adding pop fantasy elements to an already horrific period in human history, one risks making light of the atrocities that occurred.  Shankman did a wonderful job, treating the Holocaust with sensitivity and care.  She uses the vampire story to highlight the lasting pain that the Holocaust caused.  Raphael was heartbroken by Sofia’s loss, and was never able to forgive himself.  Meanwhile, in 1992, Tessa’s family still hasn’t been able to get over the wounds that the Holocaust caused, and her grandfather refuses to speak of the family he lost in Poland.  Tessa’s project channels those emotions and provides an opportunity for healing.

Shankman’s writing is beautiful, and filled with artistic imagery.  The complex relationships between light, dark, and color are explored in the strengths and failures of each of the characters and the way they relate to each other.

The Color of Light is an impressive and ambitious novel combining art, vampires, and one of the most painful chapters in human history.  It is unlike anything else I’ve ever read, and I would highly recommend it.
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17 comments

    1. It’s something that I didn’t expect to turn out nearly as well as it did. Normally I can’t stand Holocaust books (read way too many of them in high school, to they point that they turn into one big depressing blur), but this one was different. This one also didn’t take the vampire parts too seriously, and had some fun playing with existing tropes. It’s a book that shouldn’t have worked, but turned out marvelously.

  1. ditto Katherine Nabity’s response of “I’m apprehensive, yet intrigued.”…this one would be a read that moves me from usual fare, which is not a bad thing.

  2. Wow, strong recommendation there Grace! Definitely interested if you liked it that much. Plus intriguing combination and, on a totally fickle note I love the cover.
    Lynn 😀

    1. Me too! It’s gorgeous.

      I don’t normally like books about the Holocaust, but this was such an original way of portraying it and doesn’t make it the sole focus of the story. Definitely a good fall read.

  3. Please – who was Sender’s father? It cannot have been Rafe – he and Sofia didn’t “consummate” their relationship until that one time in the cattle car on the way to Auschwitz, and by then, before then, Sender had been given to the nuns as a baby (Oct 42) by “a worker.” Who was the worker? The older son Isaiah was lost at Auschwitz along with Sofia – but this baby (Sender) who is written about at the end of the book – there is no clear indication who his father was – was it Chip (Arthur)? It is hinted at that it was Rafe – but – again, Rafe and Sofia did not have sex until the cattle car. Was the father the man who hid Sofia and Isaiah? I cannot connect the dots! If Rafe was Sender’s father, which does not add up, then Tessa ends up with her grandfather? ?????

    1. Yeah, that confused me a bit too. I don’t think Rafe was the father, I think it was that dude she was with right before.

      *summons Maury to run some paternity tests*

      1. Wow ~ I got an e/mail from Helen (the author) really fast today. Skip (not Chip – duh), her husband, was the father! Here’s the explanation, straight from the author. Now it makes sense! And – I loved the book!
        ~~~~~~~~~~~
        I know it’s a little subtle. Skip is the father of both of Sofia’s children. Though we only hear about Isaiah, (because she kept Sender a secret from Rafe,) Sofia actually had 2 children. At the time of the Aktzia, when Zukowski found her walking on the street and hid her in the abandoned apartment, Sender was an infant. She gave baby Sender to Zukowski, who took him to the nuns at an orphanage in Chelm. A crying baby in an apartment that was supposed to be abandoned would have given Sofia and Isaiah away.

        The nuns hid baby Sender for the rest of the war. After the war, the nuns gave the baby to the Red Cross. The Red Cross found Yechezkel, and gave him baby Sender. Yechezkel, who had already married a distant cousin, just adopted the baby, never telling him about his real parents.

        1. Awesome! I enjoyed the book tremendously, even though I was a bit confused there till I sorted the chronology/family tree at that part. The extra detail makes a lot of sense! 🙂