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
Published: 2013 by Stony Creek Press
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
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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