The sounds of men hitting speed bags and jumping rope mingled with the gutteral grunts of exertion and blended in a strange primitive symphony. The place also had a distinctive animal smell that was warm and damp like a butcher shop on a summer day (p 101).
Fourteen-year-old Karl Stern is a tall, lanky youth when his boxing lessons with champion Max Schmeling begin at the Berlin Boxing Club. Hitler’s Nazi party is just coming to power in Germany and Karl is being bullied at school for his Jewish heritage, though he considers himself a Red with no religious affiliation.
He finds refuge in his apprenticeship at the boxing club, strength training and secretly meeting the beautiful Greta. He is also a passionate cartoon artist. Then his world begins to crumble. His father’s bussiness disappears, his family is evicted and his relationship with Greta is forbidden by law and her parents. Though reluctant to leave, it soon becomes clear to Karl’s father he must take his family out of the country.
Fluid prose, metaphors that reinforced the time period and the narrator’s youthful perspective, a well-paced plot and genuine characters define this novel. While there are several crescendos, the denouement was gripping and a wave of terror clutched at me. An excellent read.