About the Book:
Long-buried family secrets surface in a compelling new novel from the author of The Teacher’s Secret.
Moving from wartime Europe to modern day Australia, The Deceptions is a powerful story of old transgressions, unexpected revelations and the legacy of lives built on lies and deceit.
Prague, 1943. Taken from her home in Prague, Hana Lederova finds herself imprisoned in the Jewish ghetto of Theresienstadt, where she is forced to endure appalling deprivation and the imminent threat of transportation to the east. When she attracts the attention of the Czech gendarme who becomes her guard, Hana reluctantly accepts his advances, hoping for the protection she so desperately needs.
Sydney, 2010. Manipulated into a liaison with her married boss, Tessa knows she needs to end it, but how? Tessa’s grandmother, Irena, also has something to hide. Harkening back to the Second World War, hers is a carefully kept secret that, if revealed, would send shockwaves well beyond her own fractured family.
Inspired by a true story of wartime betrayal, The Deceptions is a searing, compassionate tale of love and duplicity-and family secrets better left buried.
The Deceptions is a stunning novel. On the one hand, it documents an incredible story of survival, and indeed, at the end of the book, the author deftly separates fact from fiction for the reader and elaborates on her source of inspiration. The other aspect to this novel is the intimate exploration of human nature and human relationships. Taken together, the result is a deeply moving and well articulated work of fiction.
At the beginning of the novel, we meet Hana as an old woman. Beneath her sarcastic wit are layers of pain and a legacy of reinvention. Hana takes us back to her experiences during the Holocaust. We aren’t privy to why she is recounting this to us; that’s to come. Hana’s story cuts to the quick, not just for what she endures, but for the way in which her story is told. Devoid of dramatic overture and thankfully all aspects of romance, the impact is all the more profound. There is much in what Hana tells us but even more in what she doesn’t. I became particularly invested in the friendship between Hana and Eliska, and the three other women who make up their ‘five’. This is not the type of Holocaust fiction that readers have encountered in recent years through commercial fiction: heroic, romanticised, palatable stories of ‘beating the odds’ and ‘willing survival’. No. This is so much more truthful and consequently, so much more painful, yet far more appreciated – by this reader, anyway!
Hana is not the only narrator within this novel. There is also Karel, the Czech gendarme who was Hana’s guard in Theresienstadt, his granddaughter Tessa, and Ruth, a minister of the church Karel’s family attends. Some of these connections to Hana are obvious – Karel, for example, but others are less so and these connections evolve as the novel progresses. The connectedness of these characters drives home the point of how far reaching the Holocaust was, and more pointedly, how it continues to be so. Holocaust survivors settled all over the world after liberation, but the wire that connects them all has no end; the connections are imprinted and passed down through the generations. To my mind, this is the most important ‘take home’ message from this novel. And it really is a thought-provoking novel in every sense of the notion.
This is my first taste of Suzanne Leal’s writing and I very much like what I have now experienced. There is a crispness to her prose that gives an unflinchingly honest representation. She has an ability to draw you in, as though her story is a pool of water, her words beckoning you to slip below the surface, despite the murky depths that await you. Questions of morality abound, particularly when it comes to truth and consequence. You know that expression, ‘heart in my mouth’? That’s how I felt right the way through reading this novel. As though I was on the verge, breathless, awaiting what was to come with my heart in my mouth. Just brilliant, fiction at its best.
Thanks is extended to Allen & Unwin for providing me with a copy of The Deceptions for review and for the invitation to be a part of their blog tour.
About the Author:
SUZANNE LEAL is the bestselling author of The Teacher’s Secret and Border Street. A regular interviewer and presenter at literary events and festivals, she was the senior judge for the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards from 2017 to 2019. Suzanne is also a lawyer experienced in child protection, criminal law and refugee law. She lives in Sydney with her husband and four children. www.suzanneleal.com
Published by Allen & Unwin
Released 31st March 2020