Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Berlin Boxing Club

The Berlin Boxing Club, by Robert Sharenow.

On other days I trained at the club just like the other fighters. Being the only "junior" member under eighteen years old, at first I was a novelty. Whenever I walked in, the others would laugh and make comments, mostly about my skinny physique. Worjyk had taken to calling me Knochen, or Bones, not the most flattering nickname but a step up from Piss Boy or Spit Bucket. Many of them would watch me train, chuckling and picking apart my poor technique. I wrongly assumed that they might have shown more restraint in front of Max or that he would say something to shoo them away, but he never did.

"Name calling is a part of fighting," he said. "The weakest punches are thrown with the tongue. You've got to thicken your skin against that kind of attach just the same way you thicken your muscles to throw hard punches."

Karl and his family live in Nazi Germany and are Jewish, and at a time when things are starting to get back for German Jews. Karl is a bit on the skinny side and is often teased and beat up on at school; however, his father, an art dealer, is friends with Max Schmeling, a champion boxer, and he makes a deal with Max: boxing lessons for the painting he wants, rather than money. Karl trains with Max and slowly over time becomes better at defending himself. During this time, however, this situation in Germany gets worse and worse for Jews, and he and his family must weather through these as best they can.

I like reading books about the Holocaust and this time period in Germany, and this book was written exceptionally well. It's written simply enough so that anyone can enjoy it, and we really see the mindset of Karl, his parents, and his sister during this time. The ending was left open enough so that Sharenow could even write a sequel or follow-up novel, if he wanted, and if he did write that I would definitely be open to reading it.

4 stars out of 5.

*Disclaimer: I received this book to review; the opinions listed, however, are my own.


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