The Daughter’s Tale is a family saga about the trauma of living through a war and the lengths to which women must go in order to protect their daughters. In 1939 Berlin, Amanda Sternberg must make a difficult choice to save her two daughters from the Nazis. And in 2015 New York, one of Amanda’s daughters, Elise Duval, had been living under an assumed identity for decades until someone comes to bring her letters written by her mother during the war.
It’s a sad story, made even sadder by the fact that it’s based on true events. Correa does a good job in detailing the harsh realities that war imposes on families, and the terrible sacrifices people must sometimes make so that they or their loved ones can survive. Amanda and her family are Jewish, and when Amanda escapes to the south of France to stay with a Catholic family friend, it was particularly difficult to see the casual racism from children, and think of how deeply hatred can be absorbed at such a young age.
One thing I really struggled with — and that took me out of the latter half of the book — is the decision Amanda makes at the dock of the boat to Cuba. She is confronted with a difficult, maybe even an impossible, choice, and she does what her gut tells her to do. I’m in no position to judge her for her choice, nor even to know how I would have acted in her place, but I kept thinking she made the wrong one. Especially later on when things go south, I kept feeling that the decision she made was selfish, and put her daughter in unnecessary danger, but I also acknowledge that it’s much easier for me to say that while reading their story in the comfort of my home. The reality is there’s no way to know for sure what the right choice for yourself and for your family would be in such a situation, and it’s to Correa’s credit that he lets his heroine make such a morally ambiguous decision.
Ultimately, the book was simply too depressing for me, and I found the pace too slow, but I think that’s more a matter of personal preference. Many fans of historical fiction, especially those who enjoy novels about World War II, will likely enjoy and be moved by this story. It’s an emotional, intimate glimpse into the experiences of a single family, and it shows how far into the future the experiences of war extend.
Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.