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Introduction

Day After Night
by Anita Diamant

Title

Author

Anita Diamant

Anita Diamant

Author Interview

About the Book

Just as she gave voice to the silent women of the Old Testament in The Red Tent, Anita Diamant creates a cast of breathtakingly vivid characters — young women who escaped to Israel from Nazi Europe — in this intensely dramatic novel.

Day After Night is based on the extraordinary true story of the October 1945 rescue of more than two hundred prisoners from the Atlit internment camp, a prison for "illegal" immigrants run by the British military near the Mediterranean coast south of Haifa. The story is told through the eyes of four young women at the camp with profoundly different stories.

All of them survived the Holocaust: Shayndel, a Polish Zionist; Leonie, a Parisian beauty; Tedi, a hidden Dutch Jew; and Zorah, a concentration camp survivor. Haunted by unspeakable memories and losses, afraid to begin to hope, Shayndel, Leonie, Tedi, and Zorah find salvation in the bonds of friendship and shared experience even as they confront the challenge of re-creating themselves in a strange new country.

This is an unforgettable story of tragedy and redemption, a novel that reimagines a moment in history with such stunning eloquence that we are haunted and moved by every devastating detail. Day After Night is a triumphant work of fiction.

About the Author

Anita Diamant’s writing career began in Boston in 1975. As a freelance journalist, she contributed to local magazines and newspapers, including the Boston Phoenix, the Boston Globe, and Boston Magazine, branching out into regional and national media, with articles in New England Monthly, Yankee, Self, Parenting, Parents, McCalls, and Ms.

Diamant’s features and columns covered a wide variety of topics, from profiles of prominent people and stories about medical ethics, to first-person essays ranging from politics, to popular culture, to pet ownership. She also wrote about Jewish practice and the Jewish community for Reform Judaism magazine, Hadassah magazine, and jewishfamily.com. A collection of her essays appears in the book, Pitching My Tent: On Marriage, Motherhood, Friendship and Other Leaps of Faith.

Diamant’s first book was The New Jewish Wedding. Written in the year following her own wedding, Diamant’s handbook combined a contemporary sensibility, respect for tradition, and a welcoming prose style. She followed the wedding book with five more guidebooks to Jewish life and lifecycle events: The New Jewish Baby Book, Living a Jewish Life: Jewish Traditions, Customs and Values for Today’s Families, Choosing a Jewish Life: A Handbook for People Converting to Judaism and for Their Family and Friends, Saying Kaddish, How To Comfort the Dying, Bury the Dead and Mourn as a Jew, and How to be a Jewish Parent.

In 1997, Diamant published her first work of fiction, The Red Tent, inspired by a few lines from Genesis. The book became a word-of-mouth bestseller thanks to reader recommendations, book groups, and support from independent bookstores. In 2001, the independent booksellers alliance honored The Red Tent as its “Booksense Best Fiction” selection. There are editions in more than 25 countries world-wide, including Australia, England, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Israel, Japan, Korea, Lithuania, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden.

Diamant’s second novel, Good Harbor, is a contemporary story that also explores the importance of women’s friendships as a source of strength and happiness. With The Last Days of Dogtown, she returned to historical fiction. Set on Cape Ann in the early 1800s, The Last Days of Dogtown describes life in a poor, rural community inhabited by widows, spinsters and other marginal women, freed Africans, and orphan children.

Her new novel, Day After Night, returns to the land of The Red Tent to tell the stories of women who lived through the Holocaust and await the future in a British internment camp. It is a story of loss, hope and courage set in the days before the founding of the state of Israel.

Anita Diamant’s early childhood was spent in Newark, New Jersey, until her family moved to Denver, Colorado. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri with a BA in Comparative Literature. After earning a Master’s Degree in English from the State University of New York at Binghamton, she moved to the Boston area, where she has lived since. She is married to Jim Ball; they have one grown daughter, Emilia.

Discussion Questions

  1. Shayndel “was overcome by the weight of what she had lost: mother, father, brother, friends, neighbors, comrades, lovers, landscapes.” Reflecting on her past Leonie remembers a vision in which “her own voice, [said] yes to life, as miserable as it was.” Although loss and suffering are primary forces for each character, they still have remarkable resilience. How might the thoughts of what one has lost actually keep one going? What else does the book tell us about the resilience of the human spirit?
  2. What is the significance of the book’s title? How can it be interpreted in various ways?
  3. How do food and celebration play an important part in the novel? How is this ironic?
  4. How do both Tirzah and Bryce’s similarities and their differences influence and enhance their love for each other? How do they both show how seemingly small gestures can have a great impact?
  5. As Zorah’s feelings for Esther and Jacob change, she reflects that “the world was an instrument of destruction” but that “the opposite of destruction is creation.” How does this idea reflect the novel as a whole? Diamant also writes that “‘luck’ was just another word for ‘creation,’ which was a relentless as destruction.” What does this mean?
  6. All of the characters have strengths that helped them to survive the war. How do their strengths and weaknesses influence each other? How might one person’s weakness help to develop another person’s strength?
  7. “Everyone in Atlit had secrets… Most people managed to keep their secrets under control, concealed behind a mask of optimism or piety or anger. But there were an unfortunate few without a strategy or system for managing the past…” How do secrets play a role in all of the women’s experiences at the camp? How have each of them been shaped by secrets?
  8. Discuss the theme of identity. How does it play an important role in the characters’ lives? Consider Esther and Jacob’s story, Shayndel’s memories of her skills as a fighter in contrast to the way others at the camp view her, Leonie’s past, etc.?
  9. What does Tedi’s keen sense of smell symbolize? How does her sense of smell provide insights into the other characters?
  10. How do the characters find surprising common ground despite seemingly impossible circumstances? Consider the relationships between Shayndel and Nathan, Leonie and Lotte, and Zorah and Esther, among others.
  11. “Leonie’s skin was unblemished. She had not hidden in a Polish sewer or shivered in a Russian barn. She had not seen her parents shot. Atlit was her first experience of barracks and barbwire. She had survived the war without suffering hunger or thirst. There had been wine and hashish and a pink satin coverlet to muffle her terrors.” Discuss this passage. What does it say about the nature of fear and horror? How would you compare Leonie’s experiences during the war with those of her friends? How can internal and external horror be equally destructive?
  12. How did you feel about Lotte’s story? Did the way it ended surprise you?
  13. On their last night together each of the women has a vivid dream. How would you interpret these?
  14. What did you think about the epilogue? Was it satisfying?
  15. How would you compare Day After Night with other World War II-era novels that you’ve read?
  16. What are some of your favorite passages from the book? What were some of the most difficult parts to read?