Book Review: Broken Angels by Gemma Liviero

Broken Angels by Gemma Liviero4 Stars. Pull on the heartstrings.

Broken Angels by Gemma Liviero was chosen for a book club that I host, the Edmonton Chapter of The Girly Book Club. This is the third book that I have read as part of the international book club and I am more impressed than I was with Swear on This Life by Renée Carlino.

I’m a sucker for novels with different points of view in them.  Using this skill speaks to the author’s ability to weave tales from the same tapestry, pairing with their imagination to bring each of those characters to the forefront. In Broken Angels, we have three characters: Elsi, a girl left in the ghetto; Matilda, a girl ripped from her home; and Willem, a Nazi doctor.

Three people, living through World War II, each with their own fears and perceptions. Each needs to know exactly is happening and their role in it. With something as large as war, the need to know is unsatisfied and each chooses to embrace their situation. They fight their own war, with hope of continuing their lives in peace.

Liviero is an artist with emotion. She encourages you to read a little further which propels you into the next character’s storyline.  You get some answers you beg for in the previous chapter but fulfillment comes upon return to that character.

In a novel with revolving viewpoints, each character has their own inner life and Liviero delivers. The following three quotes are from the Elsi, Matilda, and Willem respectively.

A thick cloud of smoke hangs above the city. Someone yells that there is another fire. There are whistles in the distance. A fire truck speeds down the center of the road, narrowly missing an elderly man who is crossing. One more life gone would not make a difference. (Elsi, pg 111)


Since we have come into the house, we have not discussed our future escape, thought the thought is still there. Commander once asked me about my parents and to describe where I lived. The officer who stole me did not write down where I came from in the brown file that has my name on the front. I did not tell Commander anything in case one day I do escape, and the child thief, Herr Lehmann, has hopefully forgotten where he has stolen me from. (Matilda, pg 346)


It was no one’s fault – a premature birth, a medical anomaly – and yet I remember the promise I made to be with her at the hospital. Perhaps I would have noticed her fever before it was too late. (Willem, pg 221)

The novel teems with structure and chaos on a background of loss. Each character loses along the way and each gains. It is a tale that is for those who are interested in the human perspective of World War II, have a strong stomach (there are quite a few ghastly scenes), and want a great read.

I am now a fan of Liviero’s and will look forward to more books by her in the future.