First off, thank you to Ana McLaughlin and Quercus for the privilege of finishing out this blog tour. I am so very excited to share Testament with you all.
“What a story. What a writer. Beautifully told and crafted” – Heather Morris, author of The Tattooist of Auschwitz
Testament is in part the story of Eva, a young woman who loses her beloved grandfather, the famous artist Joseph Silk, in the opening pages of the book. Nobody who has loved and lost a grandparent could fail to be moved by this scene, which you can actually read right here on the blog tour thanks to my fellow blogger Ronnie Turner. Check it out and see why I had tears in my eyes from the very start of this exquisite debut.
The book is a split narrative, moving between Eva’s search for answers about Silk’s past before coming to England – prompted by the discovery that he gave a testament about his experiences as a Hungarian Jew during the Second World War – and the stories of Silk (then known as Jószef Zyyad) and his brother László, who we learn differ bitterly about how they should remember their heritage and shared trauma. Silk spent much of his life in Britain trying to erase his past and refusing to speak of it, and so she struggles with how much she actually wants to learn about her grandfather and how much she should then share with the rest of the world. The book is interspersed with the stark questions asked of Silk and other survivors after the War: ‘No. 66. What was done with the dead? No. 128. What other methods besides gas were used to kill people?’
Eva’s journey of discovery takes her from London to Berlin to Budapest and Belgrade, each city brought fiercely to life in Sherwood’s rich, elegant prose. The experiences of Jószef and László made for difficult reading, but I was also fascinated to learn about a side of the Holocaust that I wasn’t familiar with. My studies at school and university mainly focused on the camps in Poland and deportations from Western Europe. Testament dives into the experiences of Hungarian Jews before, during and after the War, labour and forced marches through Serbia, and the fascinating tale of the Windermere Boys, child survivors of the Holocaust, and their recovery in the Lake District. I had never heard of the poet Miklós Radnóti or Sajmište camp before I read this, but I’m so glad I do now.
There are echoes of Kim’s own family history in Testament, and indeed the inspiration for the book came after she lost her own grandfather, the actor George Baker, and her grandmother first began to talk about her experiences as a Holocaust survivor. This personal connection to Eva’s loss and her family history resonates throughout the book and makes her journey that much more pressing and poignant.
Readers, I was floored by this book: by Kim’s flawless writing, by her insights into love, loss, family and suffering, and by her bringing of something new to the canon of Shoah literature. If this debut is anything to go by, I can’t wait to see what Kim Sherwood writes next. Testament is, without a doubt, my favourite book I’ve read so far this year.
About the author
Kim Sherwood was born in Camden in 1989. She studied on the Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia, going on to teach creative writing at UEA and the University of Sussex. Kim’s stories and articles have appeared in numerous journals, including Mslexia, Lighthouse, and Going Down Swinging. Kim lives in Bath. She is a Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of the West of England. The manuscript of her debut novel, Testament, won the 2016 Bath Novel Award.