Levy-Bertherat’s debut novel makes up for its simple title with a very imaginative and playful cover. Don’t be fooled into thinking this book (that looks rather like a locked suitcase) is a children’s adventure story. It is no more so than Zusak’s The Book Thief, a young adult crossover novel that has been enjoyed by many adult readers. The story inside The Travels of Daniel Ascher (May 2015) has a similar widespread appeal and is just as creative and intriguing as its cover.
At the center of the book is twenty-year-old Helene, a student of the Institute of Archeology in Paris, who lives in the same building as her world traveler great-uncle, Daniel Roche. Known for his eccentricities and success as a children’s adventure novelist, Daniel is a curiosity to most of his family. Helene cannot help but be drawn to the mystery surrounding him. For one, he doesn’t look like his family members and they don’t refer to him as their son or brother—just Daniel. Plus, as Helene finds out, although his neighbors always receive a postcard noting his whereabouts when he travels, his family does not. Why does Daniel send his neighbors a postcard from his travels but never sends one to his family?
The story soon begins to center around Helene’s quest to find out more information about Daniel’s past. She finds his old street but cannot find his house. Sadly, his family’s photography studio had been torn down and never replaced. Helene learns that he was an orphan from the war. A Jewish boy with the family name Ascher who was adopted by the Roche family after his family perished.
I really enjoyed Helene’s curiosity and her tenacity to gather the clues into her great-uncle’s past. She follows the trail as far as it takes her, even across the ocean to the United States.
This is a wonderful coming-of-age story about discovering family secrets and one’s history. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and would recommend it for both YA and adult readers. It’s a tale certain to capture the imagination of all, regardless of one’s age.
Reviewed by Libby Bridges
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