I recently finished reading, The Frosell Affair by Heddy Frosell DaPonte, and I am happy to recommend this book to anyone. It took a little effort, like historical reading does, to gather an understanding of the names and places. But the writing instantly brings you into the scene and easily gives plenty of information without being overwhelming. The characters are vibrant and quickly pull you into the story.
The scene is set with Frosell in prison desperately craving a cigarette. As he is dragged from his cell in the middle of the night, the reader quickly gains some of the background information. The author does an amazing job through the book of giving intense details about an object in the scene whether a blood drenched stone wall, or an ornate cigarette holder. These specific objects, in great detail, immersed in a scene of broad detail with vibrant characters bring the entire story to life.
Heddy is an interesting little girl, the daughter of Frosell. She is obviously observant and smart, but also a little fanciful. Seeing the world through her eyes is an interesting juxtaposition from her father’s views. Adults and children see the world, and in this case the war, quite differently. While her parents were concerned, Heddy has only known wartime, so for her it is the normal and not particularly scary. Stray bullets, hiding in the basement, and disappearing neighbors are normal. As a parent myself, I could see my children acting this way, too, had they grown up in this scenario while I would spend my days concerned and trying to keep life normal for them.
The family’s life is completely torn from normal when they are in hiding, and then battling the state for unjust arrest, asset seizure etc. This I found to be the most interesting part of the book. I have read many historical fictions and memoirs of the soldiers and medical personnel. I have read many books about families escaping through an “underground” system. This is the first book I have read of the unjust arrests, farcical court system, and the horrible effects on the family.
I have read The Glamour Years, a memoir by this author, that mentioned little of her life before her twenties but a few chords rang familiar while reading this. After finishing this book, I researched a bit more and found out that this book, The Frosell Affair is also a memoir. This book is based off a manuscript written by her father. I did not research enough to verify the facts, but despite having finished reading a week ago, I keep thinking about many aspects of their story. This is easy reading, like a historical fiction novel, but more powerful since it is based off their real lives.
There is violence in the book when describing the prisoner’s lives, and a little bit of detail like feeling the “wet, blood stained stone wall” or how a prisoner is repeatedly kicked in the stomach. However, the details are not given in graphic length but only a sentence or two, so most readers could handle it. I would comfortably carry this book in any middle school or high school library, but it is more for a mature audience. As I said, a week later, I am still pondering over some scenes, characters, and the injustice served this family and so many others. I highly recommend this story.