A Sea Change: Reviews

‘Michael Arditti has got into the head of a young boy who is both facing an uncertain, and possibly terrifying, future, and finding his first love.  This tale of the ill fated St Louis carrying a thousand German Jewish refugees to Havana, with its determined, fair minded German captain, is moving, understated, and beautifully and sensitively described.  Based on a true story, it’s a must-read for teenagers who might feel it ‘their’ story and for adults who will become totally involved in the family’s story, and the wider political picture.’
Rabbi Dame Julia Neuberger

‘Brilliant use of a momentous journey to tell the story of a Jewish boy’s rite of passage into adulthood.  A gripping and adroit fusion of history with personal drama.’
Rose Tremain

‘Michael Arditti’s fifth novel is a fine example of how resonant fiction based on real events can be.  Through the memoir of Karl Frankel Hirsch, the 15 year-old heir to a department-store fortune, the author tells the true story of the SS St Louis. A German liner that left Hamburg for Havana in May 1939 carrying 900 Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany after years of persecution and the terrors of Kristallnacht.  Mr Arditti has written sensitively about many weighty issues betrayal, fanaticism, faith in his previous books.  Once again he treats his subjects with empathy, neither trivialising their horror nor glamourising their plight for fictional benefit.  His skill lies in weaving the experiences of the fictional Karl and his family into accurately retold historical events.  It is the voice of Karl, whose raw adolescent energy leaps from the pages, that gives A Sea Change its compelling realism.  Through Karl the author portrays the barbarity of the Nazis, the terror of persecution, and the despair that floods the ship when it is turned away from Havana, the city’s ‘ribbon of lights promising a warmth and a welcome that would never be ours’.’
The Economist

‘This is a famous story, retold by Arditti with warmth, vividness and gentle wisdom.’
Kate Saunders, The Times

‘This moving rites-of-passage tale is as readable as it is profound.’
Neil Richards, Daily Express

‘As in his last novel, Unity, Arditti brings historical events and private emotions seamlessly together, his instrument here his storyteller’s steady yet flexible voice.  Karl is a superbly realised 15-year-old.  He is, like the ship’s captain who befriends him, a passionate ornithologist, excited amid all his troubles by his glimpse of a wandering (or is it a royal?) albatross.  Less formally experimental than Arditti’s previous fiction, A Sea Change is an advance in sheer intellectual authority and breadth of sympathy.
Paul Binding, Independent on Sunday

‘A Sea Change, Michael Arditti’s fifth novel, is a sober book, written with tender fidelity to historical detail.  Using fictional characters, Arditti sensitively recreates the historical incidents that took place on board ship.  By grafting a coming-of-age drama onto a gripping episode in international history, Arditti succeeds in creating fiction that is morally serious, moving and intense.’
Sarah Davison, Times Literary Supplement

‘Tender and perceptive, Arditti’s novel fuses history and fiction into a totally absorbing read.  The horror of the Nazi persecution of the Jews, seen as it affects one family, makes it all the more involving.  And Karl’s bumpy progress to manhood is as revealing a picture of tortured adolescence as I’ve read.’
Clare Colvin, Daily Mail

‘Arditti brilliantly evokes the ever-changing emotions of Karl as a 15 year-old passenger on the SS St Louis.  Central to the story is Karl’s first love affair, with Johanna, a beautiful fellow passenger.  Even amid the trauma, thwarted hopes and savage rows of what seems at times to be a doomed voyage that may eventually bring them back into the arms of the Nazis, it shows how a first love can still make every second precious and magical.  Arditti makes historical memories come alive in this haunting narrative about a momentous voyage.’
Dermot Bolger, Sunday Business Post

‘Fact and fiction are seamlessly brought together in Michael Arditti’s latest novel, A Sea Change.  The timeless themes deal with the emotional angst of coming-of-age and the way people rich or poor respond to the profound challenge of displacement.  A skilled storyteller with a sharp eye for detail, Arditti vividly captures mood and atmosphere so that we can almost taste the food and feel the great swelling of the ocean.   A Sea Change is a welcome retelling of how the vast and awful events of history are, in the end, about individual human lives, giving both it and them  an even more telling resonance.
Emmanuel Cooper, Tribune

‘Arditti skilfully blends the 15 year-old boy’s adolescent embarrassment with the knowing voice of the elderly grandfather.  The effect is powerful, as is the mixture of serious philosophical, political and religious debate with outrageous humour,’
Julia Pascal, Jewish Chronicle

‘As serious, compassionate and morally engaging as anything he has done.’
D.J. Taylor, Independent

‘It is all beautifully told and observed, well-paced and full of insight.  Gentle and coy in its descriptions of Karl’s love for Johanna, thoughtfully mixing notions of faith with identity and politics, it is an outstanding novel.’
Peter Stanford, Catholic Herald

‘I hugely admired the narrative fluency and psychological acuity of Michael Arditti’s elegant novel, A Sea Change.’
Rupert Christiansen, Spectator Books of the Year

‘A Sea Change by Michael Arditti shows a writer whose talent becomes more obvious with every book.’
Allan Massie, Scotsman Books of the Year

‘Like Nabokov fused with Howard Jacobson, it depicts first love and last farewells with agonising wit and candour.’
Amanda Craig, New Statesmen Books of the Year 

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