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The enthralling story of a refugee from Nazi Germany and his voyage to a new life across the Atlantic

‘A moving and heartening story in which spirit triumphs over political barbarity’ Edna O’Brien

‘Brilliant use of a momentous journey . . . A gripping and adroit fusion of history with personal drama’ Rose Tremain

‘This is the story of how I became a man . . .’

In May 1939, the SS St. Louis left Hamburg for Havana, carrying almost a thousand refugees from Hitler’s Germany. Over the following weeks, the ship criss-crossed the ocean, buffeted alternately by hope and disappointment, as it sought asylum in a friendly port and war drew inexorably closer.

Based on actual events, Michael Arditti’s enthralling novel is the memoir of one of the passengers, fifteen-year-old Karl, heir to a department store fortune. He recounts both the horror and excitement of the trip, along with his personal voyage of discovery, as he learns the truth about his family, battles Nazi crew members and plans mutiny. Most momentously, he describes his first, passionate love affair with the beautiful young Johanna.

Reviews

A moving and heartening story in which spirit triumphs over political barbarity
Edna O'Brien
Brilliant use of a momentous journey . . . A gripping and adroit fusion of history with personal drama
Rose Tremain
A fine example of how resonant fiction based on real events can be
Economist
Tender and perceptive . . . a totally absorbing read
Daily Mail
A famous story, retold by Arditti with warmth, vividness and gentle wisdom
The Times
Arditti succeeds in creating fiction that is morally serious, moving and intense
Times Literary Supplement
This moving rites-of-passage tale is as readable as it is profound
Express