Another Ocean to Cross

Written by Ann Griffin
Review by Christoph Fischer

This is the remarkable story of Renata, a Jewish woman who manages to escape Germany in 1938. It follows her journey via Italy and Greece to Egypt and beyond.

It seems one of the lesser known side-stories of the WW2 era that many people escaped to Syria and Egypt after Palestine was closed to refugees, and this novel tells one of these stories in well-researched detail. The pivot of the novel is in Alexandria, where Renata courts a Canadian sailor and marries him shortly before he is deployed on active service. Their subsequent relationship, and the tough decisions that Renata is required to confront and resolve, form the novel’s emotional heart.

While the description of the prosecution of Jews in the book adds little that will not be familiar to readers of Holocaust stories, Renata is a fascinating character with many conflicts, and her epic journey moves to and ends in unexpected places.

There are minor issues that took me out of the experience, such as a trick for creating a sense of location by inserting German words and phrases in dialogue taking place between Germans, but they shouldn’t interfere too much with the enjoyment of a rather unusual story.