Book review: A Life of the Twentieth Century by Irene Even


Book Description:

A Life of the Twentieth Century is the story of Aya, who lived through the loss of her parents before the age of 3. At the age of twelve she was sent to a boarding school in Budapest, that closed after one year, because the Nazi army marched into the city.

Aya was left totally alone to face the Nazi occupation, and to experience all the horrors of the war. She faced many life threatening situations, such as prison, bombardment or even the possibility of being executed on the spot, without really comprehending the gravity of it all.

The end of the war was supposed to mean liberation, the return of hope and freedom for most people, however it didn’t happen for Aya, who was part of a youth group on her way to Palestine. The destination of this youth group was to reach Italy and the Jewish Brigade. They crossed the Alps on foot from Austria to reach Italy.

As they reached their destination Aya met a soldier from the Jewish Brigade, who was supposed to be her Hero, her Saviour, but turned out to be the devil incarnate. From day one, this soldier of the Jewish brigade took control of Aya’s life when she was only 15 years old.

After divorce, destitute and once again alone, she had no direction and almost no hope, when from deep inside her a small voice said; go back to school. It took all her courage to apply to university, where she was accepted and after 5 year was granted a B.A. and a Diploma of Teaching. She spent the rest of her life teaching, and as she contemplated her life she said to herself that if she had had all the choices in the world, she would have chosen teaching.

About the Author:


Irene Even was born in Hungary. As a child she lived through the Second World War, using false papers to survive. After the war, she immigrated to Palestine, lived in a Kibbutz, then later married and immigrated to Canada with her family. She returned to Israel to teach English and remained there for twenty-two years. Having written her memoir, A Life of theTwentieth Century, she now lives in retirement in Montreal.

You can buy her book here:   Amazon    Book Locker

A Life of the Twentieth Century is the memoir of one woman’s turbulent life from her early youth onward. Aya’s incredible strength of character helped her to survive living with a hostile family as a child, surviving the Nazi occupation in Budapest, and then enduring her abusive husband for many years. She ultimately triumphs by finding her own path through study, hard work and determination to educate herself to become a teacher.  I found Aya’s story to be very moving. Some might question the reasons why she stayed so long with an abusive husband. Unless one has been in her situation, it is difficult to comprehend the control that an abuser holds over his unwilling partner. Aya did the best she could given her circumstances, caring for a husband who abused drugs and raising two children at the same time. It is rare that, after having read a book, one wants to meet it’s author personally. But as I was following Aya’s story I kept thinking to myself “I have to meet this incredible woman!”

The story itself was was very interesting from a historical standpoint. It moved quickly along and it was very hard to put down.  I highly recommend this book to others interested in historical non-fiction.

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