BOOK CLUB: The Writing on the Wall

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Author:  Juliet Rieden
ISBN: 978-1-76055-948-9
RRP: $32.99
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia

As with many of us when we are children we don’t tend to give a lot of thought to anything much beyond our own existence and our immediate family.  Juliet Rieden did however notice that her friends had extended family members that she didn’t have, and for that reason she felt rather hard done by, she would drag out this complaint when there was a special event such as Christmas or her Birthday. 


It wasn’t until she was an adult and could give more thought to this lack of family that she understood how hurtful her comments must have been to her father.  When Juliet embarked on her quest to hunt for family members she didn’t fully understand exactly where her quest would lead her.  Her father John was flown out of Czechoslovakia on the last flight arranged by a mission that was taking Jewish children and bring them up in England in the Christian faith. 

This last flight left only a week before the Nazi’s entered Czechoslovakia and began their systematic removal of all Jews.  Juliet’s research leads her to unearth many family members names but only to then discover the tragic fates of so many of them.  Understanding more and more about the struggles her father faced and how each of these things made him into the man he was.

Juliet takes us step by step on her journey to research and hunt through her family tree.  We venture into a time in the world’s history that was horrific and a time that we must not forgot or ever allow to happen again.  We hear about mass murderers but what happened under Hitler’s reign was mass murder beyond belief. Not hundreds or even thousands but millions of innocent people murdered.

This is not a heartwarming story but it is one that’s important. There are many photos included which help tell her story and made me feel even more connected. It’s a story that reminds us all that you just don’t know someones story just by looking at them or even by having a conversation with them.  Even Juliet didn’t fully understand some of the things that made her father who he was until she researched her family and her father’s childhood.

Sometimes we as humans show amazing strength in our ability to keep moving forward and that’s just what John Rieden managed to do.
Juliet has a way of sharing her father’s story and her quest to find family that drags you in and takes your emotions along on the ride with her.  

Thanks to Pan MacMillan, 10 of our Beauty and Lace Club members are reading The Writing on the Wall by Juliet Rieden. You can read their reviews in the comments section below. Read the book? We would love to hear your thoughts too…

10 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: The Writing on the Wall

  1. ‘The Writing on the Wall’ relates the story of Juliet Reiden’s own father and really is heart wrenching.
    Juliet knew little of her father’s arrival in England and how he arrived there.
    Juliet’s Czech father was 8 years old in 1939 when he was sent (by his parents) to England as part of a war rescue mission of children. He left all that was familiar, including his family. Just imagine what an impact that would have had on a young child.
    His Jewish name was Hanus, later to become John, and he knew no English.
    Juliet follows her father’s arrival in the children’s home where he received Christian instruction and was also educated at a private school.
    In research Juliet discovers practically all his family perished in concentration camps and were living in constant fear.
    She has researched so much for this book and has uncovered such sadness.

    I felt privileged to be permitted to read the very personal journey Juliet made when she researched and wrote this account of her family’s history.
    The forward is written by Magda Szubanski whose own family’s experiences were similar.
    Thankyou Beautyandlace and PanMacmillan for allowing me to review this very sad and informative book. The horrors and terrors this family experienced were truly horrible.

  2. Thankyou to Beauty and Lace and Pan Macmillan for the opportunity to read The Writing on the Wall by Juliet Rieden, an Australian journalist.
    This is the story of Juliet Rieden’s own family. She grew up on England , longed to have cousins and family, and knew so little of her father’s family.

    In 1939 , as Hitler’s troop marched on Prague, a Jewish couple ( Juliet’s grandparents) sent their 8 year old son ( Juliet’s father ) to England. He was lucky to be on the last rescue mission flight organised by the Barbican Mission.

    Her father did not talk about his childhood or his family. In the years after his death, while on a trip to Prague she sees the Rieden name written many times on the Pinkas Synagogue Memorial wall.
    Juliet discovers that these are her father’s aunts, uncles, cousins. She had no idea her fathers family had been in Theresienstadt concentration camp and some sent to Auschwitz.

    This book is a moving personal story, extensively reasearched about Juliet’s search to discover the truth about the fate of her grandparents and their families. Researching her Father’s life as a refugee in the UK gave her an understanding of events that made him the person he was.

    It is a thought provoking book. Every time I read a story about the Holocaust I learn something more.
    I recommend this book, it is a well written book on a subject that history should never forget.

  3. This is a wonderful book. Well researched and written.
    The author takes us on a journey to discover what happened to he father’s family during the Holocaust. and how he was one of the very few to survive
    He survived because, as a very young child, he was taken to England with other children. Most never saw their families again. Because he was alone he had many hurdles to overcome in his life.
    The author had grown up believing her father had come from a very small family but she discovered otherwise. She managed to trace most of their journeys through the camps. The details are horrific but these are things we need to know.
    I now know so much more about this dreadful time than I did before.
    This an awful part of our history that we all should know

  4. I was never that interested in reading memoirs. Until this one came along. It is very hard to imagine that this ‘story’ is true. But it is.
    My words and sympathies will never be enough. Hopefully thru writing these stories – and Im sure there are many more out there , yet unwritten – and people like me reading them, they will not be forgotten.
    I became interested in war stories after talking to my sons partner and her interest in history. This book then became an extended part of my growth along that line. She cant wait to read it after me.
    As I began to read the hairs on my arms and neck stood up, I think my sub consciousness knew something my brain was not yet telling me. This was no ordinary story and needed to be told and needed to be respected. I cannot imagine being able to write this, I believe I would have to separate myself from it.

    As I read, I also looked up places so I could visually see what I was reading about as much as I could, such as the Pinkas Synagogue cemetery. Loved having the photos included as it made it much more real.
    Occasionally it would become tedious as the author recounted fact and figures, times and dates of life before the war and far reaching relatives but that is the part where I would need to separate the story from myself and I understand it is part of the research. The writing on the wall was thoroughly researched and the author discovered so much more than she was expecting.
    During reading, I would have to remind myself this is a memoir and these pieces are important to her in recounting her family, her fathers life and ultimately hers.

  5. Thanks to Pan Macmillan and Beauty and Lace for the chance to read this book.

    This memoir is well researched and well written. It is extensive in its detail. To read about the horrors and tragedies faced by her fathers family (and by so many others) is heartbreaking. But it is something that should never be forgotten.

  6. The writing on the wall is the story of one woman’s journey to find her family.
    As prolific as the stories published surrounding the Holocaust are, with the publishing of new stories it shows that every experience of the time was unique and the suffering of those directly involved, to stories now of family experiences in the aftermath are infinite.
    This story firstly focuses on the author’s father’s journey while he was a boy in the 1940’s, then secondly on her journey in discovering their family history and the extent of the loss their family suffered as a result of the Holocaust.
    An interesting read for those interested in this era of time, but it is quite narrowly focused so may not be for everyone.

    Thanks to the publisher and beauty & lace for the opportunity to review.

  7. Juliet Rieden has written a very powerful book taking us through her experience of researching the Rieden family history. Juliet’s family were Jewish and many of them sent to Hitler’s concentration camps. However, one fateful decision of her grandparents managed to save the life of their son, Juliet’s father, and in doing so, Juliet is here now to tell the story of her family’s plight, of the heartbreaking decisions made to separate her father from his parents and the harrowing tale of indignity and suffering suffered by her family. This is a very important memoir of Juliet’s family but also vastly important as a documented history of what went on during the war years. There will be no more deceit, cover-ups and lies; the truth is here to be witnessed and never forgotten. I found this book very interesting but also deeply distressing. I skipped over the paragraphs describing the gas chambers, I just can’t bring myself to read about this yet. No doubt the tales of folklore are vastly different to the truth that Juliet has discovered and just the thought of the gas chambers is too distressing for me. I will read these paragraphs one day, but not at this time. I commend Juliet on her efforts to research her family history and to share this to us all. I am very grateful, as I’m sure are many others, that the truth of the concentration camps is known and will never be forgotten. Thank you to Juliet Rieden and Pan Macmillan Australia for the privilege of reading this book. To the souls who suffered, you will never be forgotten. Rest in Peace.

  8. I found “The Writing On The Wall” a challenging read. It was all a little too real. Ironically it is this rawness that makes the book the beautiful written story it is.
    Juliet Rieden tells the story of her father and his family: a story that was never told; a story of horrors that no-one should have to endure. She never knew her father’s history and only stumbled upon it. This brings up many questions and the author sets off to find the answers.
    I cannot imagineine what it was like to discover the atrocities she did. It was hard enough to read of them. However they were a part of her father and his parents and therefore a part of her
    The one thing that kept coming through for me is that we must learn from history and this should never ever be allowed to happen again
    This is a beautifully written book and as much as I struggled with it, I enjoyed it. Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Pan Macmillan for the opportunity to read and review a book that I probably would not have chosen myself. Sometimes it is a good thing to step outside your comfort zone. This was one of those times.

  9. The writing on the wall is a very moving book
    I , at times found it hard to read when I stopped and wondered how I would cope being removed from my family as a child and never being reunited
    I did enjoy this book though so thank you for the chance to read it
    This memoir is well researched and well written. It is extensive in its detail. To read about the horrors and tragedies faced by her fathers family (and by so many others) is heartbreaking. But it is something that should never be forgotten.

  10. Thanks to Pan Macmillan and Beauty and Lace for the chance to read this book. Apologies for the late review, it got lost in my draft emails!

    Endorsed by Magda Szubanski, I was attracted to this book because of the journey of the writer, Juliet Riedens to discover her family history. The effects of her father’s haunted past from living under a Nazi regime and how this shaped his life and that of the family he created, is a lesson for all. Discovering who her father was as she delved into history as well as the journey she undertook in researching her father’s family was beautifully written and shared with the readers.

    An amazing story, I highly recommend the book to others, particularly those who have family history of war torn countries.

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