Children of Bach (cover) Eilís Dillon
Children of Bach

The Second World War is drawing towards its end. The Nazis are occupying Hungary. When Peter, Suzy and little Pali find that their parents have been rounded up with other Jews and sent away, they embark on a daring plan to escape into Italy. Not knowing whom to trust, they risk danger and betrayal, until their epic journey ends in an Italian mountain village, where it is music that gains them acceptance among the villagers and helps them to embrace a new life.


"An intense, gripping novel." (Sunday Telegraph)

"In Eilís Dillon's beautifully crafted novel of suspense, crisis brings about growth and compassion." (The Jewish Reporter)

"She sustains the suspense so well and engenders such concern for her characters that their plight assumes paramount importance for the reader as well." (Publishers Weekly)

"A compellingly atmospheric adventure story." (Times Educational Supplement)

"A gripping story right to the end." (Clare Rogers, Reader's Choice, The Irish Times)

Children of Bach is listed by the Bureau of Jewish Education, San Francisco as one of a group of texts suitable for introducing the difficult topic of Holocaust history in schools.

Now read an extract ....

From Chapter 2

Peter had been putting away his school books and thinking of going to bed when Papa came into the dining-room. He sat at the head of the table and began to talk quietly, almost as if he were talking to himself.

"Did you notice a change in people in the last year?" he began, with an anxious look that Peter had never seen on him before.

Usually Papa was the one who said one should never worry until after something nasty has happened. Peter said:

"They're quieter. They don't stop to talk as often as they used to do. It's the war, I suppose."

"Yes. It's the war and the general hardship. People have begun to change their habits, even their good habits, and think only of their own safety. They're afraid to trust anyone. There's a different look in their eyes, like animals backed into a corner, fighting for their lives. Some look like foxes, some like wolves. It was only to be expected. People are animals, after all, though they're able to think and plan and write books."

"And play music?" Peter asked.

"Music and painting and books are the only things that lift people above the animals and make them able to feel the presence of God," Papa said. "No matter what comes next, there will always be music."

"What will come?"

"I don't know. I only know what happened in other countries. Being born a Jew became a crime, and the punishment was prison or death. Why shouldn't the same things be done here? My friends say Hungary is too civilized, too cultured, but I don't believe it. Germany was the most civilized country in the world, in its day." He stood up and walked over to the window, where a few lights showed here and there. Most of them were blacked out, because of the air raids. After a moment he went on:

"We should get out, but I think it's too late. You may be able to do it, but I doubt it. They'll block the roads. Some people may help you. You'll know who they are, just by looking at them. Even some of the people you think you can trust will let you down."

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