Our story opens in an Austrian city, two generations before the Holocaust, where almost all of the Jews have converted to Christianity. Today the church bells are pealing for Karl, an ambitious young civil servant whose conversion will clear his path to a coveted high government post. Karl's future looks bright, but with his promotion comes a political crisis that turns his conversion into a baptism by fire, unexpectedly reuniting Karl with his past and forcing him to take a stand he could never have imagined.
"A work of subtle power, at once a historical novel and a moral parable. [Appelfeld] creates an atmosphere charged with ethical significance, painting characters whose feelings are intricate and idiosyncratic, yet resonate sadly and sweetly within us all." --The Boston Globe