THE BALANCING GAME
A child growing up in post-war London, the eldest of three girls, Naomi is the daughter of Jewish refugees from Hitler’s Germany. Each chapter describes facets of her life—the games she and her sisters play, her friendship with Jeannie, the non-Jewish girl next door, the family’s relations with the world around them, and the fine balance that has to be maintained between the life of orthodox Jews and the non-Jewish environment. In the course of the book we become familiar with Naomi’s somewhat warped imagination and the delicate situation in which she and her family live, on the cusp of two very different cultures.
I studied Social Psychology at university and had an epiphany in the library when I read Bowlby’s book, ‘Maternal Deprivation.’
Many years later I wrote ‘The Balancing Game: A Child Between Two Worlds, A Society Approaching War,’ in order to give a voice to the many thousands of children who were separated from their parents and their natural environment, whether in order to be murdered by the Nazis or to be evacuated and taken to safety away from danger. I also wanted to convey the feelings of a young woman in danger in a war zone and pregnant. The question I have tried to explore is: how does the human psyche, whether child or adult, cope with these kinds of situations? And how do they influence their life subsequently?
Each chapter consists of three segments, the first and last ones describing episodes in Naomi’s life and the middle one, written in the first person, describing the almost surreal experiences of Felicity, a young woman from England who is living in Jerusalem in the period just before and during the Six Day War (May-June 1967). Felicity is in her ninth month of pregnancy and has her own perception of the events of that time. Although she has not experienced it personally, the shadow of the Holocaust looms very large in her thoughts, especially in the context of the period prior to the Six Day War.
The concluding chapter describes a traumatic experience undergone by Naomi in infancy, the conclusion of the Six Day War, the start of a reconciliation between Felicity and her parents, and the birth of her baby. Even then, however, the Holocaust is never far from her mind. It becomes clear to the reader that the little girl in London and the young woman in Jerusalem are one and the same person, and that the experiences of the child have determined the perceptions and thinking of the woman.