Rachel Seiffert
  • ‘A writer of great delicacy and toughness.’
    - Ali Smith
  • Nominated for the Booker Prize in 2001; one of Granta's 'Best of Young British Novelists' in 2003; longlisted for the Orange/Bailey's Prize in 2007 and 2014; awarded the EM Forster Award in 2011 by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
  • 'Ms Seiffert’s prose is not showy, but graceful and precise... a gleam in the darkness that readers haven’t seen before.'
    - The Economist
  • 'Seiffert's writing is careful, deliberate, impressively honest.'
    - Irish Times

A Boy in Winter

A New York Times Notable Book of 2017

A Times Book of the Year 2017

Pick of the Month – Amazon.com 

Seiffert packs a great deal into a small amount of space. Her prose style resembles a cello onstage played in the pitch dark. Sonorous and somber and yet what use it makes of just a few notes.  Boston Globe

‘It is a story of hope and mercy in the darkest of times. Once started, it will be difficult to put it down.’ The Washington Book Review – editor’s pick

‘This novel truly shines in its offering of diverse, authentic perspectives.’ Booklist

‘A spellbinding evocation of fear and threat, hope and change in wartime Ukraine.’ Philippe Sands, author of East West Street

Seiffert’s cool tone never wavers, and her spare, beautiful prose is a joy to read.’ Helen Dunmore, The Guardian

‘Without wasting a word, Seiffert follows her characters’ journey with an implacable calm, although outrage lurks under under the surface of every word.’ Literary Review

A superb, delicately poised and deeply disturbing novel.’ FInancial Times

‘Seiffert is a master at creating tension and empathy.’ Observer

‘Rachel Seiffert is a prize-winning author, and it shows. Her descriptions are succinct and brilliant. The dreariness of town and landscape become hypnotically compelling, the characters all purely human…  One day it may rank as a classic of the Wild East.’  Jewish Chronicle

‘Seiffert’s writing is spare and atmospheric, perfectly paced to achieve the maximum effect of stillness yielding to panic, order giving way to violent disorder, and eventually winter turning into spring.  And at times evokes Anne Michael’s great Holocaust novel Fugitive pieces.’  TLS

‘a painful but compelling read.’ Sydney Morning Herald

‘a reminder and a warning about what happens when people are treated as less than human.’ Australian Public Sector News

‘The primal energy of this fine novel is a sore that will never heal.’ The Times

‘like watching the smoulder of a slow-burning wick moving toward a dynamite explosion’ Good Reading, Australia

‘This novel truly shines in its offering of diverse, authentic perspectives.’  Booklist

‘All the notes of the Holocaust song, including the rare ray of hope, are played in this spare, fast-moving novel.’ Kirkus Reviews


Early on a grey November morning, only weeks after the German invasion, a small Ukrainian town is overrun by the SS.  Deft, spare and devastating, A Boy in Winter tells of the three days that follow and the lives that are overturned in the process.

Penned in with his fellow Jews, under threat of transportation, Ephraim waits anxious for word of his two sons, missing since daybreak.

Come in search of her lover, to fetch him home again, away from the invaders, Yasia must confront new and harsh truths about those closest to her.

Here to avoid a war he considers criminal, Otto Pohl, German engineer, is faced with an even greater crime unfolding behind the lines, and no-one but himself to turn to.

And in the midst of it all is Yankel, a boy determined to survive this, but to do so, he must throw in his lot with strangers.

A story of hope when all is lost, and of mercy when the times have none.


Chapter 1.

He is out and running in the first grey of morning. Ducked and noiseless, hurrying through the fog drifts with his brother just behind him; feeling the tug of his small fingers twisted in a fistful of his jerkin, crossing the cobbles of the empty town streets, just as day is breaking. Already they have made it past the railway station, the distillery and the cooper’s yard, and then all along the silent length of the market street. Unseen, unheard – at least as yet. When they reach the old church at the corner, the boy stops, pulling his young brother close, pressing both of them to the stone walls and listening a moment. He hears nothing and no one; no sounds of movement. The boy’s darting eyes see no lamplight behind the curtains, only shutters drawn across the windows. They have been flitting from street to street and hiding, but the boy sees no place here they can slip inside. The fog hangs damp between the houses, and along the winding street before him, shrouding the low roofs and the lane mouths, the huddle of timbered house fronts. At least there is no one here yet to find them. Soon, he thinks. It will come soon now. Didn’t the schoolmaster say so? His brother tugs at his fingers, holding up his arms to be lifted, and the boy pulls him onto his back to carry him; still cautious and casting looks about himself, but picking up his pace too. They left the house in darkness, only now the low clouds are paling, and he feels the day and its dangers drawing nearer. He feels his brother shivering too, clutched to his shoulders, the short night’s bed- warmth long out of him. But it is better they do this. Better they make for the old schoolmaster’s lodgings. They still have more than half the town to cross, but even so, the boy thinks the old schoolmaster will know – who they can turn to, or the best place to lie low. Then comes the flare of headlamps, a sudden glare in the fog beyond them; the crunch of tyres, of heavy vehicles

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