A Brilliant Life

Rachelle Unreich

A Brilliant Life
Hachette Australia
1 November 2023

A Brilliant Life

Rachelle Unreich

As her mother, Mira, nears the end of her life, journalist Rachelle Unreich wants to find out more about how Mira survived four concentration camps, including Auschwitz. There was a mystery to her survival, it seemed - which perhaps had something to do with the strange things that always happened around her. Incredibly, when she gave testimony about the Holocaust decades later, Mira said that it was during this time that she learned about 'the goodness of people'.

Born in Czechoslovakia, Mira Blumenstock was twelve years old when World War II broke out. She would live a full life in Paris and Australia. Then, at eighty-eight, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Rachelle interviewed Mira to distract her from her illness, and what she discovered about her mother was breathtaking. Not only did Rachelle begin to understand Mira's past, but she was able to fit together the jigsaw puzzle pieces of her own life.

A story of love, loss, wonder and the deepest kind of faith, A Brilliant Life questions the role of fate and chance, and reveals an unbreakable connection between mother and child. It will capture hearts, spark important conversations and show us that one small act of kindness can, quite literally, save a life.


A Brilliant Life is the story of Mira Unreich, a holocaust survivor, mother and, by all accounts, incredible person. During her last year, Rachelle, her youngest daughter and also a journalist, interviewed Mira about her life. A life that is quite remarkable, not only because Mira lived through atrocities most of us can barely imagine, but because she came out with a strong belief in people’s goodness.

Unreich chronicles the misfortunes of Mira’s life, along with the brutality she and her family faced. She does not hold back on detail, describing her mother’s failing body, death marches, and the stench of the camp; however, the book is full of hope, strong will, coincidences that verge on the miraculous, and faith. Unreich’s writing achieves a delicate balance: she is not overly sentimental, yet Mira’s warmth and joie de vivre emanates off the page.

Stories from Rachelle and Mira’s later life pepper the chapters, reminding us of what Mira became, and how her legacy lives on in her children and grandchildren. I was lucky enough to meet some of the family earlier in the year when I, along with a few other booksellers, was invited to a gathering at Mira’s house. It was a night I will not forget. Rachelle and her family welcomed us into the home, with its original ’70s wallpaper, carpet and furniture. We were treated to a table heaving with food, and gathered round to hear stories about Mira, many of which are shared in the book. We looked at photos, and listened to the local Cantor sing and play the family piano. We left with a warm buzz; we had just experienced something very special. Now, having read the book, I know other people will be able to get a sense of this experience; the warmth, welcome and awe of a life, despite all the odds, lived with love, generosity, and a twinkle in the eye. A life lived to the full – a brilliant life.

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