Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘war through the generations’

Source: Review copy from MIRA
Rating: ★★★★★

I try to move forward again. My toes are numb now, legs leaden. Each step into the sharp wind grows harder. The snow turns to icy sleet, forming a layer on us. The world around us has turned strangely gray at the edges. The child’s eyes are closed, and he is resigned to the fate that has always been his.

(from The Orphan’s Tale)

I’ve long been a fan of Pam Jenoff’s World War II fiction, and her latest novel, The Orphan’s Tale, is among her best. The story is told alternately through the eyes of Noa, a 16-year-old Dutch girl whose relationship with a Nazi soldier leaves her pregnant and alone, and Astrid, an aerialist whose search for her family leads her to Herr Neuhoff, whose circus competed with her family’s and who takes her in when she is forced to flee Berlin. Their paths converge when Noa, stumbling upon a boxcar crammed with Jewish infants, takes a boy who reminds her of her lost child and runs off into a winter storm, where she is found by Peter, a circus clown and Astrid’s lover.

To protect the child, Noa is given the opportunity to train with Astrid on the flying trapeze. She has only a matter of weeks to perfect the act and soon finds herself acclimated to the circus lifestyle, much to the chagrin of Astrid, who has trained since she was a child and views the young girl as a rival. The women each have secrets, but they manage to bond over them and their love for Theo. But as the war comes to a head and the days of the traveling circus seem to be numbered, their futures become increasingly uncertain and their loyalty to one another is put to the ultimate test.

The Orphan’s Tale is the kind of novel that is both impossible and necessary to put down. It’s not often that I cry at the beginning of a book, but the opening scene with the boxcar of infants broke my heart, even more so when I realized it was based in fact. There were so many times that the book took a toll on my emotions. I wanted to keep reading because I needed to know what happened next, but I had to take a moment here and there to process what had occurred. I was unaware of the stories of hidden Jews in the traveling circus, so that aspect of the novel was fascinating, as were the descriptions of the circus acts and lifestyle. I especially loved how Jenoff used the first person point of view and alternated the chapters between Noa and Astrid, allowing me to understand and bond with both characters.

When Noa and Astrid were flying through the air, it was almost possible to forget that the war was going on around them, but Jenoff does a great job ensuring that readers feel the undercurrent of danger at every turn, from the surprise inspections of the circus by the SS to repeated warnings not to perform politically charged routines. Although the war is at the center of the novel, so are the themes of love, friendship, and sacrifice. The book hit me hard at a few poignant spots, and all the ugly crying I did emphasizes Jenoff’s ability to tell a powerful story. The Orphan’s Tale a strong contender for my Best of 2017 list!

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for giving me the opportunity to participate in the tour for The Orphan’s Tale. Click here to follow the tour.

Disclosure: I received The Orphan’s Tale from MIRA for review.

Read Full Post »

all the light we cannot seeSerena and I are hosting a readalong in March for the 2017 WWII Reading Challenge on War Through the Generations. Even if you are not participating in the challenge (and even if you’ve already read the book), we encourage you to join us for our group discussions of All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. The discussions will be posted on War Through the Generations each Friday through April 7, with our first discussion coming this Friday, March 3.

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors” (San Francisco Chronicle) are dazzling. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, he illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, a National Book Award finalist, All the Light We Cannot See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer “whose sentences never fail to thrill” (Los Angeles Times).

Here is the read-a-long schedule, with discussions here on each Friday.

  • Discussion of Sections Zero and One on Friday, March 3
  • Discussion of Sections Two and Three on Friday, March 10
  • Discussion of Sections Four and Five on Friday, March 17
  • Discussion of Sections Six and Seven on Friday, March 24
  • Discussion of Sections Eight and Nine on Friday, March 31
  • Discussion of Final Sections on Friday, April 7

I have already completed the first sections and like what I’ve read so far, so I’m looking forward to continuing the book, and I really hope some of you will join us for a thoughtful discussion!

Read Full Post »

wwii-2017After a year hiatus, Serena and I are back to host the 2017 World War II Reading Challenge on War Through the Generations. Because our schedules are still extremely busy, we’re making it a stress-free challenge: no participation levels, read as little or as much as you want, and we’ll have an end-of-challenge giveaway.  More details on the challenge and how to link your reviews can be found here. Also, stay tuned for information on the three World War II readalongs we will be hosting at War Through the Generations in March, June, and September. We hope you’ll join us!

Read Full Post »

port of no return

Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★★★★☆

Her dishevelled state alarmed Contessa, but she could well understand it. She curled an arm around her friend and sat and wished that life were not so cruel, even though they knew it was, and worse, that there was nothing they could do about it. They sat, without speaking, grappling with the loss. They were beyond denial and so, with acceptance, came a slow torturous sorrow.

(from Port of No Return)

Quick summary: Port of No Return opens in 1944 and follows Ettore and Contessa Saforo, who are managing the best they can to care for their children in German-occupied Fiume, Italy. Their town is close to the border with Yugoslavia, and when the Germans lose control of Fiume, Ettore is forced to flee to the hills to escape the Yugoslav Partisans, who are hunting down anyone who worked for the Germans. Meanwhile, Contessa must get her mother and young children out of Fiume and hope that her husband will meet them. The novel details the struggles of the thousands of Italians displaced following World War II and the atrocities committed by the partisans.

Why I wanted to read it: I’d never read about Tito and the Yugoslav Army and never heard of the foibe massacres, so I was intrigued.

What I liked: According to the acknowledgements, Michelle Saftich interviewed her father and other Italians who were displaced due to the war, and this shows in her painstaking attention to detail. I could picture the displaced persons camps — the grief, the hunger, the despair, and even the hope. There was a sizable cast of characters, encompassing not only the Saforo family but also the friends they made along the way, yet I felt like I got to know them all. Saftich provides enough historical information so that someone unfamiliar with the details of the politics can easily follow the story, and those details are skillfully woven into the narrative.

What I disliked: The children’s dialogue often seemed a bit too mature for their ages, but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story. The timeline seemed to be in chronological order, but toward the end, the timeline moved forward and then back a bit, which was somewhat jarring. However, the dates and locations are indicated at the beginning of each chapter, so that made it less confusing.

Final thoughts: Port of No Return is a heartfelt story of family, love, and survival. Saftich’s characters are believable and likable, and their experiences make readers ponder the meaning of home when there is no physical home left. It is difficult to grasp all that these families, especially the children, endured, but Port of No Return shines a light on the experiences of thousands of people, acknowledging not only their struggles but also their resourcefulness, their courage, and their belief that a new life was on the horizon.

Thanks to Italy Book Tours for having me on the tour for Port of No Return. To learn more about the book, connect with the author, and follow the rest of the tour, click here.

Disclosure: I received Port of No Return from the author for review.

© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

Read Full Post »

the race for paris

Source: Review copy from Harper
Rating: ★★★★★

None of our reasons for going to war made sense, and yet they all did.

(from The Race for Paris)

Quick summary: Meg Waite Clayton’s latest novel, The Race for Paris, is set in 1944 as the Allies invade France during World War II. The novel centers on Liv, an Associated Press photographer determined to be one of the first to capture the liberation of Paris, and Jane, a journalist for the Nashville Banner, who accompanies her. Facing blatant sexism, the two go AWOL and accompanied by Fletcher, a British military photographer, head straight for the front and Paris, forced to consider their pasts, their wartime losses, and their ambitions as they seek to make and document history.

Why I wanted to read it: I’d never read about female journalists or photojournalists during the Second World War.

What I liked: I loved this novel from start to finish. It was every bit as exciting as the description, and Clayton really made me feel like I was right alongside Jane, Liv, and Fletcher throughout the action. The quotes from real-life journalists and photographers, both male and female, at the beginning of each chapter show exactly what Jane and Liv were up against — and that Clayton clearly did her homework to make this novel as authentic as possible. I loved that the characters were likable and so human in their vulnerability, saying and doing things they probably wouldn’t have if death hadn’t been lurking in every turn and shadow.

What I disliked: Absolutely nothing!

Final thoughts: The Race for Paris provides a different look at war from the eyes of those who understood the importance of documenting the truth, even if their photos were blurred and their sentences cut by censors. Clayton realistically portrays the challenges faced by women who didn’t want to sit still during the fighting, the dangers faced by the journalists and photographers following and oftentimes riding alongside the soldiers, how women throughout history have made important contributions, and the risks they took in order to do so. The Race for Paris is among the best books I’ve read this year and one I know I will not soon forget.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for having me on the tour for The Race for Paris!

Disclosure: I received The Race for Paris from Harper for review.

© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

Read Full Post »

jars of hope

Source: Review copy from IWPR Group
Rating: ★★★★☆

Irena thought of something her father had told her.  “If you see someone drowning,” he had said, “you must jump in and save them, whether you can swim or not.”

“The children are hurting the most,” she decided.  “I have to give them a helping hand.”

(from Jars of Hope)

Quick summary: Jars of Hope: How One Woman Helped Save 2,500 Children During the Holocaust is a children’s picture book written by Jennifer Roy and illustrated by Meg Owenson that tells the story of Irena Sendler, a social worker in Poland during World War II who helped smuggle around 2,500 children out of the Warsaw Ghetto.  Roy explains how Sendler helped the children escape, how she saved the lists of their names, and how she survived the war herself.

Why I wanted to read it: Several years ago, my daughter and I watched the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler, and of course, we were fascinated by her story.  I’m also a fan of Roy’s since reading Yellow Star, her Aunt Sylvia’s Holocaust survival story, and meeting both Roy and her aunt at a book festival a few years ago.

What I liked: I applaud Roy for introducing Sendler to young readers and emphasizing how ordinary people can do extraordinary things in the face of evil.  The book is age-appropriate, showing the danger Sendler and the Jewish families faced without going into much detail.  Owenson’s illustrations are detailed and vibrant, using color to denote the warmth of family and the cold and desolation Sendler faced in prison.  I appreciated the author’s notes at the end that briefly wrap up Sendler’s story and explain Roy’s inspiration for the book.

JarsofHopebyJenniferRoyinterior10

Jars of Hope, page 10 (Capstone Young Readers)

What I disliked: The book only scratches the surface of Sendler’s story and makes it difficult for readers to feel connected to Sendler, but that is understandable given that it is short and intended for young children.

Final thoughts: Jars of Hope is a beautiful story of courage, love, hope, daring, and survival.  To think that one women had a hand in saving thousands of children during the Holocaust is inspirational and still brings people hope decades later.  It is important to remember people like Irena Sendler, who selflessly gave all they had, sometimes even their lives, to do what was right.  It also is important that children are introduced to these unsung heroes, and Jars of Hope is a book for parents and children to read and discuss together.

Disclosure: I received Jars of Hope from IWPR Group for review.

© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

Read Full Post »

the travels of daniel ascher

Source: Review copy from Other Press
Rating: ★★★☆☆

The plane rose above the clouds, the ocean disappeared.  Perhaps that was what becoming an adult was, emerging from the clouds, leaving behind the sweet half-light of childhood, coming out into the blinding clarity of a truth you haven’t asked to know.

(from The Travels of Daniel Ascher)

Quick summary:  The Travels of Daniel Ascher by Déborah Lévy-Bertherat, translated from the French by Adriana Hunter, follows Hélène, a 20-year-old archeology student living in her great-uncle Daniel’s Paris apartment.  Hélène remembers Daniel’s antics at family gatherings over the years, acting out the travels that formed the basis of the young adult adventure series he writes under the pen name H.R. Sanders.  Hélène wasn’t as enthralled with Daniel’s stories as the other children and never read The Black Insignia series.  However, when a friend from school discovers that she is related to his favorite author, Hélène grows increasingly interested in her mysterious great-uncle, but all she knows is that he’s really Daniel Ascher and was adopted by her family as a child when his parents were deported during the Nazi occupation of Paris during World War II.  Hélène pieces together the fragments of her great-uncle’s life and stumbles upon a secret that could tear her family apart.

Why I wanted to read it: I’m always intrigued by wartime stories and secrets.

What I liked: I liked Daniel for his complexity, and I was fascinated by his ability (or necessity) to navigate different personae.  He was the only character I grew to like over the course of the novel, and the only character I felt was fully developed.

What I disliked: The writing style kept me at arm’s length from the story, particularly the run-on sentences, the lack of quotation marks around the dialogue, and the abrupt ending to the chapters.  Aside from Daniel, I didn’t really care for any of the characters, but in the end, the story was really about him anyway.  I must admit that I struggled at times to finish the book, but in the end, I continued because it was so short (less than 200 pages), and I wanted to know what happened to Daniel.

Final thoughts: Overall, I thought The Travels of Daniel Ascher was interesting, particularly the way the layers of Daniel’s story were peeled back and his secrets were revealed.  I’m not sure if the issues I had with the writing style had anything to do with the translation, and while these issues made finishing the novel a challenge at times, I’m glad I plowed through to the end.  I was satisfied with how Daniel’s story was wrapped up and impressed with how Lévy-Bertherat creatively illustrated the challenges faced by Holocaust survivors, particularly children, in navigating the post-war world on their own.  Daniel’s coping mechanisms were both fascinating and heartbreaking, and even if I didn’t love this novel, Daniel is a character I won’t easily forget.

Disclosure: I received The Travels of Daniel Ascher from Other Press for review.

© 2015 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »