I've decided to do my reviews based on loose categories until I have caught you all up on what I read while on my blogging hiatus. Today's genre is WWII-ish and or set in Europe.
So much happens in the life of Sara, The Seamstress, that I felt it was best to quote Amazon's summary:
"A striking Holocaust memoir, posthumously published, by a Romanian Jew with an unusual story to tell. From its opening pages, in which she recounts her own premature birth, triggered by terrifying rumors of an incipient pogrom, Bernstein's tale is clearly not a typical memoir of the Holocaust. She was born into a large family in rural Romania between the wars and grew up feisty and willing to fight back physically against anti-Semitism from other schoolchildren. She defied her father's orders to turn down a scholarship that took her to Bucharest, and got herself expelled from that school when she responded to a priest/teacher's vicious diatribe against the Jews by hurling a bottle of ink at him. Ashamed to return home after her expulsion, she looked for work in Bucharest and discovered a talent for dressmaking. That talent--and her blond hair, blue eyes, and overall Gentile appearance--allowed her entry into the highest reaches of Romanian society, albeit as a dressmaker. Bernstein recounts the growing shadow of the native fascist movement, the Iron Guard, a rising tide of anti-Semitic laws, and finally, the open persecution of Romania's Jews. After a series of incidents that ranged from dramatic escapes to a year in a forced labor detachment, Sara ended up in Ravensbrck, a women's concentration camp deep in Germany. Nineteen out of every twenty women transported there died. The author, her sister Esther, and two other friends banded together and, largely due to Sara's extraordinary street smarts and intuition, managed to survive. Although Bernstein was not a professional writer, she tells this story with style and power. Her daughter Marlene contributes a moving epilogue to close out Sara's life. One of the best of the recent wave of Holocaust memoirs."
Yo! Adrienne says: I'm a sucker for WWII survival stories and this one did not disappoint. I am always amazed at how one survives. I guess you don't know how until you are in the thick of it. If you are fascinated by tales that share the worst and best of humanity this might a good one to add to your nightstand.
Ya'll might remember that I have a thing for Persephone books (you can reacquaint with yourself with my obsession here). Good Evening, Mrs. Craven was one I had sitting on my shelf for far too long when I finally pulled it down and read it. This is another collection of short stories so I just worked my way through when I was looking for something quick to read. Again, I think Amazon does a better job of summarizing:
"For fifty years Mollie Panter-Downes's name was associated with The New Yorker, for which she wrote a regular 'Letter from London', book reviews and over thirty short stories; of the twenty-one in Good Evening, Mrs Craven, written between 1939 and 1944, only two had ever been reprinted - these very English stories have, until now, been unavailable to English readers. Exploring most aspects of English domestic life during the war, they are about separation, sewing parties, fear, evacuees sent to the country, obsession with food, the social revolutions of wartime. In the Daily Mail Angela Huth called Good Evening, Mrs Craven 'my especial find' and Ruth Gorb in the Ham & High contrasted the humour of some of the stories with the desolation of others: 'The mistress, unlike the wife, has to worry and mourn in secret for her man; a middle-aged spinster finds herself alone again when the camaraderie of the air-raids is over...'"
Yo! Adrienne says - The short stories were a quick satisfying read. If you like British humor and sensibilities then I think you certainly enjoy this little bit "history".
I got lucky on this one - it was a kindle book at my library. SCORE! Since we've established that I am a WWII book buff this one was right up my alley. I'm not even sure how I stumbled upon How Huge the Night but I vaguely remember thinking I was going to screen it for Henry - I think - or maybe not.
Julien Losier is a fifteen year old "city boy" who has to relocate to a small village in France in an attempt to escape the Nazi's - only Julien is not a Jew. His family heads back to his grandfathers home where his dad grew up to try and avoid the havoc the war is raging on Paris. Julien figures out quickly that he is not really welcome and viewed as an outsider when he begins school. It's tough being 15 much less a city slicker in a rural tight knit community. He also realizes what is required of him - splitting wood and working in the garden; all things that he is inept at which doesn't help his attitude. Thankfully his grandfather is patient with him and seems to understand what he is going through. The story begins to get interesting when the Losier family hosts a young man that is Juliens age who also doesn't really fit in. Many hard choices are to be made by all and bullies abound.
Yo! Adrienne says: Read this book! It might be listed as young adult at your library but it's soooo good. No teenage girl drama pinky swear. I loved that this WWII book was from the perspective of a non Jew teenage boy. It really gave a totally different viewpoint which once again reminded me of how may people were affected by that ugly war.
The Lost Wife is a story of sweet love and devotion to family - a love story that is shattered by war. Lenka and Josef have wonderful and affluent lives before meeting one another. She an art student and he a medical student. Lenka is friends with Josef's sister and well - you guessed it - they meet, fall in love and marry. BUT, it's actually not quite that easy. There's an impeding invasion, "papers" to be gotten, plans to leave the country, and those that are being left behind - or not. There are many twists and turns to this book but it's easy to follow; and heartbreaking. There are financial heartships, ship wrecks, concentration camps, and lost children. There is also great beauty in the art that is created, the love that is shared, and putting one's life back together.
Yo! Adrienne says: This is not one to be missed. Have some tissues at the ready and be prepared to not want to put this book down.
I know - you saw this cover last month but I read another short story and wanted to share. In Tsunohazu is a story of a middle aged man and his wife who are childless and are being transferred from Japan to Rio. Sounds glamorous but it's actually a demotion. One that Kyoichi Nukui does not deserve. Being the honorable man that he is he took the fall for someone else. Nukui's team is heartbroken and threatening to try to bring down the whole company (they have now been promoted) to restore his honor. Nukui insists that they let the chips fall where they may. His wife is quietly supporting him and making all the arrangements for the move. Encouraging him gently with out belittling when he thinks he saw his long lost father; the hard drinking drugging father who left Kyoichi to live with his uncle so he could follow a woman who had no interest in an 11 year old boy. It's a good read - just like all the others in The Stationmaster. I encourage you to find a copy.