A war anthology (World War I and World War II) aimed at children and young adults. While this anthology contains the usual suspects (Wilfrid Owen, Sie...moreA war anthology (World War I and World War II) aimed at children and young adults. While this anthology contains the usual suspects (Wilfrid Owen, Siegfried Sassoon), it also mixes in popular songs and rhymes of the time, such as one to the tune of "Sing a Song of Sixpence", and images of wartime adverts advising people on blackout behaviour - and of course, slogans like "Careless talk costs lives". It's also nice to see so many female poets being included, lending their voices to the mix.(less)
In August 1992, journalists Ed Vulliamy and Penny Marshall revealed to the world the concentration camps in which the Bosnian Serbs, presided over by...moreIn August 1992, journalists Ed Vulliamy and Penny Marshall revealed to the world the concentration camps in which the Bosnian Serbs, presided over by Radovan Karadžić, Ratko Mladic and others, kept their (primarily Bosnian muslim) prisoners in the service of ethnic cleansing. Twenty years on, Vulliamy attempts to make sense of what he found, and what has happened since to those prisoners - on both a personal and a political scale.
The book's subtitle is "Bosnia: the Reckoning", but it contains several chapters starting with the word "Unreckoning", because it seems very little reckoning has taken place among Bosnian Serbs. While some of those interned in the camps have returned to their homes, they must live among their Bosnian Serb neighbours, many of whom participated in the ethnic cleansing - in other words, raped and tortured them, not to mention murdering their friends and relatives. Other survivors have scattered to Europe, the USA and Australia, but remain haunted by what they left behind.
While what happened in the camps was at times horrific, Vulliamy does not dwell on this; instead, he is more interested in what is happening now. The survivors are at the heart of the book, and Vulliamy quotes them often - perhaps because they need to be heard, in the face of Serbian obstruction and international amnesia. It is their stories I will remember as the rest of the book fades, and their stories are the reason I encourage everyone to read this.(less)
Reading this demanded a fair amount of suspension of disbelief. Because the main character, Grace, falls in love with a wolf. OK, yes, it's probably t...moreReading this demanded a fair amount of suspension of disbelief. Because the main character, Grace, falls in love with a wolf. OK, yes, it's probably the wolf that saved her from being savaged when she was a little girl, but still. She's obsessed. She wanders around the woods when everyone knows there are wolves out there, apparently not afraid at all. She even faces off against the main female wolf, who obviously wants to eat her for breakfast...but mysteriously doesn't attack her. What's that about, eh?
Now I've got that off my chest, I can say that I enjoyed the book a lot once I suspended my disbelief to the required extent. Stiefvater's writing is fluid and attractive without being overly flowery (I've seen accusations of purple prose but that didn't strike me, particularly). It's one of those books where you pretty much know where it's heading, but you're interested enough to keep reading and find out how.
So yeah. My first Stiefvater book, and it won't be my last.(less)
I...sort of liked this but had major reservations about it. Firstly, I was intrigued by the setting but uncomfortable with the first person narration,...moreI...sort of liked this but had major reservations about it. Firstly, I was intrigued by the setting but uncomfortable with the first person narration, because it was hard to figure out where fiction ended and fact began. The little I know of Romania around the fall of Ceausescu comes from the news stories at the time, and nothing in The Last Hundred Days seemed to contradict my (very outsider and ignorant) view of what happened.
The story is very readable, once you (or I) stop rolling your eyes at how ridiculously "blank canvas" the narrator is. But when I discovered the author had actually been in Romania at that time, and was the same age as the narrator, I started to feel even more uncomfortable. In some ways this is a testament to the writing, which completely drew me in. I believed fully that the narrator was one of those irritatingly distant and uninvolved protagonists who'd got mixed up in all sorts of shenanigens, both within the high command of the regime and within the resistance to it, while Ceausescu's Romania collapsed. It felt real. It felt true.
And that's my problem. The characters and their situations felt very real, so that the whole time I was reading (and I've given the book four stars because from about halfway through I read it compulsively) I was wondering whether this character was real, or that one. Which made me uncomfortable, because ultimately, McGuinness and the narrator were always going to be safe. They were always going to get away, while around them the country collapsed and people died or had their lives destroyed. And I don't know what to think about that. Hence this rather rambling review. :-/(less)