Much of the criticism of this book is valid. It jumps from third to first person and back again. There are no chapters, and the story seems to ramble,...moreMuch of the criticism of this book is valid. It jumps from third to first person and back again. There are no chapters, and the story seems to ramble, tediously for some readers. So, yes, the story could have been edited and presented in a more effective fashion.
The story itself is fascinating. Although the book is categorized as fiction, it appears to loosely follow the author's mother's life. I'm guessing that much of it is true and accurate, and it was designated as fiction for those parts where the author had had to reconstruct events and thoughts that she was not privy to as a child (or perhaps change names and details about some of the characters). I've read lots of reviews here and on other sites, and there doesn't seem to be a clear explanation of how much may be true. I can't read German, so I have no idea whether that information is available in German, the language in which the book was written.
I would hesitate to categorize this book as about the Holocaust or World War II, as many have. I found it to be a fascinating window into a world that I never knew. Else (the author's mother) grew up in Germany and as a young woman experienced the enormous social and political changes that World War I wrought. She enjoyed freedoms that we take for granted today but which were new and exciting at the time, and she lived her life with great gusto, embracing all the newness enthusiastically. That made her an unconventional mother, wife, lover, and daughter. Overlaid on this is the fact that she was born a Jew, was not terribly religious. She threw herself into a secular or Christian lifestyle, and she had all her great romances with non-Jewish Germans, including Nazis.
The real window this book opened for me was an understanding of what life was like for people in Germany in the lead up to World War II, during the war, and after it. Else, having ties to Jews, Christians, and Nazis, saw many diverse facets of the war. She had relatives and friends who emigrated and who died in the camps. She knew people who went along with the Nazis only out of fear, and others who subscribed to their policies and politics. But this book isn't about politics. Through Else and her friends and family, we see intelligent, educated people who disagree about what the future holds, whether/when they need to escape from Germany, how bad things will get under the Nazis, etc... So, in that, it answers a lot of questions from people who look at the situation with 20/20 hindsight and ask why and how World War II and the Holocaust happened, and why ordinary people didn't do anything to stop it or save themselves. We forget that people had their ordinary, everyday cares and concerns to deal with, and they didn't foresee how the late 1930's and 1940's were going to play out. This book ends a few years into the occupation of Germany and Eastern Europe, but even manages to touch on the reconstruction and the foundation for the communist rule that lasted for another 30+ years. I did find some of the passages long and slow moving, but, on the whole, a fascinating window into this period in history through the story of a very unusual woman and mother.(less)
I decided to give this author a try and I really enjoyed the book. Too often, mysteries are poorly written or have absurd plots, and when you add a do...moreI decided to give this author a try and I really enjoyed the book. Too often, mysteries are poorly written or have absurd plots, and when you add a dog to the mix, it can become ridiculous. However, this book suffers from none of that - I enjoyed myself the whole way through. I will try more of this series for sure. (less)
Fascinating - history, travel, culture, adventure all rolled into one entertaining narrative. I learned so much from this book, and it has really spar...moreFascinating - history, travel, culture, adventure all rolled into one entertaining narrative. I learned so much from this book, and it has really sparked my own curiousity about Peru, the Incas, and Machu Picchu. It's always a win when you read a book that motivates you to do more.(less)
Well, no, it isn't the Harry Potter series, and it's not for kids. I didn't expect that. I didn't know what to expect. And I was engrossed in the worl...moreWell, no, it isn't the Harry Potter series, and it's not for kids. I didn't expect that. I didn't know what to expect. And I was engrossed in the world that J.K. Rowling created, the rich character studies, the small town politics. . . it was delicious. Despite there not being a whole lot of plot moving the story forward, I couldn't put the book down. There's a delicious tapestry being woven throughout the book, and it is thoroughly engaging. As I read, I didn't think about Harry Potter at all. This is a wholly different book, and it shows that J.K. Rowling can write beyond the beloved series that catapulted her to fame. (less)
This was a hard book to read and a hard book to put down. Yeah, you will lose a woman if you act that way. So why do the characters keep doing things...moreThis was a hard book to read and a hard book to put down. Yeah, you will lose a woman if you act that way. So why do the characters keep doing things that are only going to result in pain? I don't know but it was good to be along for the ride. (less)
It's almost difficult for me to believe that this is the same author who wrote House of Sand and Fog. Andre Dubus III had such a tumultuous childhood...moreIt's almost difficult for me to believe that this is the same author who wrote House of Sand and Fog. Andre Dubus III had such a tumultuous childhood and coming of age, but his account of it is less than compelling at times. There were times when I was glued to the book, rapidly reading to see what happened next, but there were other times when it was just plain dull. I would have enjoyed it more if a lot of the extraneous vignettes were cut and if there was more material connecting the jumps in the plot - sometimes, huge changes took place without any explanation of how or why, while at other times, the level of detail about something inconsequential was excruciating.
If anything, this book is going to make me stick to reading the author's fiction versus any nonfiction he may produce. And there is NO WAY that I will read another word written by his father. The senior Dubus was a destructive force in the lives of everyone in his path. He deserves to be forgotten. Andre Dubus III probably has a few more good books in him. This wasn't one of them, but I'm glad I read it.(less)
A page turner. I read this in less than 12 hours (including getting a full night's sleep in that time period). I just had to know what happened next....moreA page turner. I read this in less than 12 hours (including getting a full night's sleep in that time period). I just had to know what happened next. I probably will read the next book in the trilogy, too. I doubt I will see the movie. (less)
This was a quick and enjoyable read. There are definitely points in the book where the author is at her best writing about things she knows. It's wher...moreThis was a quick and enjoyable read. There are definitely points in the book where the author is at her best writing about things she knows. It's where she gets into the more fictional, unfamiliar parts, where she stumbles and writes with a vagueness that suggests she doesn't really feel altogether comfortable. I am definitely looking forward to reading more of her work as she matures as a writer.(less)
I *had* to read this; The Hummingbird's Daughter was one of the best books I've read and I couldn't miss the sequel. Like most sequels, it wasn't as m...moreI *had* to read this; The Hummingbird's Daughter was one of the best books I've read and I couldn't miss the sequel. Like most sequels, it wasn't as magical as the original. And that's not really anyone's fault - this book is fiction but it's based on the real life of Teresa de Cabora, so it had to follow the path that she did. Teresita's life in America just wasn't as exciting as her life in Mexico. I'm not sure whether it's the change in countries or the social changes taking place at the time, but Teresa's life in America is filled with promises unfulfilled. She is misunderstood, used, and mistreated. I wanted so badly for her life to be lived under more positive circumstances, but the facts are the facts, and in many ways her life is better than that of many immigrants to the US in the early 20th century. The writing was just as good as the first book - I got lost in the world created by the author - and I would recommend it for the writing alone. (less)