I was very intrigued when I saw this book on the new books shelf at my library. I've seen several of Leni Riefenstahl's films and found her interestinI was very intrigued when I saw this book on the new books shelf at my library. I've seen several of Leni Riefenstahl's films and found her interesting, and the Romani protagonists were a new angle that piqued interest as well.
I was, unfortunately, underwhelmed. The basic story was excellent—I was very moved by it. The writing style, however, is superficial and it feels like it was dashed off in a hurry. The plot rushes along too much as well.
There was SO MUCH POTENTIAL and I kept thinking "if Ruta Sepetys or Elizabeth Wein had written this, I'd have been bawling my eyes out". There is simply not enough detail, not enough to connect with either characters or the situations in which they find themselves. I have a pretty good imagination, so I was mentally rewriting and filling in the gaps as I read, but it just fell short as written, which is a great pity....more
I listened to the audio version. At first, I was a little con**spoiler alert** I thought Between Shades of Gray was very good, but this surpasses it.
I listened to the audio version. At first, I was a little confused by the fact that there were four narrators, and thought "this is NEVER going to work" - but after the narrators cycled through a couple of times, it started to make sense, and it DID work. It worked amazingly well. You get the perspective of events from up to four different sets of eyes, but in first person (I am a sucker for first person narratives, I will admit). There was a lot of heartwrenching stuff in this story, but there were also moments of humour and I *loved* Florian and Joana's relationship.
One thing I particularly love about Ruta Sepetys' writing style is the way she affixes descriptions to many people instead of names. The shoe-poet. The wandering boy. You do eventually learn everyone's actual names, but it gives the story a sort of ethereal quality that I adore. Maybe I'm weird. But I LIKE IT.
I think that what I like most about this and BSOG is that it addresses angles of WWII that I, at least, have never heard about. The devastation of lives was SO widespread, in so many terrible ways, and there is so much that has never been adequately told....more
**spoiler alert** I liked this one better than Blackout, and I attribute this to the setup having been done already so I knew a bit more what to expec**spoiler alert** I liked this one better than Blackout, and I attribute this to the setup having been done already so I knew a bit more what to expect and who these people were without having to wait until almost the end.
All the same, the same complaints I had for Blackout apply here: SO MUCH WHINGING and WORRYING and MISSED CONNECTIONS. I had to actually put it down and go do something else out of sheer frustration at one point. All of that could have been trimmed and been just as effective. Or so it seems to me.
I grudgingly give the Hodbin brats their due. I still wanted to throttle them, though.
And I was so confused trying to sort out Colin's timeline, because I did not understand how he could have met so-and-so at an earlier time and then have to be told about it at a later time? Was I totally not understanding correctly? Colin annoyed me in the first book. So freaking eager to please and full of himself. But he did redeem himself with his dedication to bringing Polly back.
HOWEVER, if the entire book(s) had been about Polly and Sir Godfrey, I would have been Quite Happy, Thanks. ...more
**spoiler alert** So, most of my friends RAVE about these books, and I have been sick this week, and was tired of waiting for some of the other books**spoiler alert** So, most of my friends RAVE about these books, and I have been sick this week, and was tired of waiting for some of the other books I requested on my library to come through, so I decided to give this a go because they were AVAILABLE.
Basically I spent about the first 8/10 of the book being Completely Confused and Unsure Why I Should Care about these people or the story.
I didn't hate it, by any means - I did finish it, after all! - but I DO feel that you need to get people sucked in sooner than that, or they're just going to give up - I probably would have, if I didn't know there was another book and if I did not have the abovementioned friends' glowing reports.
There was SO MUCH I felt could have been eliminated to tighten the narrative: the redundancy of "what if we messed up x or y"; so much detail about every move the characters made. Some of it may have been there to give the reader false clues? I don't know. But it was just a lot of word clutter to sort through, for me.
Also spent the entire book wanting to throttle the Hodbin brats....more
This was 660 pages of intense, brutal, HORRIBLE stuff that I basically read in probably 8 days total, if that. (It was due back to the library.) I doThis was 660 pages of intense, brutal, HORRIBLE stuff that I basically read in probably 8 days total, if that. (It was due back to the library.) I do not recommend reading it that fast. A slow, leisurely approach would be far easier on your well-being.
Deep breath. I'm going to just cough up random thoughts that likely won't make sense. Bear with me.
Thing that most stood out to me in the end was the sheer POINTLESSNESS of the camp as anything but a farce of some kind - a horrific, deadly farce. Sure, some of them were spies or whatever, but the majority of them were people who never deserved to be in prison in the first place, for any reason. They just had the misfortune to be Jehovah's Witnesses or Jews or... just... female.
The fact that this camp has been so little talked about is an absolute tragedy. Quote: "Ravensbrück should never have had to fight 'on the margins' for a voice: it was—and is—a story in its own right."
There was one part of the book that was honestly so awful I have already blocked it out and I can't remember what it even was. But the part that most makes me cringe and shudder now is the forced abortions and outright murder of ALREADY BORN BABIES. It's like, obviously these babies didn't stand a chance of surviving anyway, but THAT IS NOT AN EXCUSE FOR CRUELTY. Having birthed two precious little ones myself, I know the raw emotion of holding that warm little wriggling helpless thing for the first time, and the idea that anyone - ANYONE - could be so calloused, so devoid of human sympathy as to snatch it from its mother (who, starved prisoner or not, is still going to be at least a LITTLE high from birth hormones) and DUNK IT HEADFIRST IN COLD WATER AND DELIBERATELY DROWN IT or any of the other horrible things they did. Those poor women, I don't even want to think about the emotional trauma that would be. I don't think I would EVER be able to cope with experiencing that.
The fact that as many women survived as did is really nothing short of remarkable.
So, basically, this is a book that I think should be widely read. It's terribly hard to read, but it is a necessary book.
This isn't really a WWII book, aside from that it takes place at the time WWII was happening. It's a book about a side of that era that we seldom see:This isn't really a WWII book, aside from that it takes place at the time WWII was happening. It's a book about a side of that era that we seldom see: what was happening in Stalin's Russia. Hitler is blamed for his mass murders, and rightly so - they were atrocious beyond words. But Stalin is frequently overlooked. He was as much of OR MORE a horrible person, if horrible is to be calculated by sheer number of deaths. I don't know if anyone really knows for sure how many died under Stalin - the low estimate seems to be 34,000,000. Thirty-four MILLION.
Anyway, this book was fantastic. It was brutally honest and pulled no punches, but heartfelt and somehow also heartwarming, which sounds weird, but it's true. Highly recommend.
Also: I feel like there needs to be a sequel because I WANT TO KNOW HOW A CERTAIN PERSON FOUND ANOTHER PERSON. ...more
I listened to this as an audiobook and enjoyed it immensely. I'll be reading Anne Frank's diary for the first time soon, and this was a good introductI listened to this as an audiobook and enjoyed it immensely. I'll be reading Anne Frank's diary for the first time soon, and this was a good introduction to it.
The storytelling is superb. I felt like I was sitting beside Miep herself and "listening" to her talk - it was so comfortable, easy to follow, and touching. There was an immediacy and freshness to the narrative that I loved. Her memory was clearly outstanding.
I had no idea how bad it was in Holland during the occupation. Those people were amazing to pull through that terrible time....more
Actually I finished this last week. I loved the narrator. I was put off by the voices at first (probably because I wasn't expecting them) but got usedActually I finished this last week. I loved the narrator. I was put off by the voices at first (probably because I wasn't expecting them) but got used to it after a little while. I was impressed with Sasha Pick's handle on correctly pronouncing multiple languages, and loved the subtlety of the voice acting when Part 2 came around and Rose is a completely changed person. ...more