Obasan is an autobiographical novel about the author's experience in a Japanese internment camp during the 1940's in Canada. Kogawa was a child when hObasan is an autobiographical novel about the author's experience in a Japanese internment camp during the 1940's in Canada. Kogawa was a child when her family was relocated from a large city to a rural community.
The family was Canadian born of Japanese descent, and their experience was fascinating to me as a contrast to how the same ethnic families suffered under U.S. relocation policies. In Canada, not only were the families interned in camps, but their cars were confiscated from them as well. I was under the impression that they did not have to forfeit their homes or other belongings, but as in America, leaving homes and possessions behind often meant finding squatters in them and their furniture missing upon their return.
What's more, in 1944 President Roosevelt ordered the internment camps closed in the United States, but Kogawa's family and other Japanese interned in Canada were not allowed to leave their camps until 1949.
I had mixed feelings about this novel. The content was worthy of 5 stars. I really enjoyed learning about the fate of Canadians of Japanese descent during World War II. From family letters, newspaper clippings and other research, Kogawa presents a clear picture of this part of Canadian history. I did feel that the outspokenness of the female characters felt more in line with the year the book was written, rather than the 1940's.. Also, from a literary standpoint, the novel often felt disjointed and the characters distant. Because of the latter problems, I can only give this book 3 1/2 stars. Even so, it is definitely worth reading....more
William Shirer was an American journalist who wrote and broadcast from Berlin from 1934 through 1940. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is a masterWilliam Shirer was an American journalist who wrote and broadcast from Berlin from 1934 through 1940. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is a masterful chronicle of Hitler's rise to power, and his ultimate demise. Because Shirer was in a unique position to document the events leading up to German's march through Europe and the world war that unfolded, there is a wealth of information in this very large book.
For the most part, I found this book utterly fascinating. Some parts were less interesting to me than others, but when Shirer captured my interest, I was totally engrossed. Some areas of note:
The Beer Hall Putsch - As Hitler founded his Nazi party, he sought to control the German government through force. This began with an attempt to kidnap three Munich officials in an attempt to overthrow the government there. It failed, but it is amazing to me that this event, which happened in 1923, didn't prevent Hitler from succeeding later.
Social Changes in Germany - The emphasis on indoctrinating the nation's children was particularly successful. From the schools to children's civic/athletic organizations, Hitler's agenda was fulfilled because by the time Germany went to war, these children were now young adults who supported his ideology and filled out the military. Shirer commented that Germany's young soldiers were fit and healthy due to the years these young men had spent in the Hitler Youth programs, whereas the first British POWs were pallid youths, having lacked exercise and good nutrition. It make you wonder what a drafted American force would look like today, given a youth culture of couch potatoes and fast food.
Religion - At first, there was a split among religious officials about Hitler's ideology. Eventually, more and more of the religious spoke out against the Nazis and then Hitler sought to replace the various Christian sects with his own, state-run religion. Replacing the Bible with Mein Kampf seemed like something out of a fantasy novel, but it really did happen. I suppose at that point the Nazis were so powerful that most people didn't dare speak out.
Political Power - When Hitler came to power, small business played as large a role as large business in the German economy. Hitler passed a law stating that all businesses needed a large cash reserve in order to have permission to operate, thus forcing nearly all small businesses to close. Shirer explained how this allowed large businesses to operate without competition and simultaneously gave Hitler concentrated power. I found this particularly interesting given the political climate in the United States today, where small businesses are being regulated out of the marketplace.
Invasion - Hitler's methods of invading and annexing neighboring territories was truly imaginative. When he moved into the Rhineland and the Sudentenland (part of the Czech region), he claimed the areas were full of Germans who wanted to be part of their homeland. What was Britain and France's response? They basically said, okay, but promise that Germany will stay out of the rest of Czechoslovakia. So Hitler annexed Austria and then he invaded Czechoslovakia. And still the rest of Europe thought they could stop Hitler through diplomacy. Then came the invasion of Poland. Hitler had German soldiers dress up as Polish military and stage an attack. Using the excuse that Poland attacked first, the German army conquered Poland in only 18 days. Hitler counted on the fact that the war-weary Europe wouldn't lift a finger to stop him. And he was right. I have a feeling this still holds true today. Do the leaders of Iran or North Korea or Russia or China subscribe to this same view? Probably.
The Pact with Stalin - According to Shirer, Stalin never did trust Hitler. Stalin claimed to sign the non-aggression pact only to buy time for the Soviet Union to arm and prepare their western defenses. Of course that could just be bravado to excuse the agreement. It is clear that Stalin took advantage of the pact to assert territorial rights over the Baltic states, which angered Hitler. It makes one wonder if Hitler would have invaded the Soviet Union if Stalin hadn't asserted his hegemony.
There were many more areas of interest in this book, but I think you get the idea. It's well worth the read. 4 1/2 stars....more
When Adam Makos was a kid, he was fascinated with World War II stories. He especially loved the stories of American pilots and eventually he made it hWhen Adam Makos was a kid, he was fascinated with World War II stories. He especially loved the stories of American pilots and eventually he made it his mission to interview as many of these brave men as he could to preserve their stories for the rest of us. You can imagine how much he looked forward to interviewing Second Lieutenant Charlie Brown, whose heroics included flying a nearly destroyed B-17 bomber out of heavily defended German territory all the way back to Britain. When he sat down to talk to Mr. Brown, Charlie told him he wouldn't do the interview until the author first interviewed German fighter pilot Franz Stiegler for his side of the story regarding that same B-17 bomber. The author admits he was taken aback, because he was never interested in hearing "the enemy's" story. But he really wanted Charlie's story, so he sought out Franz Stiegler. This book is the culmination of the interviews of both men. Their story is not just one of heroics or duty. Their story is one that stands higher than that - it is about preserving humanity in the midst of war.
I can't recommend this book enough. The stories of both of these men is important and heartwarming and it will make you cry. But I think you will find, like I did, that it is a fantastic story that can change your perspective on war. And while most of us aren't on one side of a violent conflict, the idea that our value lies in our humanity, is one we can employ in our daily lives. Wonderful book!...more
This work of historical fiction centers around the Hungarian Gold Train, discovered by allied forces at the end of World War II. Jack Wiseman, an AmerThis work of historical fiction centers around the Hungarian Gold Train, discovered by allied forces at the end of World War II. Jack Wiseman, an American army officer from New York, is charged with protecting the treasure trove found on board this train - 42 cars full of furs, china, jewelry, silver and other valuables belonging to Hungarian Jews. Wiseman is torn between his sense of duty to his country and the duty he feels obligated to because of his Jewish background. Eventually, the story focuses on one pendant, which a now elderly Wiseman entrusts to his granddaughter, Natalie Stein. The mission: find it's owner.
Waldman weaves a mystery of intertwining lives amid war and holocaust. It's a fascinating read and I enjoyed learning about the Hungarian Gold Train. My only complaint is when the author switches points of view halfway through the novel. I did not enjoy the narrative told by the psychiatrist nearly as much as the earlier chapters. Still, it was worth reading, in my opinion. 3 1/2 stars....more
Set during World War II in Brittany, Anthony Doerr's Pulitzer Prize winner is a gem of a novel, relating the tale of two young protagonists who fightSet during World War II in Brittany, Anthony Doerr's Pulitzer Prize winner is a gem of a novel, relating the tale of two young protagonists who fight for survival.
Marie-Laure is a twelve year old blind girl who leaves Paris with her father to the coastal town of St. Malo. Surrounded by a caring community and an anxiety ridden great-uncle, the girl is the recipient of many kindnesses (ie, light). Her father lovingly crafts a model of the town to help her "see," and she also received a large braille version of Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea which helps her escape from her war-torn reality. Even her Uncle faces his fears in order to protect her, when Marie's father is arrested.
In Germany, an orphaned boy (Werner) also has moments of light. As a young boy, he becomes fascinated with science as a result of radio broadcasts from France. He desperately wants to escape a life in the mines, and is able to when his scientific aptitude sends him to a special school for Hitler Youth. Eventually he is sent to war and Werner realizes that everything he was taught at the school was wrong. That the bravest among his classmates was not among the boys who did as they were told, but those who dared to resist.
I loved the metaphors throughout this novel, and the connection that Werner and Marie-Laure share. Beautifully written!...more
Susan Vreeland is an American author who incorporates her passion for art into her novels. With Lisette's List, we are transported to Provence duringSusan Vreeland is an American author who incorporates her passion for art into her novels. With Lisette's List, we are transported to Provence during World War II, where Lisette and her husband arrive from Paris in order to care for her husband's aging grandfather, Pascal. In his younger days, Pascal knew the great artists Pissarro and Cezanne, and in exchange for frames he crafted, collected seven works of art. During his last days, Pascal shared his stories about the paintings and the artists with Lisette, and asked her to keep both in safekeeping.
I had notions when I first picked up this book, that the main character would be something of a Rose Valland - the famous assistant at the Jeu de Paume museum who, by carefully noting all the paintings the Nazis were stealing, helped France to retrieve their great art collection after the war. While nothing as grand and dangerous as Valland's escapades, Lisette did seek to retrieve Pascal's collection which disappeared during the war. And Lisette's List, was not a list of paintings, but rather a list of life goals that she set out achieve.
I enjoyed this novel, as I do most of Vreeland's works, but it was a little slow to start, and the background of the war and it's consequences to the characters, felt less important to the story than the art itself. And yet it was a very important part of the story and should have been fleshed out more....more
Set in Australia and Thailand during World War II, The Narrow Road to the Deep North tells the tale of survival of the human spirit, and the narrow liSet in Australia and Thailand during World War II, The Narrow Road to the Deep North tells the tale of survival of the human spirit, and the narrow line between virtue and inhumanity.
This is a wonderful book club book. There are many themes worthy of discussion in Flanagan's work; and despite the tragedy of the Thai-Burma Death Railway, the author deftly keeps the reader from getting too close to his subjects. This was a good thing for me because it would have been heartbreaking if he had. There is also another purpose for the distance - the understanding that you don't really know the people you think you know.
One of the main story lines is between Dorrigo Evans, an Australian officer, and Major Nakamura, who is a commander of the POW camp where Evans is held. Threaded in the gripping story of human cruelty and war, Richard Flanagan explores the human spirit and the different ways in which virtue is recognized and achieved.
I appreciated this novel for the history presented of the Japanese POW camp and the Thai-Burma Death Railway. The author's writing is beautiful, and there are an abundance of quotes that linger in memory. I also enjoyed the examination of various themes, but my one big complaint was that the book never really came together in the end. I suppose that was intentional. Is there a point to war after all? Can something good and purposeful come out of it? Can humans truly rise above themselves and be more than they (or you) know them to be? I like endings that come together with one big "Aha!" moment. This one didn't, and that was sad and disappointing. But maybe that's the point. 4 1/2 stars....more