I decided it was finally time to check out McEwan's critically acclaimed 2001 book that was turned into an Oscar-winning 2007 film starring Keira KnigI decided it was finally time to check out McEwan's critically acclaimed 2001 book that was turned into an Oscar-winning 2007 film starring Keira Knightley and James McAvoy. The book and the film are remarkably similar in telling the story seen through the eyes of 13-year-old Briony Tallis. It's the summer of 1935 and Briony has just completed a script for a play she wants her cousins to help her put on for the arrival of her older brother Leon. During the preparations, Briony misconstrues events that take place between her sister Cecilia and neighbor Robbie Turner, leading to the act for which she seeks atonement.
This is one of those bittersweet love stories that's complicated and tragically poignant, and total crack for me. Some of my favorite novels (Anna Karenina, The Thorn Birds, Wuthering Heights) are similarly harrowing. If you like that sort of thing, then you'll love this. While I need a healthy dose of rosy happy ending romances to keep my generally positive world view in tact, I can't turn down a story about ill-fated lovers and this one is remarkably restrained, making the unfortunate fate of the lovers even more affecting. This one is definitely worth checking out....more
At first I wondered if this one girls' journal of hiding in an attic during the Holocaust had become so famous mostly because of the story surroundingAt first I wondered if this one girls' journal of hiding in an attic during the Holocaust had become so famous mostly because of the story surrounding it, but now I understand why this particular journal has become so well known. Anne goes from being a spoiled 12-year-old child, to a bratty teenager who nevertheless manages to complain about her annex-mates in a very witty way, to a girl experiencing her first infatuation to an introspective self aware girl hoping, dreaming, and planning for her future. Although edited, it's clear Anne paid much attention to those imprisoned with her and paints a surprisingly clear portrait of them and their life in hiding. While few details are given, it's still sad to hear why the diary stopped and how most of the lives discussed in the diary ended. Now that I've read it, it's obvious why Anne's clear voice has remained so popular in describing the tribulations of the Holocaust. Not as graphic as stories of concentration camp survivors, but just as important in describing the senseless deprivations of this cruel period....more
I had really high hopes going into this one and while that meant I wasn't surprised by this one, I was still blown away by it & I'm so glad it's bI had really high hopes going into this one and while that meant I wasn't surprised by this one, I was still blown away by it & I'm so glad it's being turned into a movie, even though the movie is almost never as good as the book.
The story, in brief is narrated by Death and tells of Liesel Meminger, a girl growing up in Nazi Germany at the beginning of WWII, a time and place where Death was quite busy. The war also begins a new chapter for Liesel as she's deposited with a foster family near Munich shortly after the death of her little brother and shortly before her mother disappears entirely. On Himmel Street with her new family Liesel learns many lessons, including how to read, from her foster father and how to steal, from her best friend Rudy.
As the war continues it's effects are increasingly felt by the poor inhabitants of Himmel Street who are just trying to keep a little food in their stomachs and a roof over their heads. This is not a perspective we get often in novels about WWII.
I was totally surprised at which parts left me sobbing, but it seems crying is a common reaction to parts of this one. I'm still getting a little misty just thinking about it the day after I finished it....more
Despite the technical difficulties reading this one (I started with the audio version, which my 8-year-old iPod decided to skip through randomly untilDespite the technical difficulties reading this one (I started with the audio version, which my 8-year-old iPod decided to skip through randomly until it finally died, leaving me to browse the final 200 pages of the print version to find some of what I'd missed and see how it all ended), it was clear why I hear this book recommended so often. It does a lot of things well and therefore appeals to a wide audience.
Kavalier and Clay are two Jewish cousins living around New York City shortly before the start of WWII. Sam Klayman grew up in New Jersey and dreams of becoming of a comic book writer. Joe Kavalier has recently escaped from Nazi-controlled Prague and discovers that he can use his artistic talent to make Sam's dream come true and save up enough money to free the rest of his family from the Nazis. They become a successful creative duo. Joe meets a girl he'd like to settle down with. Sammy finds happiness in the possibility of lending his creative genius to Hollywood. Joe finally saves up enough money to bring his brother over from Europe, when suddenly everything changes, and the lives the cousins saw for themselves change drastically.
There's a lot of great backstory on the heydey of the comic book industry. I've been into WWII & Holocaust stories today, and the book didn't disappoint in that respect either. And yet it wasn't one of those historical novels where the details of history overshadowed the plot. It was just a plain old good story, whether it was rooted in historical facts or not....more
Eagerly awaiting for the sequel to the charming story of Cedar Rapids in the 1930s, I couldn't wait to see what happened to Joe Vesely as World War IIEagerly awaiting for the sequel to the charming story of Cedar Rapids in the 1930s, I couldn't wait to see what happened to Joe Vesely as World War II loomed. Instead, the story is about Sana Toledo, an Algerian immigrant who graduates in Joe's high school class. The story of her childhood is even more tragic than Joe's story of an alcoholic mother during the desperate years of the Depression. Raped by her cruel uncles, Sana has been sent to live with her childless aunt and uncle in order to help them with their store, now that she is ineligible for a respectable marriage. Eventually she escapes and years later runs into Joe Vesely, the one boy who was nice to her in high school, on the battlefields of North Africa during World War II. During the savagery of war, can their love for each other and their devotion to God survive.
If you haven't read Found on 16th Avenue, there's no reason to pick this one up. Part of the charm of Roth's first book were the accurate descriptions of 1930s Cedar Rapids. You miss out on that this time through with most of the action taking place in North Africa. But if you want to see what happens to Joe Vesely when he grows up, My Portion Forever mostly satisfies that need....more
This is like the American Girl books all grown up. Two best friends in WWII do all they can to help Britain defeat the Nazis. One is a pilot in the ciThis is like the American Girl books all grown up. Two best friends in WWII do all they can to help Britain defeat the Nazis. One is a pilot in the civilian reserves, not allowed to be a fighter pilot because she's a woman. Another is a wireless operator and a spy. The story begins as her confession to her German captors of all she knows of England's war efforts.
The story starts slowly as Agent Verity tries to buy time by telling her pilot friend's story, dragging out her written confession as long as possible before she gets to the really sensitive information, so if you're not into historical fiction, it may be hard to get through the beginning. However, this is a story that rewards patience, and a lot is revealed piece by piece as the story of these girls' friendship and their role in the war is slowly unraveled. Some of this was because of my very pregnant (and therefore hormonal) state, but I bawled through the last several chapters as the story came to its wrenching conclusion.
The reason it feels a little like an American Girl book is that Wein clearly did research about how females were allowed to help the war effort in the 1940s and is eager to show it off. That isn't a bad thing, though, it only makes it hit home just how hard these girls' lives were, and how dangerous WWII was for everyone in Europe, not just those fighting on the front lines.
While the historical details are great, too, this book really worked for me as a story of friendship put to the test and the hard choices that are presented to people in the time of war. Definitely worth checking out....more
Lately, it seems like the only romances I read are what I like to call "church lady romances". Basically they can have steamy sex scenes, but those onLately, it seems like the only romances I read are what I like to call "church lady romances". Basically they can have steamy sex scenes, but those only happen after the hero and heroine get married. In order to have a good story, this means that the main characters usually get married at the beginning of the story for reasons other than romantic love.
In this case ex-con Will Parker is desperate for a job and a home on the eve of WWII. When Crazy Elly Dinsmore advertises for a husband, Will sees the potential in her long-neglected farm. Through helping Elly take care of her children and working with her to fix up her dilapidated farm, Will quickly learns to love her, and eventually this woman who's lived a similarly friendless existence learns to love him too. I should also mention that the next most important character in the book after Will and Elly is the town librarian, an old-school shusher and advocate of free access to information who befriends Will and eventually Elly, easing their transition to rejoin the community of Whitmore, Georgia as upstanding citizens.
The really rewarding thing about this story is that for characters who have had lives so deprived of unconditional love, Elly and Will are so willing to love each other without exception. On the other hand, because so much of the story focuses on the long emotional journey of getting these two to belief that another person could love them, the plot is pretty slow. There's a little suspense in the last hundred or so pages, but you're really going to pick this one up if you want an emotionally rewarding story from a simpler time....more
I've wanted to read this book since shortly after it came out because it was advertised as a great new sci-fi title, but I think that's a real disservI've wanted to read this book since shortly after it came out because it was advertised as a great new sci-fi title, but I think that's a real disservice to the book because if you know Philip Roth's other books, you know he's not a sci-fi writer, and, aside from the alternate history aspect, this doesn't feel like a sci-fi book.
The Plot Against America reads like historical fiction detailing the life of the Roth family in Newark, New Jersey in the early '40s from the perspective of the younger son, Philip (the autobiographical connections are obvious), with the one big difference that Nazi-sympathizer Charles Lindbergh runs against FDR for President in 1940 and wins. Reading the story of what follows gave me the same feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach that I get watching the early scenes of Schindler's List when the Jews are forced to relocate to the ghetto, but they're still alive. Nobody knows exactly what to expect, but it's clearly not good. The Jews of Newark live in the same sense of fear when they realize that the President of the United States no longer has their best interests at heart. For that reason this is a hard, but very worthwhile, read.
My biggest problem with this book that the ending left me vaguely unfilled as the resolution and it's possible explanations aren't as well constructed as the rest of the story. Still, on the whole, this is a well-written book that will definitely appeal to World War II fiction fans, historical fiction fans, and probably many more....more
I can't decide if I dislike this one or grudgingly love it. Felix is a young Jewish boy in 1942 who has spent the last few years hiding in a remote CaI can't decide if I dislike this one or grudgingly love it. Felix is a young Jewish boy in 1942 who has spent the last few years hiding in a remote Catholic orphanage, sheltered from the events of World War II going on around him. When Nazi's come to the orphanage to burn all the Jewish books, Felix decides it's up to him to save his parents - Jewish booksellers - from having their store destroyed by the Nazis, not having any idea that losing their books is the least of his parents' worries.
The original conceit means most of the book has an Amelia Bedelia meets the Holocaust feel to it, as Felix makes wrong assumption after wrong assumption and unknowingly nearly gets himself killed several times, which is just a little too heartbreaking and wrong feeling. On the other hand, as the truth of the events going on around him begins to dawn on Felix my heart went out to this poor boy who's just beginning to realize that his parents may already be dead. At first I thought he was just foolish, but even after he begins to comprehend the truth, he's still willing to take big risks to protect those he cares about.
This was a really emotionally challenging read for me, probably partly because I did most of the book in one long stretch, so I'm still on the fence about whether I'll read the rest of the series. I think most of the reason I struggled with it, though, is because I'm an adult and instantly knew how wrong Felix's assumptions were. Kids, especially younger kids who haven't learned a ton about the Holocaust yet, may draw the same conclusions as Felix and take the same emotional journey he does....more
This slim volume lays out the stories of several of Anne Frank's classmates at the Jewish Lyceum, including the author. Their stories are quite variedThis slim volume lays out the stories of several of Anne Frank's classmates at the Jewish Lyceum, including the author. Their stories are quite varied, from the author who managed to hide in plain sight, to a girl who ended up in the concentration camps before Anne's family and reunited with her briefly at Bergen-Belsen. A good supplement to any unit on the Holocaust and teaching Anne Frank's famous diary, this volume fills in the gap of what happens after a hiding family is discovered, or what happens after the war, when state-sanctioned racism is no longer the law of the land, when so many of your friends and family have been killed, and your home doesn't look like it did before the War. It also brings up the important point that survivors of the Holocaust are growing old and will soon be only read about in history books, so Coster hopes that putting down his story and those of his classmates will prove to the world that this terrible atrocity really did happen, so that it will never happen again....more
Not as poetic as Elie Wiesel's Night, but still an amazing account of a Holocaust survivor and his drive to not only survive but thrive when he comesNot as poetic as Elie Wiesel's Night, but still an amazing account of a Holocaust survivor and his drive to not only survive but thrive when he comes to America after World War II.
This one is definitely written for students, so some of the explanations are a little repetitive, but the audio is really wonderful with Lesser reading the opening and closing sections and actor Jonathan Silverman reading the rest. This is a thorough and well-produced affair....more
Really solid look at the history of atomic weapons, and since it's written for young adults it's not too long. The narrative style also keeps it niceReally solid look at the history of atomic weapons, and since it's written for young adults it's not too long. The narrative style also keeps it nice and suspenseful as we learn a lot about mid-20th century espionage.
The only disappointing thing to me was as a fan of the show Manhattan, you learn just how much the show plays fast and loose with history and science....more