‘Laying there on our bed is Jeremiah’s work shirt where I left it, the map unfolded beside it. And then like a hornets’ nest in the hot dust that you‘Laying there on our bed is Jeremiah’s work shirt where I left it, the map unfolded beside it. And then like a hornets’ nest in the hot dust that you almost don’t see until it’s too late, but once you have, you can’t not see it for the buzzing in and out of the crack in the dirt crust, the idea of it just comes to me.’
It’s 1862, and the country is in the midst of the Civil War that goes on for another 3 years. Jeremiah Wakefield, a New Yorker, has dreams of someday owning his own farm and being able to take care of Rosetta and their future family and the Army’s enlistment bonus would be exactly what he needs to do that. Rosetta is a tomboy and helps out on her fathers farm but when she finds out that Jeremiah is leaving her for the war, she insists that if he’s intent on going off to war that he’s going to marry her first. They end up marrying and Jeremiah leaves shortly afterwards. Rosetta finds that life just isn’t the same with him gone and sitting alone in their house day in and day out worried about his safety is more than she can take. So she chops off her hair and enlists in her husband’s unit as “Ross Stone”.
Rosetta was the most incredibly memorable and courageous character. I Shall Be Near to You showcases one woman of this time period that defied gender expectations but Rosetta was not the only woman out there fighting alongside husbands, brothers, or fathers. In the Author’s Note, McCabe states that "...the fictional Rosetta’s experience as a soldier is an amalgamation of the experiences of the more than two hundred women who are known to have enlisted [...]". It’s an aspect of war, not just during the Civil War either, that is not often explored and it was so fantastic to read this beautifully written story bringing these women’s stories to life, women who put their lives on the line when they didn’t have to.
McCabe’s time spent researching this period is evident from her descriptions of the camp sites set up, to the foods, and of the deep seated feeling of dread these men (and women) were experiencing when marching into battle. Rosetta’s sacrifice and dedication to her husband is truly inspirational and you’ll be hard pressed to forget their ardent love story. Skillfully constructed and masterfully executed, if you are a fan of historical fiction novels and especially Civil War centered novels, this is a must read. A most impressive debut novel, I eagerly await more from McCabe....more
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars I received this book free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or theMy rating: 3.5 of 5 stars I received this book free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
‘The box she had carefully constructed about herself would fall apart. And she didn’t know if she could bear standing out in the open, in the harsh wind, without the comforting warmth of those walls she had built to shut out everything she didn’t like or understand.’
In the early 1930′s, Hitler’s rise to power as the undisputed leader of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party continues. The country is in ruin after the financial crisis and the people were drawn to the promise of changes that Hitler vowed to make as soon as he’s elected Chancellor of Germany. He has up until now kept his true intentions for the Jewish people hidden under a thick coat of gloss, but the truth is starting to come out bit by bit. Gretchen Müller grew up knowing nothing but love for ‘Uncle Adolf’ after her father died preventing an assassination attack on Hitler. When new information is brought to her attention that her fathers death isn’t all as it appears, everything she has ever believed has to be reevaluated.
‘He had said his opponents were flung cross every corner of the city, barely discernible, like a spiderweb-until you tossed water on the gossamer net and there your opponents were, glistening like diamonds, brilliantly bright and unmistakable.’
Gretchen Müller’s beliefs in the National Socialist Party run deep, yet her father’s death hit her hard and she still misses him dearly. Her continued suffering over his loss manages to be the chink in her belief system and when a young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen approaches her about the possibility that his death was actually murder, everything in her life begins to crumble. The historical detailing was at times excessive but really manages to set the scene well. It’s clear that the time period was well-researched and it all felt authentic despite the obvious fictional additions. While I didn’t see the likelihood of a Jewish reporter taking the chance to approach Hitler’s ‘golden-girl’, I did feel that Gretchen’s change of mind as she uncovers more evidence of her fathers murder was genuine and believable.
The murder mystery was hands down the best part of this novel. There were scenes of gripping intensity when Gretchen and Daniel would creep through the shadows to uncover necessary information to expose her fathers murderer. The personal scenes between Gretchen and Hitler were chilling and while I have read many books regarding this time period, I had yet to read one where Hitler has a starring role, showing his disturbing nature clearly. Also frightening was Gretchen’s ghastly brother who shared many characteristics of Hitler himself. A warning to you animal lovers, there is a severely heartbreaking scene that I wish I was able to mentally prepare for.
My one disappointment was the romance. While I’m all for a good forbidden love story, and this one was certainly forbidden, I didn’t feel the feels unfortunately. Their love isn’t instantaneous, however, I felt we learned much more about Gretchen and not enough about Daniel to get properly attached to his character. Gretchen’s feelings regarding Daniel felt clunky and while I would normally expect this considering her ingrained beliefs towards Jews, it felt like her change of heart came far too quickly.(view spoiler)[Add in the fact that the ‘I love you’s’ came FAR too soon. (hide spoiler)]
The complete lack of interest in the romance managed to throw a wrench in the entire story for me but thankfully there was an incredibly interesting murder mystery for me to follow instead. Prisoner of Night and Fog is a fantastic look into the time period from the unaccustomed German perspective. Witnessing Hitler’s rise in power was especially disheartening as we all already know of what’s to come. The ending sets up the next book nicely and I’m interested to see how the author continues handling this historical time period.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Greta Wells is devastated after losing her twin brother FelMy rating: 4 of 5 stars Source: Library Checkout
'The impossible happens once to each of us.'
Greta Wells is devastated after losing her twin brother Felix to AIDS and after her long term partner Nathan also leaves her. Burdened by a deep depression that is slowly getting the better of her, she takes the advice of her Aunt Ruth and visists a doctor who recommends electroconvulsive therapy. Ironically, right before her first session she considers, "How I longed to live in any time but this one. It seemed cursed with sorrow and death."
The night following her first session she goes to sleep in 1985 and arises the next day in 1918. She wakes up as herself just under slightly different circumstances: her brother is alive and she is married to Nathan but is in love with a younger man named Leo. She discovers that her 1918 self is also undergoing electroconvulsive therapy and again, the night following her session she arises the next day in another time; this time in 1941. The cycle continues: 1985, 1918, 1941 and so on for 25 treatments.
"You’re all the same, you’re all Greta. You’re all trying to make things better, whatever that means to you. For you, it’s Felix you want to save. For another, it’s Nathan. For this one, it’s Leo she wants to resurrect. I understand. Don’t we all have someone we’d like to save from the wreckage?"
This is a time travel story, yet it's not really. It touches on the possibilities of past lives and how your actions resonate to future lives and reincarnations of a sort. Because while 1985 Greta is traveling to her past selves, these individuals she's 'taking over' for are also on the same adventure and they're all trying to correct past mistakes and secure their own happiness.
"Is there any greater pain to know what could be, and yet be powerless to make it be?"
The heart of the story is of course Greta, her lives, and the individuals she loves in these lives. It's a tale of romance and how each Greta found (and loved) Nathan but after experiencing each of these lives a wrench gets thrown into the works as she is forced to consider the possibility that he is not her one true love, that she's been blinded into repetition and is only resorting to what she knows.
While each life could easily showcase the historical detailing of the time, this is glazed over. In 1918, we have the flu epidemic and World War I is ending. In 1941, World War II is beginning. In 1985, we have the AIDS epidemic. While living in these time periods, Greta maintains a certain absence as if she's truly just a visitor and isn't quite experiencing the moments around her. For someone who said, "...not all lives are equal, that the time we live in affects the person we are, more than I had ever though" I really wished to see the transformation of her character due to her environment and the impacts her surroundings had on her as a person.
The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells is treated as a serious tale of time travel yet is rife with flaws in its design. A definite suspension of disbelief is required because of how truly 'Impossible' the story is. Despite this (and the crazy unraveling that occurred at the end), it all managed to still work. It would be easy to nitpick it to death but in all actuality, time travel is not an exact science and different variations are definitely possible and this was quite an original interpretation of it. The story of Greta Wells is an imaginative tale about past lives and the implausible impossibility of "what if"....more
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars A copy of The Girl You Left Behind was provided to me by Pamela Dorman Books for review purposes. ____________________________My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars A copy of The Girl You Left Behind was provided to me by Pamela Dorman Books for review purposes. ______________________________
"Once it is done, it cannot be undone."
1916 In the midst of WWI, a small French town is overtaken by the Germans and Sophie and her sister Helene are forced to make the soldiers extravagant meals every night. When the portrait of Sophie that her husband painted of her catches the attention of the Kommandant, he begins showing her a kindness not afforded to any others. Sophie decides to take advantage of that kindness in hopes that she will be able to help free her husband from the ravages of the prison camp. For his help though, it will come at a steep cost.
'Sometimes life is a series of obstacles, a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes [...] it is simply a matter of blind faith.'
2006 Liv is still grieving for the husband she lost unexpectedly 4 years prior. She meets a man that she feels she could actually move on and be happy with only to find that he's been searching for a long lost painting that Liv's husband gave to her while on their honeymoon. He was hired to recover the painting when the descendants came forward when she was discovered as being stolen from the family during WWI. Liv begins researching information on the girl in the portrait in hopes to uncover the truth behind it's origins.
I'm a huge fan of dual narrative stories, especially when you have a wonderful mix of old with the new. This is perfect for fans of historical fiction and/or contemporary because you get both genres intertwined. I personally was a bigger fan of the 1916 storyline and all the aspects of WWI, plus I felt Sophie's story was simply a better written and riveting tale. Sophie's story was heartrending as war tales typically are. Liv's story was equally distressing but lacked a clear understanding why she was so adamant about keeping the portrait.
I picked up this story after being thoroughly enchanted by 'Me Before You' however, this is a vastly different type of tale with much more focus on the historical aspects. I would recommend this read to fans of Sarah Jio and Susanna Kearsley as both typically focus on dual narratives and/or the blending of past and present.
The Girl You Left Behind is the tale of two women, both surviving trying times, joined through decades by a remarkable portrait. A portrait that brings to light what's right and wrong and how there is oftentimes a middle ground, a grey area....more