A powerful story about one of the often-neglected areas of WWII, Stalin's brutalization of the Baltic states and Eastern Europe. The atrocities commit...moreA powerful story about one of the often-neglected areas of WWII, Stalin's brutalization of the Baltic states and Eastern Europe. The atrocities committed under Stalin are too often lost in the shadow of the Holocaust (in US survey history courses, at least--we still have a tendency to try to justify the fact we were allied with him), so I'm glad for this book and the reminder it serves. It's written in first person, in a simple, declarative style; for the most part it works, but not always. The narrator, Lina, often sounds too young even for a 15/16-year-old; a lot of her figures of speech are childish and clumsy. Towards the end of the book the author resorts to telling, not showing, and a lot of the plot points feel rushed and skimped as a result. (view spoiler)[For example: what happened to Kretzky? Are we supposed to assume he deserted? Where exactly did he go, if so? (hide spoiler)] The end itself came all at once; I could have done with a bit more resolution. But all-in-all this was a strong debut effort, full of likable and well-rounded characters, faithful to the grimness of its setting without being hopeless.(less)
Unfortunately this one didn't quite live up to my expectations. Too much telling rather than showing, and a lot of heavy-handed moralizing. None of th...moreUnfortunately this one didn't quite live up to my expectations. Too much telling rather than showing, and a lot of heavy-handed moralizing. None of the characters are likable or have any depth. The narration is much too simplistic and childish, which makes the handling of the very mature themes clumsy and ineffective. Disappointing.(less)
Wavered on the star rating for this one, but I'll go with four stars, since it was the reading experience and not the book itself I had trouble with....moreWavered on the star rating for this one, but I'll go with four stars, since it was the reading experience and not the book itself I had trouble with. I read it as an ebook, and it just didn't translate well to electronic format: too many photos and maps, and long stretches of italic text that I found strenuous to read. (The print edition sets these off as block-quotes, which I'd have much preferred.)
It's a fascinating read. The editors do a remarkable job taking the raw material and streamlining it into coherence, considering how much of it began as spur-of-the-moment reflections jotted hastily into a notebook. Grossman doesn't attempt to paint a complete picture of the Soviet war effort. He's concerned, rather, with the lives of the men on the ground. His--and the everyday Soviet soldier's--experience is related in snapshots, vignettes, one- or two-sentence snippets, with no attempt at whitewashing or sanitizing or even reconciling contradictions. Grossman simply tells it as it is. He's determined to keep the "ruthless truth" of the war free of "ideological and artistic" convention, and he succeeds.(less)
A powerful case for the argument that racism played as big a role in the Pacific theater as it did in the European, but Dower devotes more of his reso...moreA powerful case for the argument that racism played as big a role in the Pacific theater as it did in the European, but Dower devotes more of his resources to detailing American racism, leaving the Japanese sections more vaguely sketched out (we never get the perspective of the men on the ground as we do with the Americans). This may be because he's got to overcome the preconceptions of his primary readership (i.e., most Americans think of WWII as "the good war"), but it makes his argument seem a bit lopsided.(less)
Two and a half stars. I liked it more than I thought I would; I was afraid the characters would be too obviously modern teens written into a WWII stor...moreTwo and a half stars. I liked it more than I thought I would; I was afraid the characters would be too obviously modern teens written into a WWII story, and for the most part that wasn't the case. There were some nice period details. But the plot felt thin and disjointed (more on that in a moment), predictable in places, lacking closure in others. The love triangle felt forced, shoehorned in to meet YA genre conventions; Adele conveniently forgets about Pierre when Robbie's around, and vice-versa, never experiencing any real conflict in her feelings. (view spoiler)[The whole train-blowing sequence was lifted directly from The Longest Day, down to the smallest detail. Not sure if it was intended as an homage, but the scene itself was random and pointless in the greater context of the story. I feel it would have made for a tighter storyline if the focus had remained solely on the sabotaging of the factory. (hide spoiler)](less)
It's entirely possible that my star rating will change once I've had time to properly digest the book. Right now it's a solid four stars. I'll be trut...moreIt's entirely possible that my star rating will change once I've had time to properly digest the book. Right now it's a solid four stars. I'll be truthful--ha!--and say it didn't shake me to the core the way I was expecting. Well-written? Very much so. (The description of Maddie's flight over Northumbria, early on in the book, is such a gorgeous, loving ode to English heritage and history that I nearly teared up then.) The research is meticulous. (view spoiler)[But to tell nearly the entire story in Julia's words, and then to switch hastily to Maddie's perspective--honestly, I did suspect Maddie was alive; that's not what jolted me. But switching suddenly to her perspective blunted some of the emotional impact, especially because her view of Julia and Julia's view of herself never seemed quite reconciled. (hide spoiler)]
In the end, I did really like it. It just wasn't as searing as I expected--possibly because I had built up my expectations so.