All too few books about WW2 focus upon how the war impacted upon ordinary Germans. The central focus is instead on those discriminated against or theAll too few books about WW2 focus upon how the war impacted upon ordinary Germans. The central focus is instead on those discriminated against or the partisans, collaborators, spies, i.e. the people NOT like you or I. Here is a book that focuses on the anonymous, unsung participants of the war. Each one of us plays a role, has an effect, and leaves traces. I recommend this book because it speaks of the ordinary people's impact on history. And I am not talking about Hilde's dance with Erwin Rommel. For me, Rommel’s name was put in the title to flag our attention.
Historical events are mentioned so you can follow the flow of the war, but these are not the central point of the book. Instead the author is presenting here, in the guise of a book of historical fiction, the life of her mother Hilde, a German living in East Prussia, close to the then Polish border. Later she moves to Berlin, the Harz Mountains and Hildesheim. She marries and has five children. This is about her life before and through the war years. It is about her family and friends. Her husband, Karl, is a an officer in the German Army serving under the famed German field marshal Erwin Rommel, but it is Hilde who must remain in war-torn Germany. It is her life that is the central focus of this book. The book includes only a smattering of facts about Rommel, where he fought and his death by “suicide”, linked to the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. The book begins with the “suicide” and then jumps back in time. This may be confusing if you are not already aware of the facts surrounding his death; a bit more detail is added later. I wanted more about Rommel! He is known for his skillful command of desert warfare in the North African Campaign. He is regarded not only as a skilled commander but also a humane one. “He ignored orders to kill Jewish soldiers, civilians and captured commandos.” That is from Wiki; I had to know more since the book gave so little.
The author insists this is a book of historical fiction. So what is fact and what is fiction? There is no author’s note at the end to give clarification. Some of the time flips are confusing. (view spoiler)[ There is an episode in the beginning referring to a beer bottle used as a hot water bottle, followed by a bloody bath scene. What is all that about? Is a miscarriage hinted at? Is a love relationship hinted at? (hide spoiler)] Is this to increase suspense? Is this fact or is it fiction?
There is little humor. All books are improved by humor.
One word about the audiobook narration by Nancy Peterson: lovely! She sounds like Marlene Dietrich. One sees Hilde as a sweet, kind, loving, considerate person. I think she was, and I am referring to the author’s mother, not the fictional character. Actually I would have appreciated a teeny bit more about her shortcomings. Her behavior after the war, after the fifth birth when she totally let her house fall apart, did make her more real to me. I need to know not only about a person’s good characteristics but also the less admirable ones. This makes them human.
What this book does VERY well is show the life of an ordinary German mother during the war. That is reason enough to read this book, and I recommend it.
ETA: I cannot stop thinking about my star rating. I personally did NOT like this book. That isn't to say it is a bad book, but you have to be ready foETA: I cannot stop thinking about my star rating. I personally did NOT like this book. That isn't to say it is a bad book, but you have to be ready for a lot of gossip! I am changing my rating to one star because that is my personal response tot this book. Please read below for a more detailed explanation of the book's content.
While I listened to this audiobook narrated by Carole Boyd I pushed myself to go on. It was that disagreeable….until the end when I was happy I had stuck it out. This book is extremely gossipy. The narration exaggerates this to the point where I could hardly stand it. (Boyd’s French was well executed; I have to praise what I can!) Bertie's life WAS filled with gossip - slander and mistresses and gambling and immoral behavior. He was gossiped about constantly until his death when he was adored. You cannot write a biography of Edward VII, the son of Queen Victoria, without writing about the gossip too. The author’s writing contains tons of gossip, and the narrator is not really at fault when she whispers and draws out sentences, shrieking alternately. The content is gossip and she delivers it in a gossipy manner. But I didn't enjoy it. We are told gossip and then told that probably isn't even true. I was so annoyed I would exclaim, “Then do NOT tell us!” I am wrong because this is what people were saying and the biography should tell us all. The book is clearly very well researched, so I have to give it three stars. No, I didn't enjoy the reading experience, but that is due to my error in choosing an historical figure that would not be to my liking.
What is very interesting is what Edward VII achieved in his reign. He was a political force to contend with, despite the fact that he never gave up his adulterous behavior. The Entente Cordiale was to a large extent of his making.
An additional reason why I had trouble with this book is that Bertie was close-mouthed. He listened. He didn't talk. He never said what he thought so we cannot get inside his head. We can only watch what he does. Neither is this the author's fault.
The double standard of the Victorian Age is extremely evident in this book. This too annoyed ME!
I learned more about Queen Victoria, specifically what she did after the death of her beloved Albert. I highly recommend We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals, but it stops with his death and her role as Queen has to be followed to the end to really understand her. On the other hand Ridley's book does little to elucidate why Queen Victoria's personality; in this book there is no discussion of her youth.
If you don't want the emphasis on the gossipy tone of the book, I recommend reading the paper book over listening to the audiobook. I really hated much of the time spent with this audiobook, but in that it is so well researched I am giving it three stars. And the end was extremely interesting, there is history and facts of a more political nature, that is the years when he was king, and when he was free of Queen Victoria. ...more
If a book leaves me unmoved I don't even know what to say in a review. No, this wasn't terrible but it contains nothing exceptional. It is a long storIf a book leaves me unmoved I don't even know what to say in a review. No, this wasn't terrible but it contains nothing exceptional. It is a long story and only covers about twenty years of the main character's life. It is a coming-of-age story about an orphan with a clubfoot in Britain at the turn of the century. By the end he has figured out how he wants to live his life. Let me put it this way - appreciate the small ordinary things in life.
Philip, the main character, is terribly naive and he had no help from any parent so I ought to have felt more compassion for him - but I didn't. He makes such stupid choices. He seems totally blind in seeing the real character of people, and he cannot pick girls. The book goes on and on and on until he finally wakes up. The end I guessed half way through. It's cute. Don't get me wrong. I agree with what is being said but there is little to ponder and the message is so unremarkable.
Here are the topics covered: faith, art, bullying, boarding-schools, love, travel and choosing one's occupation. There is a lot about art, but it has the tone of art criticism. I personally don't want art dissected or analyzed to pieces. I want it to move me; if it does that I am satisfied. Only the discussion of the Spanish artist El Greco did I find a teeny bit interesting. Maybe you enjoy art criticism.... Numerous artists and authors are discussed. Why? Because Philip had a hard time choosing his occupation so he tries several – the clergy, accountant, artist, doctor. Guess where he ends up. (view spoiler)[His father had been a doctor. This I found a bit too simplistic. (hide spoiler)]
Steven Crossley narrated the audiobook. The women all sound the same. This can be excused by their all sharing a Kent dialect? The story's narrator and the men were fine, but extremely British. They are supposed to sound British so what can you expect?! No, I didn't love the narration, but it was OK, just as the book was OK.
Not bad, but in no way exceptional. Some interesting lines, but that is about it. How am I supposed to write a moving review if the book leaves me lukewarm?
After three chapters: Oh, this is one of those books I have to immediately tell others about, AS I read the book. I will say it right out - I love FranAfter three chapters: Oh, this is one of those books I have to immediately tell others about, AS I read the book. I will say it right out - I love France, more specifically Brittany. I am always blabbing about The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography from the Revolution to the First World War because it gives such a nuanced view of the land. It isn't one land and one people but many. Did you know that French people don't first of all see themselves as French but French of a particular region. Each region is so different. Money(in the past), language, foods, customs - all vary. You must ask, "Which area exactly are you speaking of?" Nothing is homogeneous about this country! Anyhow, my point is that this book about Chanel has all the ingredients of the named book and how it relates to the Chanel family, her paternal ancestors coming from Cévennes. The description of this area, the nature and the landscape is just so very beautiful. Then we told of the change from agrarian to urban life and industrialization. All is told as the background to the choices and decisions made by Gabrielle Chanel's paternal ancestors. You SEE how history shapes individual lives. This is exactly how I want history to be told, through its people. So...this is even better than Robb's book!
After the moving historical introduction the book moves on to her great grandfather, Joseph, and proceeds down to Gabrielle's own parents, Albert Chanel and Eugénie Jeanne Devolle, and herself and her four surviving siblings. Gabrielle was illegitimate; only later was her father coerced into marriage. Her mother dies when she is eleven. Her paternal aunts want nothing to do with her or her siblings, so the girls are pushed off into the cloister Aubazine. Her two brothers were sent to work as tenant farmers for their keep. Her father, well he never showed any interest and just disappeared, but no he probably didn't flee to America. Separated from her brothers, abandoned by her father, life in the cloister was stifling - a shock to a child who had always been on the move. Her father's occupation was an itinerant market trader. This is all very important if one is to understand why Chanel became who she was. Imagination and fantasy allowed her to escape reality. Stubbornness and protest were survival tools. This is all in only the first three chapters. I had to tell someone. I am loving this so MUCH! I hope I am not jinxing the book. Will it now go downhill?
No, I don't like the narration of the audiobook by Carole Boyd, She reads it too emotionally, but I knew I would have to ignore her reading style and focus on the author's words. Why can't narrators just read the lines in the book and and skip all the dramatics?!...more
What drew me to this book was a funny quote of Warren Buffet. It is found in this book: "(Gold) gets dug out of the ground in Africa or someplace. TheWhat drew me to this book was a funny quote of Warren Buffet. It is found in this book: "(Gold) gets dug out of the ground in Africa or someplace. Then we melt it down, dig another hole, bury it again and pay people to stand around guarding it. It has no utility. Anyone watching from Mars would be scratching their head."
That made me laugh. I didn’t laugh that much more.
I am glad I read the book. It draws a clear picture of what it really meant to take part in the Gold Rush. Who were these people? The poor, the wealthy or the middle class? Why did they go, and what was the state of the world that shoved them in this direction? All of this is clearly described. There were several ways of getting to California, all of them arduous. We follow several different people and how each of them got there. Some men and two women. LOTS of other people are quoted too. Earlier books documenting the Gold Rush in addition to diaries and letters are what form the basis for the story.
I had trouble with the way the book hopped around; you never fastened on any one person. Some of the people crossing the continent were going to California NOT for the gold, but rather to colonize California! Others traveled via Panama or Mexico, others around Cape Horn. Skipping around from individual to individual you don't really get close to any one person, and that is what I always look for in a book. The author did what he could though by adding an epilogue which explained what happened to five of the central characters AFTER the Gold Rush.
Once there in California, the book discusses how the gold was mined and how the mining changed with time - from single individuals to men working in teams with hydraulic hoses. There is little about how the gold was cashed in. Was it bought up at a government agency? What is discussed is how the miners spent it - gambling and boozing and the inflation of costs. And racism that revealed itself here too.
One thing bothered me from start to finish. What makes history are crises and calamities. At least to some extent there has to be an overload on the negatives. It was good that one of the women characters the book follows never regretted her choice. She left her children and traveled westward with her husband. Women were a scarce commodity in the West. She adored the dazzle of California, the independence it afforded and the wonderful possibility of making something out of nothing. Quick wealth was tantalizing, but never easy, as all soon found out. All sought success, monetary success. This woman finally returned to Maine since her daughter would not move.
Finally the author draws these early Californians and shows how they have shaped the character, the spirit of present day California. Maybe that is so. I don't know. Are they more entrepreneurial, rowdier and more cosmopolitan than other Americans? Are they more willing to take risks? I think ALL Americans are entrepreneurial, lovers of independence and equality, competitive and value financial success. Steve Jobs states one has to be willing to fight so hard, put yourself so far out on a limb that you may even fall off. To really succeed you have to be willing to even accept failure. A roller coaster career is the only real way to success. Anyhow, this discussion was interesting.
Parts were repetitive. I understood how dangerous it was - the many illnesses, the deluges and the deserts, the working conditions, the lack of food, the violence, the degree to which gold or no gold was pure luck. That is a huge psychological burden. It is just that the book returned to the same points over and over again, and I began wondering if a more positive view would have been given had the author chosen other letters to quote. But they are not so exciting, are they? No seriously, I would rather read about these people than search for gold myself!
I didn't like the narrator's (Bernard Setaro Clark's) exaggerated gruffness used for some of the men, particularly Israel Lord. Neither the author nor the narrator knew how he sounded, so please, let me imagine that. Other than the quotes, the narration was fine and it had a good speed. ...more
Oh man, the audiobook narration by Allen O'Reilly is NOT to my liking. He is reading it at such a clip I can barely keep up. After listening to a mereOh man, the audiobook narration by Allen O'Reilly is NOT to my liking. He is reading it at such a clip I can barely keep up. After listening to a mere half hour, I am completely out of breath. I need a gulp of fresh air. Keeping up with this speed is murder.
There is nothing wrong with the author's lines.
I will try to continue with interspersed pauses.
I continued to the end, and in fact I cannot stop now, I have to immediately pick up the next book in the series:Hemingway: The Paris Years! You are left hanging. Ernest and his new wife Hadley are off to Paris; they are on the boat. Just tell me how can I stop now?! I not only want to know about his experiences in the "City of Light" but also more about Gertrude Stein and the authors and painters of the Lost Generation.
This book covers his life through his first 22 years, i.e. his life before Paris.
I grew used to the narrator's fast reading. He continues; he narrates the next in the series. This doesn't deter me, though I cannot say I enjoy the speed.
What about the book's content? It doesn't blow me over either. I feel I understand Hemingway. I know now what he lived through. I know of his youth in Oak Park (a suburb of Chicago), Illinois, which is essential to his writing. He in fact never wrote about Oak Park, but the values imbibed certainly made him who he was. His WW1 experiences as a Red Cross ambulance driver in Italy are also covered. His relationships with his parents and siblings too. BUT, I never felt I got into his brain. I saw through his actions and decisions his personality traits.
In a nutshell - he invented himself. Don't believe what he says. Truth is bent. All the values of his youth were forever altered by the war, even if he was only on the front line for barely three weeks. He listened to others stories and could absorb them too. He took his own experiences and that of other and reinvented them in his fiction. In fact he had trouble separating fact from his invented fiction....
The writing style is similar to Hemingway's. Similar, but not the same and not as good. Short, abrupt sentences. Repetition of words, of phrases, for emphasis.
There is an immense amount of references to how this real event appears later in this form in this novel, a fictionalizing of his own experiences. I didn't like this, but many others may. Hemingway was clearly influenced by other writers. How he was influenced by these writers is thoroughly explained. What he read year by year is covered. Authors must learn from each other; they even copy a particular style. So this is all an explanation of how he came to be the author he became. I wanted to know more of what HE thought HE had to write. I learned an awful lot about what he copied..... Do you see what I mean when I say I didn't get into his head? Sometimes the author would interpret a given action or quote and tell us what it had to mean, and I didn't always agree.
2 stars MY REVIEW HAS BEEN REVISED AFTER COMPLETING THE BOOK
Reynolds' biography of Hemingway is more an analysis of what Hemingway has written than an2 stars MY REVIEW HAS BEEN REVISED AFTER COMPLETING THE BOOK
Reynolds' biography of Hemingway is more an analysis of what Hemingway has written than an examination of his inner soul. This book, the second in Reynold's series on Hemingway, covers only four years 1922-1926, predominantly set in Paris but also Spain, Italy,Turkey and Austria. In 1924 Hemingway began to receive acclaim. It covers his marriage to Hadley and his growing infatuation with Pauline, who will be his next wife. It covers the birth of his son. It covers his years as a reporter; he wrote both for The Toronto Star and for Hearst. He was in Turkey when the fire and catastrophe in Smyrna took place. As usual, he missed the real action but heard what others related. He observed and he listened. He was, as always, an observant listener. I found this coverage of historical event s more interesting than any other part of the book. Hemingway wanted to be a fiction writer, so that must be the main focus. The book covers primarily his friendship with those of the Lost Generation, those living in Paris in the 20s.
The main focus is what Hemingway wrote during this period. You have to be well aware of what he has written. A chapter can begin relating what one of his fictional characters is thinking or doing. This can be confusing; the reader must immediately recognize Hemingway’s fictional characters. This is further confused because the fictional characters are drawn from real ones. Just as Hemingway so often takes real events and fictionalizes them, so does this biography blend the two.
Being a literary analysis of his writing and his steps toward recognition, the book details the ins and outs of his writing and publishing contracts. Perhaps the book is best for those readers who are themselves budding authors, who are looking for guidelines on writing techniques. It shows what Hemingway learned from others.
The book is more a presentation of what Hemingway does than what he thinks. The reader observes his actions and the choices he makes. I still like Hemingway's writing but I do not admire him as a person. And none of this has to do with his despicable love of bullfighting. At least in the first book (The Young Hemingway) you are given an idea of why he was drawn to this barbaric practice. In the first book there is more discussion of what factors shaped Hemingway into the man he was. This second book focuses on how he became a writer. I like how Hemingway writes, but dissecting every paragraph, every line, every word in his books makes the Hemingway magic disappear.
I found neither Hemingway’s conversion to the Catholic faith or his changed feeling for Hadley well presented. I don’t understand how he was thinking, so neither can I empathize with him.
There is an awful lot of repetition within this second book AND from the previous book. The repetition is excessive. It quite simply drove me nuts.
You do learn a bit about Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas and Ezra Pound and F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sylvia Beach, known for her Paris bookstore/library Shakespeare and Company.
I will not be continuing this series. I do not like Reynold's focus or how he presents the facts. I get the impression he is trying to write with a style similar to Hemingway, only it fails. And the exceedingly rapid narration of the audiobook by Allen O'Reilly makes the reading experience even more unpleasant.
I have learned about Hemingway......I like him less. This is who he was. These are the things he did. These are the things he said. You can like an author's work but not the author himself! I am glad I know him better. With my increased awareness and dislike I remind myself that this book only covers four years of his entire life, but for now I have had enough of Hemingway!
While it does not provide new information, it recaptures the sense of the calamity that struck the nation and the world. It is definitely worth listening to, both for those who remember and those too young to remember....more