Too complicated. Too unclear. It is pretty meaningless to say that life is totally subjective.
I like Boyd's language.... even in this book. I like howToo complicated. Too unclear. It is pretty meaningless to say that life is totally subjective.
I like Boyd's language.... even in this book. I like how he creates people that draw your interest and how he throws in history and details about literature and music and tons of other topics too. These details are fascinating. But a book is also the story that is being told and the message that is being conveyed. Both completely failed me in this book. You get a very complicated spy story that is impossible to solve; and maybe the point is you are not even supposed to try. The ending is totally dissatisfying. This has nothing to do with needing a tight ending.
Narration by Roger May is fine. In fact the conversations between French, German and English speaking people are quite amusing, wonderfully delivered....more
While I was listening to this book, well narrated by Malcolm Hillgartner, I enjoyed it very much. That ought to mean four stars..... but as I thoughtWhile I was listening to this book, well narrated by Malcolm Hillgartner, I enjoyed it very much. That ought to mean four stars..... but as I thought about the book later I realized I had some reservations.
It was extremely interesting to learn about the life of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, assassinated at Sarajevo, the spark that ignited WW1. Learning about the troubles that already existed in the Balkans and the relationships between The Austrian-Hungarian Empire and the Russians was enlightening and thorough. Learning about Franz Ferdinand's morganatic marriage with his wife Sophie was eye-opening. I had never been acquainted with the concept of such a marriage. Wiki defines a morganatic marriage in this way: "In the context of royalty, a morganatic marriage is a marriage between people of unequal social rank, which prevents the passage of the husband's titles and privileges to the wife and any children born of the marriage." In this book you see in personal terms the suffering that such a marriage causes.
What we learn about the family is through letters that remain and through the known actions that were taken. The reader does not get a firsthand account of how the characters' thoughts, although you do clearly come to understand how they must have thought given their actions. Still one is not 100% sure.
There is a lot about the splendor of the royalty, about the food eaten the clothing worn and the manners of this class. Even Sophie was of a class that we today would consider posh, but she wasn't good enough for the Emperor's successor
The relationship between Franz Ferdinand and his uncle, Franz Joseph the Emperor, was icy, troubled and complicated. Again, all of this is shown through what each character did to the other, more than what they said to the other. The reader looks on. Somehow I never felt I was in the head of any one of the central characters.
The reason I have withdrawn a star or two, why I enjoyed the book but didn't love it, was this distance I always felt to the characters. I was being told through actions rather than feeling their emotions. In addition I feel the book presents Franz Ferdinand more favorably than is realistic. His positive characteristics are emphasized over his faults. Thirdly, there are questions that the reader has that are not adequately explained. For example, a definition of a morganatic marriage at the beginning of the book would have been helpful. Another instance is why the Nazi's put the couple's children in concentration camps. This could have been more clearly explained. Yeah, you figure it out, but it took me awhile and maybe I have not understood correctly. I wish this had been spelled out more clearly. And perhaps I simply enjoy reading more about the commoners than people of royal status. I just felt a bit uncomfortable with all the posh life style. And the hunting! The sport as it was viewed by Franz Ferdinand, is hard to stomach. But that is who he was and this is a book of non-fiction.
I learned a lot and the book makes you ponder what would have happened had he been killed at a hunting match before he could ever have been assassinated by the Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip! And who was behind his assassination? Austrians? All of this is fascinating. ...more
This is a four star book. Recently another GR friend rated this with three stars, and to be honest, I was flabbergasted. "HOW CAN YOU NOTNO SPOILERS!!
This is a four star book. Recently another GR friend rated this with three stars, and to be honest, I was flabbergasted. "HOW CAN YOU NOT BE MOVED BY THIS BOOK?" zinged through my head?! I will try and explain without giving spoilers. First of all, if you are the kind of person, like me, that highly values straight talk, and talk that does not shy away from ANY subject - sex, love, cruelty, motherhood, lying, corruption, guilt and survival - then this is a book for you. Edith will say "Now remember this....." to jolt you. She will say "Now maybe you are questioning how I could ....." and then she explains so clearly and so succinctly that what before seemed strange is know dazzingly obvious. The fantastic prose hits you from the first page. Then as you get to know Edith/Grete you are drawn into her moral dilemas, the choices she made. When I picked up this book, honestly, I had a completely different view of Edith. I was a bit disgusted at the thought of a Jewish woman who survived the holocaust by marrying a Nazi officer..... I thought she was self-centered. Well, she isn't. Not at all. She is a wonderful, kind person who suffered terribly during the war. Terribly. She never lost her integrity. Never. You get completely the wrong idea of Edith by reading that title. The title IS perfect, but you have to read the book to understand. This book is about people and how we all react differently when shit hits the fan. You come to empathize with Chrstl, Elisabeth, Pepi, Werner, Doctor Maria Nierderall, Klothilde, and I shouldn't stop here b/c the list goes on and on. Not all of these people acted admirably, but what they did you come to understand. That is why I used the word empathy! This book focuses on how people behave and why they behave as they do, not delivered as a lecture, but simply by throwing a spotlight on them. This is a book about the holocaust, but don't think it is devoid of humor. I promise you, people are just so unbelievably funny! What they come up with is utterly amaing and absurdly funny and wonderful! Another very interesting issue is what Edith did with her education as a lawyer/ judge. How it meandered AFTER the war. To tell you would be a spoiler, but it is a very interesting point. How other Jews and Germans have reacted to Edith after the war is also revealing. I could go on and on. Instead - read the book.
Through page 153: Most people do not have the courage to be kind. Most often kindness doesn't demand courage, but sometimes it does; and then who is strong enough, brave enough to jeopardize their own security for another human being? Such people are to be found on BOTH sides of any conflict. In this case, some were Nazis others were gentiles and others Jews. Finally, someone, a complete stranger, a Nazi, reaches out and helps Edith - with explicit, exact instructions, devoid of emotion.
"He turned away. The interview was over. I had never listened so hard to anything in my life. Every word was printed on my mind."
"He did not wish me luck. He did not ask for money. He did not say good-bye. I never saw him again."
"He saved my life."
With these words you see how this author expresses herself in telling her story.
Through page 147: I like this book very much. Look at Edith's chin on the front cover. Look at her eyes. Her chin shows her relentless will to get through this mess. Her eves hold something back. Her strength is visible, but it is at the same time cautious. She is back in Vienna and alone. In all senses. She doesn't know where she can sleep or where she will get her next meal. People who were close to her are gone. And those who remain, like her boyfriend? Well read her tale. I have noted many sections that I should quote, but it is terribly difficult to pick just one. They show that she is a person like all the rest of us simply trying to get through this mess, at the same time retaining an ounce of integrity. This book shows how many different people behave when put in a "tight spot". Or should I say when stamped on? Each behaves differently, some better than others, but the focus is on each idividual behavior. Unpretentious writing from start to finish. You can relate to her thoughts and experiences
Through page 23: I love this, absolutely love this book. Why? Well it is all in the ability of the author to write anchanting prose. Very simple, very down-to-earth and with humor. The following lines are from page 9:
"have you heard that the Russians are cannibals? Have you heard that they eat their young?"
"And do you believe that?"
I took a chance. "Some people do, sir. But I think if the russians ate their babies, there would not be so many Russians as there apparently are."
He Laughed. He had warm humorous and a gentle manner. He even reminded me a little of my grandfather.....
This is a memoir about a Jewish woman who survived WW2. How? By being the wife of a Nazi officer!
Before starting: I Will return to reading about Armenia, but first this since Maude and I want to read a book together. :0) So many have siad this must be read. And I always love memoirs....more
This book includes the two books Survival in Auschwitz and The Reawakening by Primo Levi. The American and European publications have employed differeThis book includes the two books Survival in Auschwitz and The Reawakening by Primo Levi. The American and European publications have employed different titles. The book ends with an excellent "Afterword". This too is written by the author. I recommend this edition.
This book is quite different from other holocaust books, by its very lack of emotion. It is a clear statement of what exactly happened to the author, both in the camp (If This is a Man) and afterwards on his travels home to Turin, Italy (The Truce). In the "Afterword" the author answers questions that readers have repeatedly asked. His answers are clear, concise and right to the point. This is a perfect ending to the book since you see how the author reasons after living through the experiences described. He knew exactly where he stood on every question. His wisdom impressed me....more
ETA: I changed this to two stars. For most of this book I struggled to keep turning the pages. I think it is wrong to judge an entire boNO SPOILERS!!!
ETA: I changed this to two stars. For most of this book I struggled to keep turning the pages. I think it is wrong to judge an entire book by the last 100 pages. Back to two stars, which reflects my feeling for the majority of the book. ********************************************* On completion: So how can I complain so much about a book and then give it 3 stars? (See ETA!) The answer is simple, this is how I felt when I finished the book. I have been discussing this book with Amy Henry. I have a link to her review in the comments below. If you are considering whether to read this book, I suggest you look at our dicussion under her review. She is the one that kept me reading the book when I was about to dump it. I am glad I didn't.
The ending is tremendous. Starting with part three and WW2, then when the reader follows the collection to Japan and finally the brief conclusion of the book, these last 100 odd pages are wonderful. Absolutely. After reading this book i really am not interested in just looking at a netsuke, but also in holding one or several. They are meant to be held. They are not fragile. WW2 and its impact on the family was dramatic and engaging. The character study of the individuals was well done in the latter part of the book. Life in Japan immediately after the war was fascinating. Learning about Iggy and Jiro and the trip to Odessa, all of this drew me in. I loved the thoughts on what we keep secret and what we reveal. I loved how the author made the collection accessible to his own children so the stories about each figure could commence once again.
Can a little more than the last 100 pages save a book? I am giving it three stars, because by the end I liked it a lot. I had planned on two stars, but have bumped it up to three. The book offered too much interesting information to only give one star. Although it was interesting, much of the book was not engaging, and that is why I was planning on two stars.
Through page 207: Yes, the book has definitely improved. About halway through, when the collection was given to Victor and his wife, living in Vienna, that is when the collection of "objects" came to life. The children in the family came to play with them and invent stories about them. They stopped being things; they became part of the familily's life. Then WW1 came and history was drawn into this family's life. Yes, I like the book now, but it has taken too dam long to get to this point! I really didn't like Charles. For him the netsuke was merely a collection of valuable objects.
Through page 157: The book begins to offer what I am looking for when Charles gives the collection to his cousin Victor as a wedding gift. The collection moves to Vienna. Here, in Vienna, the reader gets to meet a family with women and children. You learn of the summers spent in Kövecses, Czechoslovakia. It is amusing because Patrick Leigh Fermor stays with them at the summer house. I have read enjoyed Fermor's book on his travels acroos Europe by foot. (See A Time of Gifts ).There is, as before, a lot of description, now about Vienna rather than Paris.The reader gets not just a description of the architecture of the buildings and the layout of the streets, but also the whole lifestyle and culture of these cities at the end of the 19th century. Of course, anti-Semitism is rife. The prose is filled with detailed historical facts. Be aware oif this when you pick up the book.
Through page 90: I am having serious trouble with this book. Yesterday, I decided to dump it. Today I decided I will continue. Let me explain why. This book, so far, is like reading a dry art history book. The author has decided to investigate everything related to the netsuke collection which he has inherited. Everything. The collection was purchased in Paris by his great uncle Charles. In fact, he bought it in one go, not peice by piece. He wanted the "collection". I wanted to discover the personalities and traits of the people involved in the story. More than that, I want to discover what makes each of these characters tick. What I have learned about Charles is that he is an art critic, an art collector and he knew all the right people, although his Jewish heritage is beginning to cause troble. He was great friends with many of Impressionism's artists - Renoir, Sisley, Pissaro, Monet, Degas and Manet... Yes, and others. However the reader is told who painted what and who had an exhibition in the Salon and that the back of Charle's head is to be found in that painting..... The author practically attempts to find every painting in the room where Charles kept the netsuke collection. He states where the given painting is now located. He brings one netsuke, the hare with amber eyes, with him on all these searchings to reunite it with the things that had all been together in Charles showroom. I found these chapters extremely dry.
On one occasion I felt the author delivered what I was looking for. Charles bought Manet's painting of a bundle of asparagus on a table. You will recognize the painting when it is shown in the book. What is amusing and interesting, because it states something about the personality of Manet, is when Manet comes to Charles with another painting. This painting he gives to Charles. It is one asparagus stalk, and his comment is this one fell out on the way. It was dropped. I am not quoting, That is the gist. This is fun. This says something about Manet, who he was as a person. This is the kind of information I am looking for. Such information is presented, but not often enough.
So then I went and read the review of a GR freind who has read this book. She says the book will tell me about the personalities of the people involved. She says the book is not about a collection of objects but about the people tied to this collection. This is why I chose to read the book. I have read about 1/3 of the book. I think this should have been made evident by now, but I am willing to give it another chance. I do not doubt my friend's views. Maybe she simply reacts differently than I do. Maybe I simply have not read enough. We all are different; obviously, given all the rave reviews of this book, others feel differently. Some people like dry history books. Some people don't mind if it takes many pages to really get into a book, to discover what it is about. I hope by continuing I will come to like this book.
I forgot to mention that Proust most likely based his character Charles Swann on ....guess who? That is right - Charles Ephrussi!
Through 51 pages: At the top of this box it says: "What do I think?" Well, I am curious to now more about Japanese art. I love how the Japanese people value the beauty of every day articles. They make everything one uses, from toothpicks to wrapped presents to grillwork at the base of a tree worth looking at, looking at carefully because it is so beautiful. Then I am also interested in this wealthy Jewish family. It starts with Charles Ephrussi (1849-1905), born in Odessa. This family is on a par with the famed Rothschild family. They lived in Odessa, Paris, Vienna, Japan.... Right off the bat, I am a bit disgusted with the dilettante life of Charles. It is he who began the collection. It is all a bit too poshy for me, but the author, the great nephew of Charles, also questions the extravagant lifestyle. I will have to see how I react to the family members, but I am interested in the places, the history and beauty of the netsuke themselves. Art is something that should be felt - holding a perfect bowl, rolling the netsuke figure in your hand. The netsuke were used in Japan as toggles to fasten a bag onto the sash of clothing. These were begun in the Edo era. They were teeny statues to be used daily, to have near your body, to be felt, touched and pulled, and they had to be beautiful. It is good that I am reading this as a paperback because you must continually look at the family tree at the front of the book. There are photos interspersed throughout. I suggest you look at Wikipedia to see how beautiful these netsukes are! What daily utensil in Japan isn't beautiful, or well designed? And I think the story will be become suspenseful when the collection must be hidden during WW2. A maid plays a large role, but I do not know more than that. I have just begun. I just hope I do not feel antipathy for the family members. I hope I don't get annoyed by the teeny font in the book.....
And I am now adding an excerpt to show you how this author writes and what I mean about the poshy lifestyle:
Before the netsuke comes a collection of thirty-three black-and-gold lacquer boxes. It was a collection to place with Charle's other collections in his apartment at the Hôtel Ephrussi, something to sit next to his burgundy Renaissance hangings and his pale Donatello sculpture in marble. Charles and Louise put his collection together from Sichel's chaotic house of treasures. It was a stellar group of seventeenth-century lacquers, as good as any in Europe: to choose them they must have been regular visitors to Sichel's. And very pleasing for me as a potter, alongside these lacquers,Charles also had a sixteenth-century stoneware covered jar from Bizen, the Japanese pottery village in which I studied when I was seventeen, excited to finally get my passionate hands on those simple tactile tea-bowls.
In "Les Lacques Japonaise au Trocadero", a long essay published in the "Gazette" in 1878, Charles describes the five or six vitrines full of lacquer on exhibition at the Trocadéro in Paris. This is his fullest writing about Japanese art. As elsewhere, he is in turn academic (he is exercised about dating) , descriptive and ultimately lyrical about what he sees in front of him. (page 51)
For my tastes, Charlie is annoyingly uppity, covetous and an art critic to boot! I personally have a hard time reading critical essays on art. Art should emotionally move the observer. I do not want to be told what to think. The author, who inherited the collection, is a potter. He too know that art is felt, seen and even heard individually, one person at a time. In a garden you see and smell and hear the "garden". All of one's senses create a picture. However, the author has set out to discover the path the netsuke collection has taken. Here is where we must begin. ...more
While I read this book I grappled with my lack of understanding. This is a book of historical fiction; I could not make up my mind if I wanted to learWhile I read this book I grappled with my lack of understanding. This is a book of historical fiction; I could not make up my mind if I wanted to learn the details about the life of Romani poet Papsuza (1910-1987), on which this book is loosely based, or whether I should just read the book for the delight of falling into the story. Only when I stopped trying to learn the factual details and let myself just plain enjoy the story did I enjoy the book. In the process I did learn very much about the Romani culture. I learned a bit about Papsuza too, but there are major differences between the main character in the novel, Zoli, and the real person Papsuza.
If I have any advice to give, it is to not demand complete understanding as you read this book. By the end you will understand. I was gripping after threads to master the subject. I was scared I would miss something and fail to understand. My advice: sit back, read the book, enjoy the sentences and do not worry if you do not understand everything. You will understand in the end. Many sentences can be interpreted in different ways. If you are looking for the truth, for the facts, you will surely be frustrated. I am giving this book four stars, because I love the writing. I love the message imparted by the book, and I did learned about Romani people, their hardships and lifestyle, with a focus on those living in Eastern Europe from the 30s through to the 21st Century.
This paragraph concerns the differences between Zoli’s life, the main character of this book and Papsuza. Papsuza was of Polish origin. Zoli was Slovakian. Romani women were not taught to read or write, but both Papsuza and Zoli could. However Zoli learned from her grandfather while Papsuza stole thing to trade them for lessons. The very biggest difference is that in real life Papsuza was interned in a mental institution and spent the end of her life, the last 34 years, all alone. McCann has changed that ending (view spoiler)[and has her marry a wonderful Italian man with whom she has a daughter (hide spoiler)].
I needed McCann’s ending. I am glad he changed it. This is not a book about one woman. It is about Eastern European Romani people and it is a book that poses philosophical questions. In the lines of the book you will find the statement: “Nothing is ever fully understood.” Zoli says this, and it is clearly evident in the whole way the book is written. Life is a constant struggle to understand, and so is the book. If you enjoy pondering philosophical issues and don’t mind the brain exercise necessary to figure out what is going on, then the book is for you. This is a central theme. Listen to what is said about Henri: ”He knew in advance all that is worth knowing.” This is not to be taken as a compliment. But then humor is thrown in: “I have gone through so many of them (boyfriends), maybe I should get an accountant.” Another theme that is returned to again and again is inferred in this sentence: “The river is not where it starts or it ends.” Sentences such as this are thrown at you. I say that river is life. You may interpret this differently.
In any case the writing is pure poetry – albeit free verse and unrhymed. Zoli speaks of gullible non-Romani: “You can make them swallow anything with enough sugar and tears. They will lick the tears and sugar and make of them a paste called sympathy.” Now cannot the Romani criticize us for once?! Or this: “Once I was guilty of thinking only good things happen. Then I was guilty of thinking they would never happen again. Now I wait and make no judgment. You ask me what I love....” Then the elderly Zoli names things so beautiful as fruit trees and walks, blue wool mittens, coffee, wind…..or a daughter’s first step.
Now I must mention what has bothered me. When I was stuck in the mode of trying to learn about the life of Papsuza, I was extremely annoyed about the confusion and lack of clear facts concerning the transition from the Fascist to Communist powers in Slovakia. I thought the sentences were not clear. I wanted more dates and clear facts. I thought I would not understand history! But the message of how the Romani people suffered and how their lives were lived does become clear without excessive dates and precise historical facts. You do get some. And in fact you do get the basics events of Papsuza’s life too! If you want more, look at this link: http://romani.uni-graz.at/rombase/cgi.... Look at her photo. She had an eye that “strayed”.
Another complaint I had was how the narration switched from third person to first and back and forth. This is confusing. Zoli is spoken of in third person and also in the first person. I very much preferred when she spoke in the first person. I disliked when I read that she did that and she did this, when I wanted to get inside her head. Later, when she does speak in first person, that the narrator of the audiobook (Nigel Carrington) was a man, was disturbing. This really threw me off ....until I got used to it. I panicked and thought: “Who is speaking?! This is some man! Oh gosh, I am totally lost.” The dates and places jump. There is a beginning section by a journalist that is further confusing. I warn you, this is a book that is scarily confusing until you just plain relax and listen/read. You do end up understanding. Don’t panic, as I did!
Originally I thought there was a conflict between the theme of the book and the writing style. But then when I got over my need to have full control and understanding of every sentence, when I let myself enjoy the words and philosophical questions, when I stopped demanding that I must learn some historical facts, that is when I realized I was totally enjoying myself. And I did learn a lot about Romani culture and suffering. About Papsuza too. I do highly recommend this book.
************** Well, having been blown away by this author's Let the Great World Spin, I must immediately read another. The difficulty was choosing. This or Dancer or another?
************** BEFORE READING: I might be annoyed by the mixture of fact and fiction. Maybe read instead: A False Dawn: Volume 16: My Life as a Gypsy Woman in Slovakia, which Christi told me about :0) ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more