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.
I liked this book a lot, but I felt sections were a bit unclear. The chapters of the book could have been used to give clarity, for example to distingI liked this book a lot, but I felt sections were a bit unclear. The chapters of the book could have been used to give clarity, for example to distinguish between Russian, British and French nursing methods.
You learn about the Crimean War, and I haven't read much about this war so that in itself made it very interesting. The battles are covered, but there is only a little about the cause of the war. The central theme is the role women played - Florence Nightingale, the colored Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole and others. Not only British nurses but also French and Russian counterparts are discussed. A thorough description of the conditions that prevailed during the war is also given. The conditions were appalling - high fatalities, disease (particularly cholera and typhoid) and generally medical, logistical and tactical mismanagement. The book is well researched. There are many direct quotes; you get the feel and the language of Victorian times and also Queen Victoria's role in the war. This is the last war where women were allowed to accompany the men to the front. This is the first war covered by the press, relying on modern technologies, the telegraph, railways and explosive naval shells. This is the first war women were officially organized as nurses, although French nuns, the Sisters of Charity, had in times past followed their men into war, giving them succor and aid. In fact this was an embarrassing point to the British.
Not only were the war conditions appalling but that the war became a tourist attraction was for me even more appalling. I had a hard time comprehending why women even contemplated following their men into war! Perhaps to care for them, given that medical aid was so lacking?!
This book is an eye-opener about the role Florence Nightingale actually played. She was based at the British hospital in Sutari, which is in Turkey, not the Crimea. Her primary task was much more organizational than actually caring for the sick or wounded. She vehemently opposed all and any interference. She didn't work well with the other women, neither with Mary Seacole nor the nuns. Why has so little acclaim been given to the other nurses who functioned independent from Nightingale? Why is it that Nightingale alone has received recognition and acclaim? Militarily the French and the English fought together against the Russians, but in caring for the sick and wounded there was a complete schism. I sense an underlying discord between Catholicism and Protestantism that is not openly discussed, and I wish this had been more clearly analyzed. Nightingale avoided recruiting nurses of the Catholic faith and she did not want them proselytizing. Does religion explain why so little has been said of the other nurses and why so little recognition has been given them?
The narration by Eunice Roberts is clear and fits the Victorian language of the numerous quotes. ...more
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?
I really liked this book, so four stars it is. I wanted to read it because I have always agreed with Chanel's basic philosophy about clothes. When youI really liked this book, so four stars it is. I wanted to read it because I have always agreed with Chanel's basic philosophy about clothes. When you look at a person you should not see the clothes but rather the person. Clothes should not restrict you; they should be comfortable and let you live your life to the utmost. To achieve all this you need simplicity in design and materials that allows movement. My wardrobe consists of comfortable black stretchy shirts and pants, black shoes and the “little black dress”. That is all you need. You don't have to spend hours matching or planning or changing purses. With little effort and time you can get dressed, and still look neat. Traveling is easy, with just a few things to pack! So you see I wanted to know more about this woman. Also, she was French, and I personally love France. Finally, who doesn’t love Chanel No. 5?!
She was born in 1883 in Samur, France, and died in 1971 at the ripe old age of 87 years. She had a terrible childhood, please see below. What she makes of herself is .......admirable, but at what cost? She has a fascinating life, and she knew such fascinating people - artists, authors and politicians. Who should I name? Churchill and Dali and Colette and Picasso and so many others. All the fashion designers between the wars and after the Second World War. These designers were hard for me to keep track of; this is new territory for me. More importantly you learn how she shaped the modern woman, and you come to understand how her ideas were a result of the times she lived through. History and people they shape each other. History, both WW1 and WW2 are essential elements of this book. If historical events bore you, then do not read this book. It is detailed, both concerning history and fashion.
Chanel didn't write - neither diaries nor letters. However, the author has used previous biographies and letters written by others about Chanel, i.e. those who knew her. Chanel contradicted herself; she could say one thing one day and the opposite the next. So which is the truth? You can only see by studying all that is available. Chaney's research is thorough. She both questions what seems false and presents contradictory views. She counters one person's statement against others. I feel now, at the conclusion of this book, I DO understand who she was. I understand her fears, where they came from and how she combated those fears. She feared abandonment and loneliness. She sought to escape through work. Work brought her independence. As I read the book I occasionally questioned some of the author's views, but by the end when I saw all parts of her life and all the choices she made, and where she ends up, I agreed with the conclusions drawn by the author. I wanted to read this book to understand the woman Chanel. This book answered that for me, AND what a very interesting ride it was following this amazing woman.
She was buried in Switzerland, NOT France! Why? Did you know that some saw her as a German collaborator in WW2? Did you know that she had a German lover and he was a spy? You need to know more to understand, to decide for yourself why she did what she did.
I absolutely detested the narration of the audiobook (by Carole Boyd)! As usual, my star rating is based on the content of the written book, not the narration. I am not lowering the stars for the narration. I detest the dramatics with which the lines are read. Boyd plays with accents. Her French is impeccable - I am talking about the pronunciation of French words and names and places - but the tone she uses is highbrow and downright snobbish. Stuffy! The only accent I enjoyed was that she used for the American characters. Others may like that she uses different tones for different nationalities, but since most is in this fake French tone, it drove me absolutely crazy. I like narrators to just slowly and clearly read the text. I don't want to hear the voice but rather the content of the author’s lines. That is me, maybe you are different.
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 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