I feel darn brutal giving this book only one star, but I did not like it.
It is a book of historical fiction which parallels the Cowra Breakout. In AuI feel darn brutal giving this book only one star, but I did not like it.
It is a book of historical fiction which parallels the Cowra Breakout. In August 1944 over a thousand Japanese prisoners of war escaped from an internment camp located near Cowra, a small farming community in New South Wales, about 300 km west of Sydney. There is an adequate epilogue that explains what is fact and what is fiction. So if you are curious about the event maybe you want to read this book.
Some events described are violent. Just a word of warning.
Doesn’t everybody know how the Japanese feel about the shame of surviving war? This is a central topic of the book. Another theme concerns how people may feel obligated to treat prisoners of war justly so that their own prisoners of war will be treated well too. This I found terribly far-fetched, at least how it is presented in this book.
Along with the events of the breakout are fictional love relationships which in my mind are told crudely. They feel as padding to the main story. And so predictable.
The breakout is “exciting” but the lead up takes forever. Remember that padding – it doesn’t draw you in.
I don't like the author's choice of words. This is the central problem I had with the book. Over and over again I thought what a strange way the author had of expressing the events – both what happens and the individuals' thoughts. Too complicated. Strange words used when what is to be said could have been so simply stated.
OK, here is one insignificant example: "She opened the oven and was inspecting the lamb and probing it with a fork when the telephone rang. Fork in rigid hand, she immediately suspended her inquiry into the condition of the meat......" What is it with “suspended her inquiry”? I mean you could more simply say: she poked the meat, and then the telephone rang. Strange language! Not All the lines are strange but so many that you take note. It drove me crazy.
The audiobook is narrated by a man and a woman Heather Bolton and Paul English. This is because the story flips back and forth between a woman on a farm and the internment camp. The narration is good.
Why do you read historical fiction? To teach history by folding the events into an entertaining, engrossing story. Well I didn't get that here. ...more
This is the kind of historical fiction I so very much love. You learn history and at the same time feel the emotions of the people who live through thThis is the kind of historical fiction I so very much love. You learn history and at the same time feel the emotions of the people who live through the historical events. I would suggest reading Sebastian Barry’s A Long Long Way and then continuing with this book by Anna Funder. Barry’s book takes you to the trenches of Belgium during WW1. WW1 is the basis for what happens in Germany leading up to Hitler and WW2.The people who are the prime protagonists in Funder’s book lived through WW1 and were shaped by it. They were pacifists and became socialist activists who sought to prevent Hitler’s rise to power. You cannot understand one event without understanding what came before. You have to feel in your gut what those who lived through WW1 felt. Funder’s book of historical fiction is based on true events and real people. The author has gone beneath the events and depicted the emotional underpinnings of these people’s lives. It is the emotions that Funda has imagined, drawing from her in-depth study of the known facts. I cannot recommend these two books more highly.
When I read a wonderful book of historical fiction I need to know exactly what is true and what imagined. Half-way through I was going crazy because search in Wikipedia did not provide all the answers. My GR friend Jennifer helped me find the link about Dora. She pointed out an interview with the author, where she speaks of what she intended to achieve with this novel. Please take the time to read this interview. This interview is worth reading: http://www.readings.com.au/news/q-a-w...
Funder’s book revolves around the lives of five people:
Ruth Becker: This figure is based on the real person, Ruth Blatt (née Koplowitz) (1906-2001). She was a friend of the author. In the book Ruth is fictitiously said to be Dora’s cousin. http://cosmos.ucc.ie/cs1064/jabowen/I...
The three central characters are Toller, Ruth and Dora. Dora, she was loved by both Toller and Ruth. What they share is not only their love for Dora but also common political beliefs. There are two narrators, Toller speaking from NY in 1939, and Ruth from Sydney in 2011. It is these two people who tell you about Dora and what their fellow activists did. You will find out what they did, why, and how and who was betrayed….. and by whom. The events are very exciting. As mentioned, the time periods are different, and there are flash backs. You do have to pay attention, if only because you are so drawn in that you want to pay close attention. You want to understand what actually happened and you want to understand how these people felt, what motivated them and why they chose to make the decisions they made. You care because the events are gripping and the author has excellently imagined their internal, emotional struggles.
I listened to the audiobook narrated by two people Judy Bennett for Ruth and Saul Reichlin for Toller. This makes it easier to understand who is speaking. Ruth is an elderly, frail woman in her nineties, and she sounds it. Toller’s narration is equally superb. When the two narrators impersonate another person, this is equally convincing. I have zero quibbles with the narration. However, there was no author’s note at the end of the book. I am not sure if this is lacking only from the audio version or if it also is lacking from the paper book. This is why the links above are essential, at least from my point of view. In addition, I was not patient enough to wait to the end to even find out if there was an author’s note!
To be clear: the events are extremely interesting and exciting. The relationships between the figures feel so real. There is love, real love portrayed in this book. The love relationships are messy….. There is betrayal and disappointment and fear. I believe the author has succeeded with what she intended to do, as described in the interview above! She succeeds because she is a talented writer. I have also read, enjoyed and learned from her book Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall. That is one reason why I picked this book up!
And how does she succeed in making these characters into real people that live and breathe? Of course, it is through her prose, through her choice of words. The characters are believable and fascinating. This is due to the author’s ability to intrigue us with what they do and say and think. Ruth, as a child, is living with Dora’s family as she recuperates from scarlet fever. Dora has a box camera. In this home, which is not home, Ruth is tantalized by this camera:
It fascinated me: a box with an eye. I held it to my chest and looked down into the small glass. Everything was contained there, in round miniature . Her (Dora’s) steel-framed bed and white counterpane. A tottering pile of books on the floor next to it. I sensed the instant layer of protection between me and the world. I could be looking down but seeing straight ahead. Most of all I liked the way it gave me a reason to be looking.
And what she snaps on that camera is interesting too:
I got cook’s floury hands on the ceramic mixing bowl. And once, Dora’s face so close I caught the flickering mahogany lights of her iris. A pigeon on my window-ledge turned into a gray blur of speed on the print.
These words so well illustrate how Ruth felt living there in her relatives’ house, her sense of being an outsider no matter how kind they were to her. I am drawn to books where the writer intrigues me with such images. I prefer such subtleties over blatant ordinary descriptions.
What the protagonists are concerned with interests me. Listen to these thoughts of Ruth:
In those days we believed of freedoms of every kind. So many boys had died in the war that we knew that life was short and cheap. There was no point not loving when the occasion arose. Those hippies of the 60s and 70s seemed so tame and vane to me. So derivative! They marched for peace but had never really known war. They confused the freedom simply to have sex with the freedom for one’s sex not to matter.
I am doubly interested when I hear this. I have been reading about WW1. There is so much in this book that relates to that experience. What followed the war? How did the war change people’s behavior afterwards? Also, I am a child of the hippie era. Her thoughts are so true here too. We didn’t fight in any war! We knew nothing of it. It is true too that we fought primarily for the right to have sex, when and where we pleased. The freedom for sex not to matter, that came later.
There are glorious lines like this:
We lied on sand so clean it squeaked.
…too busy exhausting myself by not sleeping.
I don’t know how much freedom the heart can bear.
A book with such lines will always draw me in, regardless of the central theme. Here that theme is the political climate between the two wars, real people who shaped history and their fight to make Hitler’s intentions known outside Germany. What more can you ask for? Superb characterizations. Well, you get that too. ...more
As a description of the persecution of Aborigines in Australia, this is an important book to have read. An interesting and clear presentation of the fAs a description of the persecution of Aborigines in Australia, this is an important book to have read. An interesting and clear presentation of the facts.
The book is about three half-caste aboriginal girls placed in the Moore River Native Settlement outside Perth. They were taken against both the wishes of the girls themselves and their families. This was a common practice, not at all a onetime exception. Half castes, children of aboriginal mothers and white fathers, that being most usually the case, were considered "smarter" than pure Aborigines. They were taken to so-called settlements/schools to be taught how to be less aboriginal, how to be more European. But why? So that they could be shaped into more useful servants for the British settlers. The three girls, aging from nine to fifteen, run away from the settlement where they had been imprisoned. Let’s call them prisons because that is what they were. There were bars on the windows and completely fenced in. These three girls escaped and ran home. How is this possible, walking alone, barefoot without the simplest equipment, without food, with all Australia searching for them? This walk took almost nine weeks and is the longest walk in the history of the Australian Outback. This is not fiction. It is history. And it is shocking.
A brief history of the foreign settlement of Australia is given. Information is given also about the "Rabbit-Proof Fence", originally constructed in 1907 to stop the invasion of rabbits into Western Australia from the East. Molly, the oldest of the three girls lives in a station in charge of the supervision of said fence in the northwestern desert area of Western Australia. Her step-father’s employment is care of this fence. So the idea was to follow that fence homeward.
Documented police files are quoted. The statements are shocking in their total nonchalance for the three girls. They are things to be possessed and used, not human beings. Shocking! This is the history that must be acknowledged by all.
The book is straightforward and clear. It presents information that should be known.
The landscape is described by naming vegetation and fauna specific for the terrain, but such flora and fauna are foreign to me so I could not picture its beauty.
I was not enthralled with the audiobook's narration by Rachael Mazza. The narration is fast, the exciting parts even more so, perhaps in an effort particularly to increase the melodrama of the events. I feel the events speak for themselves. I don't appreciate the added drama. Maybe others do. I found the Australian dialect difficult to follow, and some of the aboriginal terms are not fully explained. ...more
Here is another audiobook I have listened to recently. This one was great! It grabbed my attention from start to finish. I took no notes, just listeneHere is another audiobook I have listened to recently. This one was great! It grabbed my attention from start to finish. I took no notes, just listened and sucked up the story. Marvelous from start to finish.
This is historical fiction at its best. Although fiction; it is based on the mother and grandmother of the author. It is about the experiences of White Russians living in Harbin, China. Mother and daughter are split up when the Japanese invade China and Manchuria is subsequently occupied by Soviet Communist troops – one is sent back to Russia and the other must flee to Shanghai. The book is about their journeys and their search for each other.
The book is good because the different places are magnificently described. You learn about Harbin, Shanghai, refuge camps in the Philippines and finally emigration to Australia. And I have not described the mother’s trajectory! The plot is exciting.
The narration is superb. The voice intonations of Americans, Australians and Russians is just perfect.
If you wish to be transported from your own life to another world, this is the book to choose, and you will learn history in the most enjoyable of manners. Please listen to the audio version. It is an added plus. ...more
A good book about growing up in the outback of Australia during the 30s. It is this part of the book that most people like. I did enjoy the descriptioA good book about growing up in the outback of Australia during the 30s. It is this part of the book that most people like. I did enjoy the description of the terrain and vegetation and climate, the beauty of the place, its solitude and isolation. The author grew up at a distance of a 10 hour car ride west of Sydney. This part is through the eyes of the author as a child. It is about drought and hardship and the death of her father, a hard scrabble life still filled with good memories. This part constitutes only a third of the book. The latter two thirds (through the 50s) deals with the author's progression toward adulthood, her psychological separation from the control of her parents and an understanding of what she wanted to do with her life. THIS is the part I found most interesting. Watching her become an independent individual, that is what I enjoyed. It deals with her personal experiences of gender discrimination. It deals with her growing awareness of aboriginal discrimination. The author states clearly in the foreword that she hopes this book describing her own life experiences may inspire other girls toward intellectual professions of high standing through education. Keep in mind, the author became the first female President of Smith College (a liberal arts college in Massachusetts). Here the setting is her schools in Sydney and finally a year's trip with her mother to Europe. I was fascinated by her growth toward independence.
Exactly which courses she took does get a bit tedious at times.
I enjoyed her conclusion that traveling makes you appreciate home. I enjoyed the discussion of how Australians view the British and vice-versa. World historical events are related to their effect on Australia.
The narration by Barbara Caruso was clear, had a good tempo and used Australian terms and pronunciation well.
There is a foreword and an interview with the author at the end of the audiobook. I felt that what she explained there should have been drawn into the book itself. Why didn't she say that earlier?! ...more
I cannot decide what to read by this author. I have to read something. Here, I am guessing, the author is writing about "what lies close to his heart"I cannot decide what to read by this author. I have to read something. Here, I am guessing, the author is writing about "what lies close to his heart". Should I start here? If anybody has read several of Flanagan's books, please help me choose one! In addition, if I don't like it, I will learn some Tasmanian history.
I tried this a year or two ago.....and forgot to note my impression. I did NOT finish the book. I found it disjointed. I was not enticed by the author's manner of writing; how an author strings together the words is extremely important to me, and here I was not pleased. So no more of this author for me....more