Chrissie's Reviews > Clara's War

Clara's War by Clara Kramer
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's review
Oct 23, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: bio, poland, history, religion, sample-ok, audible, ukraine
Read from December 09 to 13, 2013

I am listening to the audiobook narrated by Rula Lenska and her tone is perfect for the author who is 81 when she writes the book. It is based on a diary that the author wrote when she was in her teens,living hidden in a bunker, dug out underneath a house in Galicia, Poland, which is of course now in the Ukraine. Whose house was it, and who was hiding them? A German, and not any old German. He is in fact anti-semitic, a drunk and a womanizer. Rula Lenska's voice wonderfully fits the words and the age of the elderly author recounting her experiences. I definitely like the way it is written - I mean the choice of words. It is written with the help of a ghostwriter, Stephen Glantz. I am wondering who is the creator of the words used, of how things are expressed. I am drawn in immediately. I quite simply enjoy the lines and how the details are expressed. Together they have created a wonderful book.

On completion: This is a very, very good book/audiobook. When you encounter a book that has beautiful lines, lines that express so wisely philosophical insights and the truths of life you want to read those lines slowly. It is in these cases that an audiobook enhances one's experience. A good narrator reads the words slowly so you can suck on them; if you read the book your eyes may too quickly skim the text. If you can, I recommend that you listen to this book. You feel that the woman is telling of her personal experiences. More than 18 months hidden in a bunker! In a short epilogue Clara’s life after the war is also related.

So why read another holocaust book? That is what I was thinking! This story is so personal. You feel that you are in that bunker hiding with Clara, starving with Clara, trembling with Clara and suffering with her too. Clara's story is exceptional and it is well told with the help of Stephen Glantz. Read it because although most holocaust memoirs have an important story to convey, few are told so well!

This is a horror story, but there is love and compassion and kindness and bravery too. Yes, in the middle of such horror there are wonderful deeds of love. AND the bad guys, the Germans, the Nazis, the Ukrainians, will surprise you. They are not all bad. Conversely, some of the Jews, they are the ones that will make you cringe when their behavior is related. These are real people and they cannot be classified in groups or labeled as good or bad.

Maybe I would have liked a teeny bit of humor, and don't tell me that humor doesn't belong in a holocaust tale. There may not be much humor but there is profound kindness and goodness from those who one would generally not expect it from. This is a very, very good book.

What can I say? This is one of the best holocaust memoirs you will come across even if you have read a huge number. Don't miss this one just because you think you have read enough of the genre.
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Reading Progress

10/04/2013 marked as: own-unlistened
12/09/2013 marked as: currently-reading
12/14/2013 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-19 of 19) (19 new)

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message 1: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Chrissie, do you feel that reading biographies such as this are as good or better than reading a nonfiction work about WWII? I'm wondering if I should shift my focus to biographies of little-known people, as you seem to have read (and liked) so many.

message 2: by Chrissie (last edited Dec 11, 2013 11:55AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Chrissie Yes. I want to know how people are affected by historical events. That is what grabs my interest most. This book is amazing. This one really moves you. It is so personal. It covers so many issues - religion and kindness and how people can be both cruel and kind. It shows people as they really are. It is beautifully written, terribly gripping with both heartwarming and horrendous events! I prefer biographies over straight history books. IF you want to read a good holocaust book, this one should be high up there on your list. I was thinking, why do I have to read another holocaust book? Well this one is different. It is really well written.

message 3: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Ok, thanks! How far in are you? (I hope all is well with the puppy, btw)

message 4: by Chrissie (last edited Dec 11, 2013 12:06PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Chrissie I have listened to a bit more than half. It alternates between wonderful experiences of kindness and horrendous cruelty. I would say this is a book to listen to; the narration improves the gripping lines.

It is going OK with Lilly, Ellen's puppy, but this is not my kind of dog. I am scared all the time of stepping on her. Oscar is kind of sick of her yapping and frenetic running around. Both of us prefer quieter, calmer dogs......... BUT she is cute and happy and full of energy when she is not sleeping.

message 5: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Haha! I like small dogs, but I'm really more of a cat person. But I don't like yippy dogs. Therefore I have no dogs! I'm glad it's going ok. I've been wondering how everyone is adjusting. Just about the time you get used to her, she'll probably be gone lol.

Good to know it's a good listening book also. I'm going to add it to maybe shelf and keep an eye out for your review. I have to be careful with Holocaust books. Is there humor?

Chrissie No, there is not much humor. But there is such kindness; people that do things that put them at such risks and then this very same person is weak and you hate him. Well only sort of, because you just realize he is a normal person with both weaknesses and strengths. All I can say is that there is such wisdom in the lines. THIS is a book worth reading, but it is not light reading.

message 7: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Gotcha. Thanks.

Chrissie Lilly is gone. Now I can get some sleep at night and do things in the day time. Italian greyhounds are cute, perky, happy little dogs, but I prefer an animal that is sturdier and less frenetic. It will take Per and I a couple of days to recuperate.

Both of my kids have chosen breeds that differ from what I look for in a dog.

Oscar deserves a medal. He was so patient, so kind and never lost his temper but just warned her to quit it, which she unfortunately didn't pay any attention to. So when he growled more loudly, to say enough was enough, she would squeal as if she had been murdered and run into her den. Before buying a particular breed one should live with one of the breed to really experience their behavior. Each breed has particular behavioral traits. This is the only advantage of breeds, you know approximately the temperament of the dog you will be living with.

The book continues to be good, and honestly I very highly recommend it among all the many holocaust books out there.

message 9: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura That is good news. On both counts. Now you all can get back to normal.

Chrissie Yep.

message 11: by Barbara (last edited Dec 15, 2013 09:52AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Barbara Chrissie, this is a fine review. I do love the way you express yourself- I feel as if I know you! It is all the more amazing to me because English is not your primary language, is it?
Of course you know I plan to read this. It has been on my list for a while. I also continue to ask myself, why do I read so many holocaust books?!

Chrissie Barbara,I was born in the US and lived there until I was 19. So really English really is my mother language. Then comes Swedish and finally French. I was worried that I would have trouble remembering Swedish when I returned here after fifteen years in Belgium, but it was no problem. If I start thinking about what language I am speaking, then I can speak nothing. I get a total block.

Yeah, I have that tendency to say my personal thoughts. But heck, why not? Thank you, Barbara.

message 13: by Charlene (new)

Charlene Intriago Funny you say that! I just told my next door neighbor that I had read enough Holocaust books for awhile!!

message 14: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Your personal thoughts are what make your reviews must-reads. I love your reviews, even if I have no interest in the book. Sometimes they convince me I really do have an interest. :)

Barbara Laura wrote: "Your personal thoughts are what make your reviews must-reads. I love your reviews, even if I have no interest in the book. Sometimes they convince me I really do have an interest. :)"

I feel the same, Laura! Chrissie is a gem!

message 16: by Michael (new)

Michael Wonderful review. It's so unfair sometimes even to simplify a book by saying it is a "Holocaust" book or "about" the Holocaust. As such a powerful event in history, people's stories from the time often achieve a universal significance. And as you say, there is no black and white about people on any side such dramatic events.

message 17: by Chrissie (last edited Dec 15, 2013 10:10PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Chrissie Charlene, I bought like fifteen audiobooks before we left Belgium, so I would not run out, and this was the last one I read, BECAUSE I thought I just did not need to read another holocaust book! That was wrong! At least for me. It was one of the better of all the books I had purchased.

Michael, yes, it is way to simplified to clump together Holocaust books. And there is in fact no black and white about any people even in our daily life. A book that captures people as they really are is an exception.

laura, you better be careful with my reviews then. I don't mean to draw you into books that aren't your cup of tea. I guess my enthusiasm is contagious. But I cannot help it; some books really move me.

I want to thank all of your for your support. You know, I just say what I am thinking when I am moved by a book. The hardest books to review are those to which you are indifferent. THOSE books really ought to be given the least number of stars.

I don't think people need to be scared to reveal their personal thoughts. What is there to hide? What I am thinking is probably what many other people will similarly think. And if someone thinks my thoughts are crazy then hopefully they will be warned away from a book that I have enjoyed but will not please them.

Again, thanks all of you!

message 18: by Sara (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sara I wish I had a chance to listen to the Audio Version. Unfortunately, I read the Kindle version, hence the 3.5 stars.

Chrissie Sara, I am glad you enjoyed this one too. I have so many holocaust books so at some point sooner or later one thinks, why another? I think it is because only through personal stories do you understand the horror of what happened. Such personal stories make you understand in a way that goes deeper than simple dates and historical events.

You know some kindle books, if you buy the kindle you can also get the audiobook for just a dollar or two more. Many read a book in both forms at the same time. I have never done this though.

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