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The Alphabet House
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Challenges or Buddy Reads > MT Buddy Read The Alphabet House

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message 1: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14211 comments Carol and I are going to read The Alphabet House together, and we invite anyone who wants to participate in the discussion to jump in with us.
Please label your comments by chapter and mask all spoilers with the "some HTML is ok" instructions.

The Alphabet House is a stand-alone novel. The audio starts out with an author note where he mentions it took eight years to complete the book from 1987 to 1995. (Recently released in the USA)


message 2: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14211 comments I can see right away that the German place names and the character names will be a challenge to my commenting as I listen with little clues for their spelling. The same narrator who reads the Dept Q novels does a marvelous job with those pronunciations that would trip over my tongue. Carol: I wonder, how will we manage these names?


message 3: by Carol/Bonadie (last edited Apr 27, 2015 09:30PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7792 comments Ann, adding insult to injury, there is no hardcover version on Amazon for us to look into. The Kindle version does list the chapters, but the content only goes to Chapter 3. This is a case where I definitely need the HC, I'll see if I can get it from the library, even as a rental.

I can see even from the introduction that some of them are doozies!!! But they are town names, maybe the people will be easier.

So far, not sure how many chapters I'm in but I'm on disk 2 I think, there have been no new characters introduced, just Brian and James, the two downed airmen.

The scenes on the train and now at the mental hospital are pretty gritty. I am worried for our two heroes. They seem to have escaped detection so far but that can't last forever.

Ann wrote: "Carol: I wonder, how will we manage these names?
..."



message 4: by Ann (last edited Apr 27, 2015 09:48PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14211 comments I was struck by how challenging it would be for someone down behind enemy lines in an unfamiliar location and on the move with those place names, and a foreign language to try to decipher to boot. Brian's situation seems more difficult since he didn't study German as James did.
Jussi Alder-Olsen has me intrigued; his exploration of what happens to two downed American airmen over Germany in January 1944, but "it isn't a war novel" is rather unusual.


message 5: by Carol/Bonadie (last edited Apr 28, 2015 10:33AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7792 comments Comments up to Chapter 8, with mild spoilers:
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the life in this mental hospital is disturbing. the strain on Brian, from whose viewpoint the story is told, must be enormous. it's not exactly horrific (thank goodness), but still, brutal. It's hard to imagine what the nurses are thinking as they treat their charges so harshly, but it was the '40s after all and the understanding of treatment of the mentally ill was quite different.

I was disturbed to see that (view spoiler)


message 6: by Carol/Bonadie (last edited Apr 28, 2015 04:34AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7792 comments Ann, I was searching around for reviews of this book, which I should know not to do, and read something that I think is a spoiler. Ugh, you know how I hate that.

I'll post it here, and if it turns out to be true I'll come back and post where it occurs so you'll know when you can read it.

(view spoiler)


Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7792 comments Yes, challenging indeed. it is lucky that they wind up at a mental institution, which has room to allow for all sorts of behavior. They can remain silent and uncomprehending and not be suspected.

Some of the interactions with the patients had me wondering if others of them were more cognizant than they were pretending, but that hasn't been shown to be true yet.

Ann wrote: "I was struck by how challenging it would be for someone down behind enemy lines in an unfamiliar location and on the move with those place names, and a foreign language to try to decipher to boot...."


message 8: by Ann (last edited Apr 28, 2015 06:35PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14211 comments Carol: I'll read your possible spoiler discovered in the review you read later. I have been avoiding reading them for the most part. I did look to see what sorts of star ratings there were for the book. We know better don't we since we both hate spoilers.
Mild spoilers if you know the premise of part one of the book to Chapter 10
(view spoiler)


Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7792 comments I was trying to remember why I even went in search of reviews, but I think it was because I was finding the beginning to be slow going, and I wondered if it was going to get more engaging. Should have just hung on, because it has.

Ann wrote: "Carol: I'll read your possible spoiler discovered in the review you read later. I have been avoiding reading them for the most part. I did look to see what sorts of star ratings there were for the ..."


Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7792 comments Comments through Chapter 19.

I won't use spoiler HTML in this post so if you don't want to know specifics save this post for later.

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I think the author has jumped back and forth between Brian and James' perspectives, but mostly he is telling the story for Brian's point of view.

I am curious as to why James is deliberately distancing himself from Brian. Well, the obvious answer I guess is so that they don't give themselves away, but there is another group (Brian calls them the Mallingerers) who are bonded together, so what would be the harm. I am very worried that James won't make it out. I don't understand why he has been targetted by the Malingerers, and how long can he withstand the nightly beatings. So sad. I find I want to hurry through this part and be somewhere else in the story.


Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7792 comments More comments through Chapter 19, with spoilers.

************

I found the story of the Malingerers very interesting. But these are some scary dudes! Especially the guy Brian calls "pock-marked." He seems to be the mastermind and is downright evil. Well, I suppose every good tale needs a villain.


Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7792 comments It's so interesting that a Danish author would write such a detailed novel taking place in WWII Germany. I wonder if he's spent a lot of time in Germany. The detail he provides are fascinating, like the Germans wanting to hide away their mentally ill SS officers because to release them into the public would risk demoralizing the people when they realize that the SS is not invincible. Also bringing in speakers so that the patients can hear Hitler's speech. What? They're mentally ill!


message 13: by Carol/Bonadie (last edited Apr 28, 2015 09:54PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7792 comments I realized that I skipped downloading Disk 6, and I'm just finishing disk 4. I can see from the labelling of part 2 that in a few chapters (view spoiler)


message 14: by Carol/Bonadie (last edited Apr 28, 2015 10:07PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7792 comments An interesting interview with Jussi Adler-Olsen, written when The Keeper of Lost Causes (which I guess was also published under the title "Mercy") was published.

http://www.shotsmag.co.uk/interview_v...


message 15: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14211 comments Carol: I'll comment through chapter nineteen too. Since you have read this far I'll also skip the spoiler mask.

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I agree that the Malingerers group are quite menacing, and they worry me. With the perspectives of both Brian and James we see how frustrating the inability to plan with James is for Brian, and how dangerous it would be from the knowledge James has. Brian's lack of German language skills adds to his isolation.
I found it interesting that James replays his favorite movies in his head while he stays silent while Brian is constantly on edge, looking around, staring at people, and planning escape routes. Each copes in his own way, but Brian seems suspicious-looking to others.
From James the story of the two men as boys flying a balloon as an adventure reinforces their bond to each other and werealize they are more than just a bombing mission team.
The scenes where Brian decides almost disastrously to get rid of the pills he has been hiding in his metal bed post were nervewracking knowing how dangerous Kronor is and then James is the one who reacts after all, not Brian, putting himself in even more danger.
Carol/Bonadie wrote: "More comments through Chapter 19, with spoilers.

************

I found the story of the Malingerers very interesting. But these are some scary dudes! Especially the guy Brian calls "pock-marked."..."



message 16: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14211 comments Chapters 20-25 covering disc five
Spoilers masked for Carol :)
(view spoiler)


message 17: by Ann (last edited Apr 28, 2015 11:41PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14211 comments Chapters 26-28, early disc six and the end of part one.
Fast paced and furious action mark this segment at the end of part one.
(view spoiler)


message 18: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14211 comments Great interview,thanks, Carol! It's very topical and adds a dimension to the mental hospital scenes!
Carol/Bonadie wrote: "An interesting interview with Jussi Adler-Olsen, written when The Keeper of Lost Causes (which I guess was also published under the title "Mercy") was published.

http://www.shotsma..."



Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7792 comments Ann wrote: "Chapters 20-25 covering disc five
Spoilers masked for Carol :)

I found this part confusing - probably because several more medical staff characters were briefly introduced with more names...."


I was going to write the same thing, Ann. I was already wishing I had a print copy to refer to, between the names of the Malingerers and the (view spoiler)


Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7792 comments Ann wrote: "Chapters 26-28, early disc six and the end of part one.
Fast paced and furious action mark this segment at the end of part one.

..."


I'm in the middle of Chapter 28 but thought I'd read your spoiler anyway, it's too hard to mark as new to come back for one unread post. I hadn't yet got to the part where (view spoiler) but that wasn't too much of a spoiler.

I found the (view spoiler) Still I agree it was action-packed, remniscent of the Department Q scenes.

Part of me fantasizes that (view spoiler) but I have no basis for thinking that will happen. We'll see!

When I started the book I thought that (view spoiler)


message 21: by Ann (last edited Apr 29, 2015 10:37PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14211 comments Part two is a bit like starting a new novel! I didn't realize we had the different time segments until last night. It was a surprise after settling into the Alphabet House.


message 22: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14211 comments Chapter 28 comments
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When a soldier is reunited with his side of the war during conflict, after being captured or being on the run and without dog tags or other external proof of identity, I can only imagine the intense scene and the proof required to be welcomed back into the fold.
(view spoiler)


message 23: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14211 comments I am up to chapter 41. Chapter 42 is a doozy of a length so will save it for tomorrow.
Spoilers chapters 29-31
(view spoiler)


message 24: by Carol/Bonadie (last edited Apr 30, 2015 09:29PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7792 comments This is where having a print copy would help. I forgot to listen for the chapter numbers so not sure exactly where I am. Will check back when I do!
==========
edit: forgot the chapters were listed on the disks. I'm up to Chapter 31.


Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7792 comments Comments on your Chapter 28 comments.

(view spoiler)

Ann wrote: "Chapter 28 comments
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When a soldier is reunited with his side of the war during conflict, after being captured or being on the run and without dog tags or other external proof of iden..."



Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7792 comments Ann wrote: "
Spoilers chapters 29-31
Brian struggled and studied to be a doctor, eventually leaving his practice for rese..."


(view spoiler)


Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7792 comments More spoiler on chapter 31 or 32.

(view spoiler)


message 28: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14211 comments Exactly Carol! I was taken aback at this treatment. (view spoiler)

Carol/Bonadie wrote: "Comments on your Chapter 28 comments.(view spoiler)
"



message 29: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14211 comments Carol: It took me a bit to get used to the what seemed like an entire set of new characters in part two.
Spoiler space for a mild spoiler
^^
^^
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^^
I think the spelling of her name is probably Loreen, or Lureen, though Loreen looks more likely even though it sounds like Lureen on the audio. Funny not to be able to spell the English first name, I am not even trying to attempt the German personal names. ;)
Carol/Bonadie wrote: "(view spoiler)"


message 30: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14211 comments Carol:
This raises an interesting point about learning a foreign language. I am not learning any German by hearing it pronounced on this audio, how does an English soldier pick it up without being able to practice speaking or ask questions. (view spoiler)

...re your spoiler,
(view spoiler)

Carol/Bonadie wrote: "More spoiler on chapter 31 or 32.
(view spoiler)"



Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7792 comments Spell them, I can barely remember them!

Ann wrote: "Funny not to be able to spell the English first name, I am not even trying to attempt the German personal names. ;)..."


message 32: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14211 comments Carol: As I write this I am listening to the last CD, it is very hard to put down. My hardcopy of the book will be at the library tomorrow to help with the names!


Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7792 comments Are you kidding??! How did you get so far ahead of me?

I have to say, and I think you made this point above, that Part 2 is reading much more like the mystery/thriller that I'm used to from Adler-Olsen, which is welcome! I am on edge wondering what will happen to (view spoiler) I am at Chapter 38.


message 34: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14211 comments Carol: oops! Sorry to get so far ahead. I blame it on a good story and a Bluetooth headset that helped me sneak in listening while doing other things on top of a lot of commute traffic and good weather for a daily walk this past week. Part two had me on the edge of my seat!

Carol/Bonadie wrote: "Are you kidding??! How did you get so far ahead of me?
I have to say, and I think you made this point above, that Part 2 is reading much more like the mystery/thriller that I'm used to from Adler..."



message 35: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14211 comments I will get the hard copy from the library today hopefully to help with some spelling tips! Chapter 38 was when I began to realize the story in part two is quite like the cat and mouse chase of a Dept Q novel - and not in a bad way at all. (view spoiler)
I thought that one of the things Adler does very well in part two: The different points of view by chapter are skillfully constructed to tease and move the story along very well. And keep you listening!


Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7792 comments Ann wrote: "Carol: oops! Sorry to get so far ahead. I blame it on a good story and a Bluetooth headset that helped me sneak in listening while doing other things on top of a lot of commute traffic and good wea..."

No worries, wasn't really a complaint! It's a good sign that you were caught up enough in it to find every opportunity to listen.

Spoiler to around Chapter 38: (view spoiler)

Having written this spoiler I realize that you are now in the position of knowing how things turn out, so your responses can't be as authentic as they might be for fear of revealing more spoilers, but I'm sure you have plenty of practice with that.


message 37: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14211 comments Carol: I think I can compartmentalize my thoughts by chapter. I took pretty extensive notes on each though you are right it isn't the same when you are past that point. The comments become a bit more general for fear of revealing too much. still only up to Chapter 38 and for chapter 35
(view spoiler)

Carol/Bonadie wrote: "spoiler to chapter 38
(view spoiler) ..."



message 38: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14211 comments Carol: Spelling help!
I found some invaluable help in the Appendix II for Designations of Rank in the SS during the Second World War. I wish I had this while listening. Scanning the book I find my spelling guesses were often way off the mark.

James Teasdale aka Gerhart Peuckert Standartenfuhrer Aka Erich Blumenfeld
Bryan Young at first then Bryan Underwood Scott (Mom Divorced stepfather Young) aka Arno von der Leyen Oberfuhrer
Wilfred Kroner aka Pock Face aka Hans Schmidt
Horst Lankau aka broad face aka Alex Faber
Dieter Schmidt aka skinny
Petra Wagner
Werner Fricke aka Calendar Man
Peter Stich aka Herman Muller
Andrea Stich
Herr Sturmbannfuhrer major
Standartenfuhrer colonel
Oberfuhrer (higher than Colonel, no US equivalent)
Gruppenfuhrer Devers Major General
Gisela Devers
Mariann Devers
Laureen Underwood Scott
Places:
Freiburg Kuranstalt St.Ursula
Strausbourg


Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7792 comments Ann, you won't believe it, but I went into my library room where I keep my library books stacked, and I found that I had a print copy of The Alphabet House all along! What a dunderhead. This would have been so helpful, I was pretty much confused about who was who through the book, and I think that probably affected my enjoyment of it. Still not finished, I am up to the point where (view spoiler) Thanks for posting the list, part of what was confusing me was the aliases. The German names all sounded equally confusing so it took me a long time to sort out.


message 40: by Ann (last edited May 03, 2015 09:48AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14211 comments Every time they spoke German I longed for a translation, Carol. And listening, I couldn't just google the phrase or word. What would we do without Google? Research is not the same as it used to be.
This book reminds me of our American conceit or arrogance. (For many, not all of course) "everyone in the world should know English", but not so often do we learn other languages.
Mild spoiler from the very beginning.

I thought Bryan and James were American at first the way their bombing mission was presented. I realized later they weren't.
End of part one spoiler
(view spoiler)


message 41: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14211 comments lol Carol!! That's funny. At least you'll have it for the last third of the book or so. I had completely finished when I got it. That did free me up to peruse the entire book for clues though. Carol/Bonadie wrote: "Ann, you won't believe it, but I went into my library room where I keep my library books stacked, and I found that I had a print copy of The Alphabet House all along! What a dunderhead. This woul..."


message 42: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14211 comments You have an entire library room! Wow!
Too bad Barry or Dan aren't reading the book. Lol


Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7792 comments Comment on your mild spoiler in message 40 (view spoiler)
Ann wrote: "Every time they spoke German I longed for a translation, Carol. And listening, I couldn't just google the phrase or word. What would we do without Google? Research is not the same as it used to be...."


Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7792 comments Ann wrote: "You have an entire library room! Wow!
Too bad Barry or Dan aren't reading the book. Lol"


I think they both would have enjoyed it. As I said earlier I really thought it was going to be more of an espionage type of book, Allies behind enemy lines. So, so different!


message 45: by Carol/Bonadie (last edited May 05, 2015 08:44PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7792 comments I think I'm near the end, left the book downstairs so I can't check. It's the part where (view spoiler)


message 46: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14211 comments Carol: Re your near the end spoiler from message 45
(view spoiler)


message 47: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14211 comments Spoilers for chapters 65-66 the final scene on the terrace
(view spoiler)


message 48: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14211 comments Spoiler for chapter 67 the train
(view spoiler)


message 49: by Ann (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ann (annrumsey) | 14211 comments spoilers for chapter 68 the last chapter...
(view spoiler)

So many people were damaged in that war. This story is going to stick with me for a good while I think.


message 50: by Carol/Bonadie (last edited May 05, 2015 08:48PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Carol/Bonadie (bonadie) | 7792 comments I've finished. Response to Message 46: (view spoiler)


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