Books like this one are right up my alley. Historical fiction, World War II era, a bit of suspense thrown in…these are the stories that stick with me.
Elise has a promising career as a ballerina. She lives to dance, allowing herself to escape from the fact that her father is a high-ranking Nazi. She’s somewhat of a disappointment to her family as she chooses to immerse herself in her career rather than fall in line with their Nazi beliefs. When an injury forces her to take a break from dancing, she finds refuge on a small island.
It’s here that she meets Pieter. Instantly attracted to him, she resists for as long as possible. But when their chemistry becomes impossible to ignore, she finds herself in a precarious position as the daughter of a Nazi. Pieter, the man she loves, is part of the Resistance. Will it be possible to keep her two worlds separate?
This is, to me, the best and most compelling part of this story. There’s more, though. Fast forward to present day New York City. Jenni is suddenly and unexpectedly the benefactor of her deceased grandmother’s estate. Because she didn’t know much about her, and because her own life is in shambles, she immerses herself in grandma Elise’s past. What secrets will she uncover?
A great story for fans of historical fiction with some romance and a bit of mystery as well.
With every new piece of historical fiction I read, I gain something. Knowledge about a previously unheard of occurrence, deeper understanding of an event, compassion for a character that I never imagined…these things are all possible with a good story. Lilac Girls takes a horrible time most are familiar with, the Holocaust, and introduces the reader to an aspect that many have never heard of.
The year is 1939. Hitler has just invaded Poland. France is next. With her work at the French consulate, Caroline feels the tragedy more than most New Yorkers. Her job takes her into the lives of those most affected, finding homes for children orphaned by the war and arranging care packages for families.
Across the sea, Kasia witnesses her childhood stripped away as her town is taken over. Not satisfied just sitting by and watching everything she loves destroyed, she begins working for the underground resistance movement. Never in her wildest dreams does she imagine that not only will this endanger her life, but the lives of her mother and sister as well. When her secret life is discovered, they’re all rounded up and shipped off to Ravensbruck, a concentration camp for women.
It’s here that they cross paths with Herta. Her path in life has been changed as well, although surely in not as tragic a way as Kasia’s. Before the invasion, Herta was well on her way to becoming a respected German doctor. Now she’s deep into war crimes and horrible experiments at Ravensbruck.
This is yet another story that reminds the reader of one of the darkest times in our world’s history, a time when people were persecuted and killed simply for who they were. It’s heartbreaking and thought-provoking at the same time, especially in today’s tumultuous climate. It’s also a story of love and survival and hope, things that can get people through some of the darkest times.
Well, I’ll be. Not a non-fiction fan here. I can count on one hand the number of non-fiction books I’ve ever loved… EVER! And I don’t like war books, either. Too much death and heartache. But when certain book friends rave about a book because it affected them so much, I sit up and listen. Plus this book was on sale for $2.99 when I bought it. 🙂
That’s the backstory. The main story is: I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS BOOK.
City of Thieves is about two guys who normally wouldn’t be friends, thrown together for a week-long hunt for eggs during the German siege on Leningrad. It was a cold week for those young men. They almost die several times. They daily encounter other people’s death. And they fail over and over at finding eggs.
But they find something else. They find humanity in desolation and desperation. They find friendship. They find courage. One of the men finds humor in everything (thankfully, because I frankly needed the comic relief). The other finds love.
And that’s the best part of the whole thing… That LOVE can be found even in the wasteland of hate and war. That there’s a love story here FLOORED me and satisfied me to no end. Oh and it’s a TRUE one. TRUE love. Sigh.
As for the eggs: they can be had for a small wager, but they are no prize.
If you asked me what my preferred genre is, I’d be hard pressed to narrow it down to just one. However, historical fiction ranks at the top of that list. I love a book that tells a great story while also teaching me a bit of something new. That’s why some of my favorite books of all time include The Book Thief and The Orphan Train. It’s for that very reason that this book by Jana Kinser caught my eye.
Nazi Germany was a terrifying place for all, but especially for young children. Their safe, secure world was turned upside down as they were targeted for nothing more than being Jewish. Homes and livelihoods were destroyed, families were separated, loved ones lost their lives. All because of something they had no control over. But there was hope for many of the children in the form of selfless volunteers who risked their lives to help these children escape and have a chance at a somewhat normal life.
For the most part, this story centers on young Peter. He and his family have a happy, secure life in their comfy little apartment above their butcher shop. That all comes crashing down when the Nazis invade their small town taking over everything. Suddenly, being Jewish is a crime, punishable by death even. Peter and his family find themselves without a home along with many others. When the chance to escape presents itself, Peter and his younger sister take it. On the Kindertransport they go, off to a better life. Their journey is not without risks, though, as the war rages on.
There are other characters, of course. And their stories are just as important. There’s young Eva, the apple of Peter’s eye. She has a ticket on the train to freedom but her older brother has a different idea. Stephen and Hans are sent on the train to safety by their respective families. And then there are the tragic stories of those left behind, children who didn’t get a seat on the train as well as adults not able to escape.
This was an incredibly engaging story for me because I had no idea such a thing existed. The Kindertransport was something new that I’m now highly motivated to learn more about. For that reason alone, it was a book I just couldn’t put down. The characters and storylines were good as well, although I did feel that many of the deaths were described too matter-of-factly. Still, a great story about an interesting subject!
I *really* like this Charlie Parker guy! Besides Parker, I also really enjoy the other characters in this series as well. In many ways, we get to know and love Charlie simply by watching how others act and respond around him. It’s not something I’ve thought about much before. Usually a character is revealed simply by how they act and respond to situations. By what they say and do. Here, Connolly does a superb job of showing Parker’s character by those that go out of his way to help him. To watch over him. We learn to love Parker by the love they show him.
The father/daughter relationships in this novel….just wow….I can’t give much away, but I will say —- the last line gave me chills and I almost cried aloud that it ended! I’ll be counting the days until I start the next in the series!
This novel starts with Charlie recuperating from an injure he obtained in the last novel. It also has him in the midst of a few murders….and nazis. We revisit some of the crimes from the Holocaust. I have to admit, I have not really gave much thought to those war criminals after the fact. It brings up some important moral issues as well. Can one ever commit a horrendous crime simply because of the circumstances they found themselves in? Furthermore, can you be removed from those circumstances and form that day forth do wonderful things and to help the human race? Should any of that good change how you should be dealt with in regards to the original crimes?
How often are criminals sought after only because of political pressure? Where does moral obligation come into play?
Finally, I encourage you to read this novel. Not just because Charlie Parker is so great. Not because of how much you love his friends. Not because of all of the inter-workings of some really complex and interesting relationships….
But because this book left me with a yearning to learn more about history. I found myself putting down this novel…not because I was bored. But because I wanted to run to the internet and look up more about war criminals and history. Because I wanted to better understand how some of the things discussed in this novel could have happened. I don’t think I found many clear answers. However, I did have discussions about it. And so very many questions! Sometimes in life, it’s really good to just ask the questions….even if you don’t get all the answers you seek….at least you’ve thought enough to ask them….
There have been thousands of books written about WWII, but not as many focus on the immediate aftermath, let alone set in immediate post-war Berlin. In The Good German, Joseph Kanon explores the many different facets of war, the intricacies of motive, and the ethical dilemmas one can be faced with when carrying out actions in the name of love and war.
The plot follows Jake, an American reporter that is on his way to Berlin to write an article on the post-war efforts to re-build the city. Once in Berlin, Jake stumbles upon the body of an American soldier and finds evidence that all may not be what it seems. Along the way, Jake encounters a host of characters that he will later reunite with further in the story. The plot essentially is split up between a love story and a mystery; Jake has a secondary reason for going to Berlin, which is to seek out his former Girlfriend, Lena, who he had met on a previous trip. Rest assured though, there are many plot twists and diversions in order to save it from becoming a two dimensional experience.
What I loved most about this book, apart from the entertaining plot, was that it really made you question your already strongly held morals. It presents both sides of an argument and doesn’t necessarily side with either argument. What you once thought hypocritical, might actually make sense. What you once found acceptable might now be unacceptable. What you once found abhorrent might now be not so abhorrent. There is no right or wrong answer set in stone. If you want a book that will question and challenge your views/morals and not a cozy mystery that will sit you around a camp fire, with you signing kumbyah, and present you with a box of answers with a nice bow tie on it (I don’t knock any that type of book – sometimes we need that!), then do yourself a favour and pick up The Good German.
Hope to see you next week for another review!
~ Pegasus. The Good German
My fellow muses are probably going to banish me to the stables for this, but I have to begin this review by stating that YA fiction is not a genre that I read or enjoy…. Yes, I can feel the death stares permeating through my skin as I type! However, I like a challenge, and so I decided to read a YA, yes you read correctly, a YA novel called Code Name Verity. Actually, truth be told, I listened to it on audio, rather than read, but same difference!
Frustratingly, this is one of those novels where you can’t give too much of a synopsis due to spoilers, so this will be brief: WWII, two young women, one of whom is captured in Nazi occupied France. The novel begins with “Verity” writing a confession in a prison cell, and thus begins the tale. Through this epistolary novel, Verity tells a story of Queenie and her friend, Maddie, and their experiences being stationed together during the war. The story is split between 1st person narrations (Verity’s experience in the prison), 3rd person narration (the story of Queenie and Maddie’s friendship) and the narration is primarily shared between Verity and Maddie.
Listening on audio, you get the added advantage of hearing different voices for different characters. This helped a lot, and was appropriate due to the style in which the novel is written. As I mentioned above, I don’t usually read YA, but this one was so different. It had the usual components of a YA novel – very little swearing, not really any sexual situations, and no gratuitous violence. However, this one presented certain situations in an extremely frank and honest manner, without sensationalising and gratuitousness: E.G., the interrogation scenes were very frightening and horrific, but they were honest, and didn’t feel like they were exploiting it. It’s hard to explain, but I felt like it read as an adult book, but at the same time, it would still be appropriate for an older teenager.
If you do decide to pick this story up, which I highly recommend that you do, be prepared to find yourself laughing, possibly crying, gasping, cringing, and recoiling. It will hit on most of your emotions and it will leave you asking yourself what if? What if you were captured by an enemy agent? Would you divulge crucial secrets? Would you do anything to survive? Would you break? Elizabeth Wein has written a fresh, unique and interesting WWII story that is brutal, honest, emotive, and effective. Do yourself a favour and read this gem of a novel before some big film studio ‘effs it up and makes a piss poor adaptation.
Enjoy ~ Pegasus Code Name Verity (Edgar Allen Poe Awards. Best Young Adult (Awards))