I’ve read some really enjoyable and good books this month. Love to know if you have read any of these, and what you thought about them.
Edith Eger- The Choice- Oh my this is an extraordinary auto-biography. Totally brilliant. It’s in four parts. Part one- Prison. Edith is 15 years old in 1944 when as a Hungarian Jew, she is sent with her parents and one of her sisters to Auschwitz. Her other sister manages to stay hidden , working as a violinist. Her parents are both killed immediately, but Edith and Magda survive. It is harrowing. Part two- Escape- they are liberated by the Americans. I found this section fascinating and upsetting, mostly by my own previous lack of curiosity. Because what happens next to people rescued from the camps? I had read accounts , real life and in fiction of the effect on the returning soldiers to the UK, but what of the prisoners. It had never really occured to me that the army had no plan on how to help the survivors. Edith and her sister are at first put with an Austrian family, who did not want any Jews in their home, then they were sent back home , but not allowed into the trains, they had to sit on the roof of the train. How they coped with this stage of their lives is incredible. Part three-Freedom. The struggle to become free of the past, to mourn the tragedy, to be reconciled with what happened and to be free. Edith eventually returns to study and becomes a psychologist. Part four- Healing. Seeing how Edith puts her experience into helping others and in turn healing herself. I can’t recommend the book enough. Yes I cried in parts, but the choice we all have in life is be stuck as a victim, or to live our life now to its full. A book of hope, joy and life.
Ernest Hemingway- The Old man and the sea- the book that revived interest in Hemingway and led to him being awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1954. It’s a small novel, language is plain and simple, a tale told in few words. You could sum it up as man v fish , in which man wins but at a cost. The old man has gone a while without catching anything. The boy who helps him is persuaded by his family to fish with others. The old man sets off for deep waters and hooks a large fish, too big to haul aboard, the fish must be tired out and killed before the man tires. An epic struggle ensues over two days. The old man often wishes he had the boy with him to help, and as his companion- both are big baseball fans. The thing I enjoyed the most was not so much the tale itself but the style. So many modern writers go in for streams of consciousness, which are just words for the sake of it. This work shows how you can convey so much more in what looks like a simple narrative, but each word counts. Love to know your thoughts on this book, and on my bete noir the stream of consciousness.
D.E. Stevenson-Vittoria Cottage- This came highly recommended, and it is a lovely gentle romantic story set in 1949, in a small village in England. It doesn’t gloss over the war, lots of talk of food shortages and rationing. Men returning and healing physically and mentally. Women’s roles still very much in the domestic sphere. It’s a real time capsule. Having been a child of the 50s and 60s I can recognise the world into which I was born. The language is just delicious, you can hear the different stratas of society speaking from the rich spoilt bright young things to the working men and women. If you want something gentle from a lost time, this is for you.
Rachel Joyce- The Unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry- Have to say I loved this book. Harold Fry, retired brewery sales person, receives a letter from a former colleague, Queenie Hennessy. She writes from Berwick on Tweed to say she is unwell and dying ,to thank him for his friendship, and goodbye. Harold pens a reply and sets off to the postbox, leaving his wife at home. As he walks he feels the letter maybe a little inadequate so he decides to walk to the next postbox and think about it, then the next one, until he decides the letter simply won’t do, he must say goodbye in person and he must walk all the way, from Devon! So off he goes. Along the way he is helped by strangers , some of whom join him on the walk- “Hello can I help, girl in the garage”, a doctor from Slovakia who can’t work as a doctor, Wilf a young man who reminds Harold of his son , Rich who takes over things, a man in a gorilla suit, a woman who likes Jane Austin, a man on a railway station….And of course not forgetting Maureen his wife. A love story, a triumph against the odds, an impossible journey- all beautifully written, and no improbable ending, just a jolly nice one. So glad I went to the postbox and kept walking one fine day so that I could have this book recommended to me.
Tove Jansson-Sculptor’s Daughter- Representing Finland in my mission to read my way through Europe, this is a series of short stories drawn from the author’s childhood. Her father was a sculptor and her mother an artist and illustrator. Their home is described on the back as Bohemian. The stories are well crafted and written through a child’s eyes, but somehow I did not warm to the book. I think I would have prefered a more straight forward autobiography.
So that’s it for this month. Authors from two European countries and some jolly good books. Are you reading anything good at the moment I’d love to know. I have two books on the go at the moment- one involving Pooh and the other Steampunk! You can’t say my tastes aren’t varied.