Tag Archives: Holocaust

Book Review: East West Street by Philippe Sands

I stopped reading this about 20% in as it wasn’t really what I was looking for.   I read a review elsewhere that seemed to suggest it was a history book.  It isn’t quite that, it is more about the author’s efforts to find out about his family history during the holocaust (or at least the bit I read was).

I always feel weirdly guilty not admiring a book on such a serious subject but I found it dull.  I don’t find the suffering of the holocaust dull!  But the style of the book about how he traced the details of his relative’s movements and what the details of their living arrangements before and during World War II were just weren’t the style of history I respond to.  I prefer more conventional history writing that focuses on the people and events rather than on the process of uncovering that history.

Might suit someone as interested in the process of uncovering history as in the history itself.

Not for me.

2/5

East West Street

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Book Review: Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally

Schindler's Ark

This is the Booker prize winning novel on a very serious subject of the holocaust.  And I didn’t finish it.  I feel bad, like I was obliged to find it brilliant and moving as so many other people have.

The subject matter really is moving and the darkest subject there is.  The story has an element of hope too however.  It tells the story of Oscar Schindler a Czechoslovakian businessman living under Nazi rule during World War II.  He uses his wealth, power and influence to save as many Jews as he can.  The book was made into a film, retitled Schindler’s List, which won a record number of Oscars.  It is based on a true story and real people.

I guess with the subject matter it’s not the kind of book you expect to enjoy but I have to say I didn’t find it hugely moving or engaging either.  The style didn’t pull me in.  Keneally moves between short, often harrowing, stories of Jewish families before quickly moving on to another individual’s or group’s story.  The only constant character is Oscar, but I never really felt I ever really got to know him well either.  I think it is probably intentionally arranged like this, it would be easier for the reader to follow if we stuck with one group of characters but perhaps part of Keneally’s take is to show how many horrifying stories there were and not give any one the focus of the book.  There was one tale I particularly liked with elements of joy about a couple who fell in love and married while confined to a work camp, their friends and family help them court, marry and even attempt a wedding night all in secret without the guards finding them out – it was almost funny!  Then we left the couple after only six pages or so – I was left wanting to follow their story for good or ill.  Other books I have read about the Holocaust recently have been Diary of a Young Girl and The Boy in Stripped Pyjamas, these tales make the holocaust human and almost manageable by focusing on a small tight experience, Keneally leaves the holocaust vast and hard to imagine or relate to.  It’s admirable but it just wasn’t for me, I constantly found myself wishing I was reading a factual book instead or that it would start to take on a more conventional storytelling approach, I found myself having to be disciplined about picking it up and reading it was slow going until I eventually gave it up with about 100 pages to go.

I’m not sure if I failed or the book did.

2/5

Zoe

holocaust memorial

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Book Review: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

The Diary of a Young GirlThe book is a diary that was written by   Anne Frank. The diary is addressed as kitty during the book that Anne refers to as her one true friend. The diary is special because Anne was still writing in it whilst hiding from the Nazis. The diary was actually a birthday gift from her father. The family that consisted of her mother father and elder sister were in hiding for two years after receiving several summons from concentration camps. The father Otto Frank was the only one that survived. Anne died a couple of weeks before the British troops freed prisoners. Anne originally wrote the diary for herself but one day on the radio she heard that they were looking for letters or diaries during the Second World War and she really wanted her diary to be published so she rewrote or added comments. The book gives a real view of what it was like to be Jewish and all the things Jewish people cannot do.

The book is especially moving as the reader knows the Anne will never have the chance to grow up.

The book is especially moving as the reader knows the Anne will never have the chance to grow up.

The book is long but I personally think that it is worth it but you have to be committed to finishing it or else you won’t ever be able to finish it. I was researching the book and was surprised to know that the Diary of Anne Frank has been translated in more than 67 languages. I think that the book is 4/5.

By Umaimma

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Book Review – The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

Stripped pyjamasThere have been many stories told about the Holocaust but I have not come across any story like this one. The book is about Bruno, a son of a Nazi Commander who forms a friendship with an imprisoned Jewish boy, Schmuel. The story starts off with Bruno’s life in Berlin. We are introduced to his family and learn about their lives. I think what made this book work so well is each family member could represent the average German civilian living under the Nazi regime.
My favourite character was Bruno, not because he was the main character but he was a well behaved interesting boy who loves to explore. He is well read and it shows through his narration, for example, his knowledge on explorers and him commenting on learning from their past mistakes. I loved his sensitivity and emotional awareness; although he is young he is able to sense the tense atmosphere of Nazi Germany, even as a Commander’s child and the shameful treatment of the people in the ‘striped pyjamas’.
I thought this book was wonderfully written and enjoyed Boyne’s play of words, for example, Bruno refers the Fuhrer as the Fury. It highlights the innocence of childhood, especially in a time of political unrest. Without giving too much of the plot away, my favourite part of the book was when Bruno meets ‘the Fury’. His description of ‘the Fury’ was quite amusing to read and perhaps very parallel to what most of us would think if we were to have the displeasure of meeting ‘the Fury’ ourselves. I also very much enjoyed reading about Bruno and Schmuel’s friendship, how it blossomed and grew against the numerous odds.

Bruno Friendship
The characters felt more real in the movie adaption but bearing in mind the novel is told through the eyes of an 8-9 year old, the characters were well developed. I wouldn’t mind if John Boyne wrote this story from each family member’s perspective. I think this is a very good story and cannot get enough of it! Reading a story of oppression from a child’s POV gripped me from the beginning and by the end of the book, I cried (a little) and questionedwhy is there so much evil in the world.
‘The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas’ was a real page turner for me as I did not know how it was going to end! There were so many other alternate endings that I thought of when I read the book but I believe Boyne has chosen the best one. The only thing I disliked about the book was that it was too short! Also, I think there should have been an epilogue; I really want to know what came next for Bruno’s family!!
Although this is classified as a book for young adults, the writing is not too simple or ‘babyish’ for older readers to enjoy. I would recommend this book to anyone, especially for readers who appreciate detailed but concise stories, this is a perfect pick.
My rating? 5 stars out of 5 stars!!!

Ms Darcy

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