One of my goals this year is to finally read a heap of the books I keep accumulating as my shelves were overflowing. I will share mini book reviews every other month here and hope you find a gem or two to add to your own reading list.
The Betrayl by Kate Furnivall – historical fiction – 4 stars
This novel is set on the cusp of WW2. The storyline and the characters were well developed- centred around twin sisters in Paris who had a terrible secret from their recent past. It had a layer of mystery and danger, family drama, nazis, plus a love story all woven together. Definitely a story that had me hooked all the way through and had enough twists and turns to carry you right to the finale. Will be looking for more of her books soon.
The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander – memoir – 3.5-4 stars
Elizabeth Alexander shares the love, family, food, dancing and joy that was her life with her husband until he died suddenly of a heart attack at age 50. This memoir came out of her grief and dealing with the period after her husband’s death. She is a poet so the book is beautifully written and reveals many layers of their life together. I enjoyed it very much, but preferred The Bright Hour which I read last year.
The Zookeeper’s War by Steven Conte – Australian debut novel 3.5-4 stars
I bought this last year and planned to read it back to back with the Zookeeper’s Wife which I received for Christmas. I ended up with a WW2 trifecta as my daughter’s friend loaned me a book she had fallen in love with – Salt to the Sea which I read in between.
The Zookeeper’s War could have been an amazing debut. Overall I loved it, but only because I perservered – the first 100 or so pages I was only sticking it out because of my plan to read and compare with the other book (s). Something happened and suddenly it became a gripping novel – finally we had action, greater character development and a story that had me gripped and staying up reading. Unfortunately I was disappointed in the end so I am torn as to whether this would be a book to recommend – I would give it 4 stars for the 300 excellent pages.
What was amazing was to get an insight into life for Germans during the war – bombings, neighbours who inform to the Stasi, and finally what happened at the end of the war when they faced the Russians approaching from one side and the Brits and Americans arriving from the other.
Salt to the Sea – Ruta Sepetys – historical fiction – 5 stars
This is a 5 star book. Amazing that it came to me via my daughter’s 13 year old friend, but we have similar tastes in books. I admit to taking a day off to read it all the way through. It is set during WW2 and told from four different points of view with each character getting their own short chapters. The pace is gripping where you have to just keep reading. The characters vary in age and circumstances, each bringing a piece to the puzzle as they are all connected.
Three of the characters are civilians (a Pole, a Prussian and a Lithuanian) fleeing Germany as Russia advances and an evacuation is finally allowed. They make their way to the port where ships are being loaded with a fraction of those fleeing. The fourth character is a German sailor on one of the ships. The culmination of the book is the biggest maritime disaster in history -killing many more thousands than were on the Titanic. My only wish would be for a longer book than this so it did not have to end.
The Zookeeper’s Wife – Diane Ackerman – non-fiction/biography- 3.5 stars
Rounding out my WW2 run is this well-known book. I loved the film and my husband bought me the book for Christmas. Set in Warsaw as Germany invaded and bombed the city including the zoo. This is based on the true story of zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski and their efforts to save many Jews which resulted in hundreds hidden within the zoo and smuggled out to safety.
This is very different from the film. It is not the novel I was expecting, but rather a biography and written by a naturalist who devoted many pages to details about the zoo animals, insects and natural life in Warsaw. Many of the key stories in the movie are either absent in the book or only touched on and the style leaves you as an observer rather than swept up in a story. The narrative switches from the author to quotes from Antonina’s diaries and from other sources
It is an excellent step inside of Warsaw under German occupation, but definitely not a retelling full of drama and colour. If you enter it knowing it is non-fiction it will be more enjoyable than my experience anticipating historical fiction blurred with a true story (a la the film).
I have already gone on to finish another book and hope that I can maintain the book momentum and stick (mostly) to my reading list.
What has been your favourite book so far this year? Have you read any of these books- what did you think?
love and light
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