All that I am

…by Anna Funder.

Ruth Becker is living out her last days in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney. In another lifetime away in 1939, Ernst Toller recounts his life sitting in a New York hotel room. When Toller’s story arrives at Ruth’s doorstep, she is caught up in the memories of their shared past. Of when Hitler came into power. And Ruth along with her outspoken cousin Dora, Ruth’s husband Hans, Toller, and others escaped Germany to seek refuge in neighbouring European countries while at the same time attempting to fight his reign. The four of them find refuge in London and continue to take risks. However, things are not safe even in England. And following several threats and break-ins, the ultimate betrayal by one they trust will tear their lives apart…

Inspired by true events and based on real characters, this piece of historical fiction is brilliantly penned. While initially it takes a little while to get into, it speeds up dramatically as you go on. The chapters move from Ruth reminiscing in 2001 about the events prior to 1939 to Toller recounting the same events in 1939. Dora is the main character around whom both their memories revolve. Brave, passionate and determined, this feisty young girl tries to stand up against the tyranny of Nazism. Half-way through the book, I had an idea about who would be the betrayer and I was right. But that didn’t take away the drama and suspense which had me holding my breath. And in the end I think I was gobsmacked more so because these are based on true life events. Dora was a real person. As were Ruth, Toller and Hans. And that’s what made it even more chilling.

A highly recommended read, I give it a rating of 4.

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

Note: This was originally published on my personal blog

Night

…by Elie Wiesel. (translation by Marion Wiesel)

Narrated by the author, this book takes the reader along the journey of the author’s life when he and his family members were taken from their home in the town of Sighet, Transylvania to the concentration camp in Auschwitz.

I don’t know where to begin to write about this book. I’ve read quite a few books in the past months, yet for all those I didn’t feel this urge to write a post right away. And here I am now, trying hard to gather words to describe what an impact this book has made…a story so haunting that I had to finish reading in one sitting.

I have a special place in my heart for books that tell tales set in this particular time period. I go through an outburst of different emotions after reading a piece of work from this era. And in that, this book is no exception. But the fact that this piece of work is non-fiction, that the author lived through all that horror, that he put words on these pages by leafing through his memory – makes it all the more powerful and painful.

It’s now hours after I’ve read the book…I’ve had a good night’s sleep after I read the last page, last word. Yet, I am unable to move on…I can’t seem to open another book with that eagerness to dive into a different world. Word after word of brutal truth about the worst kind of cruelty brought unending tears. My heart is still echoing the words that I read last night; my mind is still playing and replaying the gory images of torment that the author (and so many others) had to live through. When I feel so much pain only through the words that I read, I can’t even begin to imagine all that the victims of Holocaust have had to live through. WHY, is all I find myself asking over and over.

Let me leave you with some quotes from the book –

To forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.

His cold eyes stared at me. At last, he said wearily: “I have more faith in Hitler than in anyone else. He alone has kept his promises, all his promises, to the Jewish people.”

One more stab to the heart, one more reason to hate. One less reason to live.

Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed.

Never shall I forget that smoke.

Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky.

Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever.

Never shall I forget that nocturnal silence which deprived me, for all eternity, of the desire to live.

Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust.

Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to life as long as God himself.

Never.

Overall, an emotionally provoking tale that must be read.

My rating: 5*.

*for the rating scale, click here.

Memory

…by Philippe Grimbert.

This short novel wraps in it a painful and emotional story of a fifteen year old Philippe, son of Maxime and Tania, who discovers the past that haunts his family. A past that reveals the story about how his parents came together. A past that discloses his Jewish identity. A past that brings to light the suffering of his family during WWII, in the Vichy regime in France. A past that tells him of a brother that he never knew. A past that uncovers the truth behind the pain he’s seen in his parents’, especially father’s, eyes. A past that is shocking, horrific and full of surprises.

What makes this book different from some other stories I’ve read about the WWII period is that this book talks of the after effects of the war on the survivors. Also, the fact that the boy, Philippe, wasn’t born during the war and only learns of the trauma that his family faced years later, helps readers see things from a different point of view. This perspective sheds light on how, even years after the gruesome events, the pain of it all lies deep within and it only takes a memory or two to rekindle the sorrow. How the war changes his parents forever, how the grief in their hearts shows no matter how much they try to let go and move on, how the boy deals with the distressing discoveries – all these and more makes the book a poignant read.

Overall, this compelling and heart wrenching story is a must read. I highly recommend it.

My rating: 5*.

*for the rating scale, click here.