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review 2018-04-15 20:34
A Lucky Child (A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy)
A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy - Thomas Buergenthal,Elie Wiesel

For being about the horrors of Nazi occupation of Europe and the Holocaust, this wasn't a difficult  read. The author, Thomas Buergenthal, writes about his childhood in an approachable manner. It probably helps that he's writing it several decades after the fact - the pain and anger he would have felt during and immediately after the events have had time to heal. It's light on details of the day-to-day activities of those years, as he and his family were first on the run from Germans, then living in the Jewish ghetto in Poland, then the various concentration camps he was imprisoned in. As a result, it glosses over a lot of the horrors, focusing instead on events that stick out to him most - but those events are rather harrowing in themselves. He doesn't linger on them though. Some might find this lack of detail frustrating, others may be relieved. I've read other accounts of the Holocaust, most memorably Elie Wiesel's Night, so I was able to fill in what wasn't there. 

 

This felt like a very honest and intimate account of his days surviving WWII and the Holocaust. His writing here is flowing and stark, and he doesn't get bogged down with unnecessary repetition like last few autobiographies I've read. He was indeed a "lucky" child to survive Dr. Mengele and Auschwitz. Speaking of Night, they were both clearly in Auschwitz at the same time, as they both describe the Death March with the same sort of dreadful resignation. He was lucky many other times in order to survive, and that continues even after his liberation as he details how he was eventually reunited with his mother.

 

One cannot stress enough how important this time period was to the shaping of the world as it is today and why it's necessary that it continue to be taught in our schools. Buergenthal's work in international humanitarian law is inspirational and reminds us that, no matter how bleak things can still appear, there is hope for improvement and that things already have improved in many places. We can make the world a better place, but we can only do that by remembering the atrocities that came before and striving not to repeat them.

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review 2018-04-02 14:51
Irish politics during WWII, served up dry
The Emergency: Neutral Ireland 1939-45 - Brian Girvin

Though officially neutral during the Second World War, Ireland still faced the consequences of the conflict.  The war was an everyday presence, as thousands of men left to enlist in Britain or work in the war industries, while those who remained behind coped with rationing and the stifling policies of a government studiously determined to avoid any sort of commitment whatsoever.  In this book, Brian Girvin provides an overview of these years, one that demonstrates well the strains the Irish government and the Irish people faced during this time.

 

Girvin’s focus in these pages is on the political and diplomatic history of the period.  Only one chapter looks at the broader social aspects of the conflict, and that one is a study of those Irish who enlisted in the British military.  The rest offer a detailed and dry description of the Irish government’s determined effort to remain neutral despite the enormous political pressure brought to bear on it, particularly by Britain and the United States.  While useful as an up-to-date description of Ireland’s sometimes tortuous efforts to navigate a safe path between the two sides, for a fuller picture of the Irish wartime experience it should be read in conjunction with Clair Wills’s excellent That Neutral Island, which describes the broader social and cultural impact of the war on the Emerald Isle.

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review 2017-08-09 02:30
The Moonlit Garden (Audiobook)
The Moonlit Garden - Alison Layland,Corina Bomann

This was a pleasant surprise! Especially for an Amazon First selection since usually those books are not that great. This is translated into English, but I didn't notice any awkward phrasing to the translation was well done. 

 

I wasn't sure what I was getting into with this one, except that at some point there'd a moonlit garden :D so I was just going along for the ride and it was a good one. Lily owns an antique shop in Berlin and one day an old man comes in, hands her an old violin, tells her it's hers and leaves. The rest of the book goes back and forth between Lily trying to solve the mystery of the violin and Rose, the violin's original owner, a master violinist in the earliest part of the 1900s.

 

There's enough left out in the historical parts to keep the mystery moving in the current timeline. It's just nice to have a mystery that doesn't revolve around murder for a change, and trying to figure out how all the pieces fit together. And while parts of this take place in England and Germany, a good chunk of it takes place in Sumatra, Indonesia, which was also a nice change of pace as I don't often come across books set in Asia.

 

The narrator has kind of a soft voice but it didn't bother me too much. I do wish she had more range in her voices, especially for the men since despite some slight differences to their accents, it was difficult to tell them apart because they all sounded so similar. She does a somewhat better job differentiating the female voices. 

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review 2017-07-23 18:05
The Kitchen God's Wife - DNF @ 41%
The Kitchen God's Wife - Amy Tan

The writing is still well-crafted and masterful, but I just couldn't get into the plot at this time. It feels like a forgotten story from the Joy Luck Club, only without the same level of interaction with the younger generation that provided a counterpoint to the direness of the mothers' tales. I feel terrible for not being able to finish this because I do usually enjoy Tan's characters.

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review 2017-05-06 12:01
Das Scheitern Mitteleuropas 1918-1939 - Das Scheitern Mitteleuropas 1918-1939 -

Das Scheitern Mitteleuropas 1918-1939 / Walter Rauscher

 

„Das Scheitern Mitteleuropas 1918-1939“ von Walter Rauscher - ein Sachbuch, das informativer und lehrreicher nicht sein könnte, ohne auch nur eine Seite lang langweilig zu werden. Man möchte meinen, dass man als Westeuropäer mit den Geschehnissen und Entwicklungen der Vorzeit zum 2. Weltkrieg vertraut ist. Dass man sich auskennt mit den Verläufen der politischen Zeit und allgemeinen europäischen Situation. Doch weit gefehlt. Walter Rauscher gelingt es mit seinem aktuellen Buch, den Leser mit neuen und teils gar überraschenden und erschreckenden Informationen zu versorgen. Was die große inhaltliche Qualität des Buches ausmacht, ist meiner Meinung nach die völlig unerwartete Perspektive des Autors. Als Österreicher versteht er es, die Zeit in neues Licht zu tauchen und entwirrt Verstrickungen und offensichtlich politische Fehlentscheidungen auf gänzlich neutrale Weise. Es wird deutlich, dass die verschobene Perspektive nötig ist, um eine typisch deutsche Sichtweise der Dinge aufzubrechen. Die Darstellung aller Verstrickungen wirkt dabei geradezu spannend – wüsste man nicht um die reellen Hintergründe und Folgen dieser Zeit. Geschichte in ganz besonderer Form.
Der Schreibstil ist durchgängig verständlich (ausgenommen vielleicht einige, wenige österreichische Formulierungen oder Begriffe, deren Bedeutung sich aber immer im weiteren Zusammenhang erschließen lassen). Der Aufbau ist chronologisch und widmet sich in diesem Kontext der Reihe nach bestimmten Gebieten, Ländern oder Ländergruppen und ihren politischen Entwicklungen. Themenbereiche sind dabei territoriale und nationale Differenzen unter den Sieger- und Verlierer-Staaten. Die Neuaufteilungen der Gebiete nach dem ersten Weltkrieg, zunehmender nationaler Egoismus und ungünstige bis stark schädigende Dreiecksbeziehungen und Konflikte unter den einzelnen Staaten. Dramatisch die wirtschaftliche Entwicklung, massiv die Zunahme von Arbeitslosigkeit, Nationalismus und Fremdenfeindlichkeit. Sind dies keine unbekannten Komponenten, so werden es vermutlich doch die Details sein, die Walter Rauscher hier unglaublich präzise und konkret beschreibt sein. Der Autor beschränkt sich grundsätzlich auf die wichtigen Inhalte, so dass das Buch durchweg interessant und definitiv nie langatmig wirkt. Mich konnte Walter Rauscher mit seinem neuen Buch absolut überzeugen. Die Details zum Scheitern Mitteleuropas und der Weg in den 2. (verheerenden) Weltkrieg waren in diesem Buch unglaublich beeindruckend, schockierend und sehr informativ! Insbesondere, da die Thematik und damaligen Geschehnisse sich derzeit in Teilen zu wiederholen scheinen. Insofern ist dieses Buch vielleicht thematisch aktueller denn je und sicherlich ein „must-have“… Absolut lesenswert und zu empfehlen. 5 Sterne.

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