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review SPOILER ALERT! 2019-02-19 12:49
Flucht in den Norden
Flucht in den Norden : Roman - Klaus Mann

This contains spoilers.


Here's a first: a Klaus Mann novel I was looking forward to but that I ended up wanting to finish very quickly because I wanted the book to end and wanted to move on to something else. 


This was Mann's first book after having to emigrate from Germany. The story features a young woman who is forced to flee from the Nazis because she's a communist and has been involved in helping the resistance. 

She manages, by way of false passports and underground travel, to go to Finland where she can stay with a friend's family. 

What follows is basically Mann's argumentation for putting one's political ideals over caring for the people around one, and this is where the book falls down for me. 


While the MC manages to get out, her parents are left behind in Berlin, now unable to work because of their connection with an "enemy of state", and yet our MC doesn't seem to care. Maybe she's trying to suppress her feelings in that regard to keep sane and to find the strength to not despair, but that is not how it struck me in the book. 


When in Finland, she observes that people there too are, to some extent, sympathising with the Nazis because they believe to have a common foe in the Russians, and yet, instead of trying to fight this, our MC only thinks about her friends and comrades who have managed to settle in Paris and who are continuing to run operations from there.


It's almost like our MC is on the run from her own involvement by looking to be involved at another place rather than dealing with the people and day-to-day situations that occur around her. 


Maybe this is an expression of our MC's feeling of helplessness or depression at the time, but given the political polemics that are thrown in throughout the book, I didn't get the impression that despair or paralysis to act were something that Mann wanted to communicate. Given that at the end of the book, our MC decides to, yet, again leave the people she loves (and who really could do with her help) to join "the cause" in Paris, paralysis does not seem to be her issue as much as facing up to the task of realising the needs of the people around her.


Now, maybe it is because I disagree with this call to arms for an idea, that is so impersonal that it completely ignores the actual people it is meant to serve, or maybe it is that I dislike having politics - any politics - pushed at me, but the underlying motivations for what our MC does or does not do in this novel just made no sense to me. 


Of course, it may also be that Mann himself didn't find any credible motivations in the acts of the characters, or of many of the people around him, when he wrote the book, but as much as I could sympathise with him writing the book in the circumstances that he did, it just did not make for compelling reading. Especially not, when we know he could write much better books. 

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text 2019-02-13 23:05
Reading progress update: I've read 92 out of 288 pages.
Flucht in den Norden : Roman - Klaus Mann

I'm glad I've finally gotten around to reading this book, but it is not one of Mann's best. Perhaps understandable given that this is his first book after having to leave Germany, and in many ways, trying to come to grips with his new situation through his fictional characters.


So, even when he was not at his best, he was still a better writer than many others. 

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review 2019-02-13 01:24
The DNA of You and Me by Andrea Rothman
The DNA of You and Me: A Novel - Andrea Rothman Mann

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


I don’t think it’s just you, Emily. I think we all feel like mutants in our own way.”


In a very strong debut, Rothman gives us a contemporary fiction slice of life story featuring Emily, a daughter of a single father, starting off in the science research community. As a child, Emily had an allergy to cut grass and had to stay indoors in the summer, essentially isolating her from playing around with kids her own age. Raised only by her father as her mother dropped her off as a baby and never looked back, he immersed her a lot in his science work. Trying to isolate the genes that allow us to smell, with hopes of possibly one day fixing anosmia, Emily ends up in a lab rife with personal and job political pitfalls.


The story started off with giving us a peak at the ending and then rewinding to show how Emily got where she was. Told completely from Emily's point of view, the story is broken up into parts that worked really well to help conceptually understand where and how Emily is mentally and emotionally at each part. The background on her childhood, reason for not being able to be outdoors, relationship with father, and how this molded her, gave a good emotional impact building block for why her work was important to her and even her feelings toward Aeden, her co-worker and love interest.


As this is, what I call, a slice of life story, it is a glimpse into one character's life, they and the other characters don't always act in ways that the reader wants them to. I thought it was interesting how the parallels were there to be drawn between Aeden and Emily's father. Emily mentions similarities between the two and then how she can't quite connect with Aeden the way she wants to, possibly why she very quickly became fixated on Aeden. Aeden was a bit hard to read as we don't get his point of view, did he feel guilt tripped or did his feelings just naturally grow from being around Emily? However, this uncertainty did put the reader in the same boat with Emily and as she seems to struggle overall with human connection; you'll feel it.


The science in the story was interesting and if you go in with the desire to soak in this world for awhile, you won't feel overwhelmed or lost. I'm definitely a layman with this field and thought everything was explained and relayed in a clear interesting manner, very few times did I feel maybe some in depth moments could be edited out. I do wish I could have gotten a better feel for Emily and some of the emotional moments could have reached deeper; her relationship with her father seemed like a rich well. I also thought her relationship with her boss Justin could have been explored more.


I did think, for a debut, the author had an amazing ease of writing style that flowed well and kept me engaged to keep reading; the pages flew by. However, I ended up feeling like I didn't quite have a solid handle on Emily, her growth emotionally and career wise, was left somewhat open. Competitiveness and relationships in the workplace, why we do the things we do, and destiny versus our own decision making were all leading themes in this story about Emily as she searched for scientific and emotional answers. A slice of life story, where mice hold a lot of the answers.


[...]because at the end of the day science has nothing to do with luck, but with truth, and the truth does not always make one happy.”

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text 2019-02-12 16:48
Reading Update: 20%
The DNA of You and Me: A Novel - Andrea Rothman Mann

Snow day for me! Snuggling in with this debut and Valentine's Day inspired snack :)



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text 2019-02-09 13:19
Reading progress update: I've read 7 out of 288 pages.
Flucht in den Norden : Roman - Klaus Mann

Now that I have cleared a lot of books from my "currently reading shelf", I can look forward to getting stuck into this one. 


I really have enjoyed all of Mann's books that have crossed my path so far, but always feel like they need some undivided attention because his story-telling usually ends up drawing me right into his world. 


With this book, that's quite an unsettling prospect. 

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