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review 2017-12-13 21:39
The Post-Office Girl by Stefan Zweig
The Post-Office Girl (New York Review Books Classics) - Stefan Zweig

This is an odd novel, which makes sense, since it was left unfinished at the author’s death. It is a blistering look at economic inequality, set in Austria after WWI and examined through the stories of characters whose circumstances appear to prevent them from ever getting ahead.

Christine is a young woman who was born middle class, but has lived a life of drudgery since her teenage years, when her family lost both money and menfolk to the war. Out of the blue, a rich American aunt invites her to spend two weeks in a Swiss resort, where she flourishes. But on returning home, she is left hating her working-class life, and soon meets a disaffected war veteran who, through many long speeches, provides the intellectual basis for her discontent.

The first half of the book was a lot of fun to read; after an initial slow start, I was quickly absorbed by the story and eager to learn what would happen next. The second half is interesting and brings Zweig’s themes to the forefront, though it is much darker. The end is ambiguous, leaving the characters’ fates up in the air. It is well-written and engaging throughout. The characters feel three-dimensional and realistic, though I wondered in the second half whether Christine is representative of the way an actual Austrian woman in the 1920s would have thought, or only the way a man at the time would have envisioned one (to her, even an active decision to have sex is necessarily an act of submission, and she claims that as a woman she can’t undertake bold action herself, though she can do anything if following her man). And there are a few rough edges and loose ends: I wondered what Christine could have talked about to the moneyed international jet set, which she does constantly and with great animation; without TV or Internet, and without revealing any details of her life, they seem entirely without common ground. I also wondered why she never thought about following up on

(view spoiler)

the older man who was interested in marrying her; she may not have realized that, but he stood by her and invited her to visit his castle,

(spoiler show)

which she for some reason never considered as an option later.

But at any rate, this is a short novel and a very engaging read. It moves fairly quickly and the translation is excellent. A pleasant surprise. 

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review 2017-12-13 17:26
My Review of The Boy Who Painted the World
The Boy Who Painted the World - Melody J. Bremen

The Boy Who Painted the World by Melody J. Bremen is the story of a 10 year old homeless boy, Indigo, who loves to paint and wishes to one day be a famous painter.

 

This is an incredible story of loss, love, determination, and strength. I felt Indigo's emotions throughout the story. I watched as he grew and became more and more determined to be the painter he always wanted to be. This is a great story for children 9-12, or like me, just a kid at heart.

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review 2017-12-11 22:30
The Drowned and the Saved / Primo Levi
The Drowned and the Saved - Primo Levi

The author tries to understand the rationale behind Auschwitz, Treblinka, Bergen-Belsen. Dismissing stereotyped images of brutal Nazi torturers and helpless victims, Levi draws extensively on his own experiences to delve into the minds and motives of oppressors and oppressed alike. Describing the difficulty and shame of remembering, the limited forms of collaboration between inmates and SS goalers, the exploitation of useless violence and the plight of the intellectual, Levi writes about the issue of power, mercy and guilt, and their effects on the lives of the ordinary people who suffered so incomprehendingly.

 

How in the world do I rate a book like this? I guess its four stars, because I didn’t find it to be quite as engaging as Night or Man's Search for Meaning, but it was still an un-put-down-able book. I’ll be reading more of Levi’s work, without a doubt. The voices of these Holocaust survivors become ever more important as attrition takes them from us and their story becomes doubted by some.

The Drowned and the Saved is a powerful metaphor for the concentration camp experience. Those who emerged became the Saved, those who perished became the Drowned. As in the two books that I referenced above, Levi tells us that those who appear to be the Saved had to do some brutal things to get that status. He goes so far as to say that all the good people were among the Drowned. So how was he to feel about himself, supposedly one of the elect? His death in 1987 was ambiguous—officially ruled as a suicide, but it may have been an accident.

He says that the Saved were the prisoners who didn’t actually touch bottom while in the camps. It seems that he may have hit bottom well after the fact.

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text 2017-12-11 18:45
I've read 30% of The Only Girl in the World
The Only Girl in the World: A Memoir - Maude Julien,Adriana Hunter

 

This story is pretty brutal but not in the usual way. I'm a horror loving gal and so usually my brutal books have more to do with redneck cannibals than anything in real life.

 

In this true story, Maude Julien relates how her father adopted her mother and then later impregnated her. Maude was a result of that pregnancy. 

 

Her father did this on purpose because he set out to raise a perfect "super-human" being. The things he does to Maude throughout her childhood are horrible. She is completely isolated, (her entire family is), from everyone and everything. She has no contact with other children or any people at all, other than "The Killer", who comes to the house a few times a year to butcher livestock, which she and her mother then have to wrap and freeze. 

 

Maude has no rights whatsoever, so I think this will be a good option for the Human Rights square, number 7.

 

 

Book themes for International Human Rights Day: Read a book originally written in another language (i.e., not in English and not in your mother tongue), –OR– a book written by anyone not Anglo-Saxon, –OR– any story revolving around the rights of others either being defended or abused.
–OR– Read a book set in New York City, or The Netherlands (home of the U.N. and U.N. World Court respectively).

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review 2017-12-09 19:31
An illustrated introvert's story
Quiet Girl in a Noisy World: An Introvert's Story - Debbie Tung

Introvert and author Debbie Tung brings her story in graphic novel form. A lover of tea and books, the person of the 'Where's My Bubble' Tumblr also brings us her story via her comics, which you may have seen around the web.

 

The book illustrates her life and times from a child into adulthood and what it's like not knowing you're an introvert. School teachers tell you/your parents you need to break out of a bubble. Socializing and not partying can be isolating and maybe some find it strange that you're so exhausted afterwards. That new job doesn't quite fit and it's not really clear why. But you find friends and maybe that special someone who does understand and respects your needs. And maybe you find out there's a word for what you feel when socializing vs. activities that don't require group interaction and socializing. 

 

Since I was already familiar with Tung I didn't realize that this was her story. I had somewhat thought it was something like other introverted comics/graphic novels such as 'Introvert Doodles' or 'Text, Don't Call' that describe introverts and introversion but not as a personal story. This book's a bit different since Tung lets her illustrations speak for her and is more of a memoir rather than a general introvert book.

 

Which was fine by me! Not everyone will like or identify (she likes tea and books and reading, which is totally my alley) but I enjoyed it a lot. I had seen many of her illustrations before but it was nice to see her story. I suppose it would have been nice to have an introduction or maybe just some text to put it all into context but this is minor and the book does its job.

 

If you know someone who wants to learn more about introversion/introverts and is a visual sort of person then this (plus the other books mentioned above) would make great gifts. I was happy to support the author in purchasing the book but others may prefer to check it out from the library.

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