Showing posts with label Germany. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Germany. Show all posts

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Ragged Edge of Night - Book Review

The Ragged Edge of Night - Book Review
What Others Are Saying About This Book
Nazi Germany.  1942.  A priest in search of redemption.  A widow seeking provision for her fatherless children.  A people desperate for relief—relief from oppression, from evil, from hopelessness.  Olivia Hawker's new historical novel, The Ragged Edge of Night, is a revelation.  To immerse ourselves into Anton and Elisabeth's war-torn lives is to see glimmers of unimaginable beauty beneath the desolation of loss, shame, failure, and fear.

As the story begins, Anton is still reeling from the abrupt end of his mission as a Franciscan friar.  To be wrongly stripped of his life's calling has been painful, but even worse, he cannot forgive himself for being powerless to save the children who were in the church's care.  When the Nazis loaded up Anton's students, he was overcome by an overwhelming sense of having committed the unforgivable sin.  Though there was nothing Anton could have done to save the children's lives, the guilt is crushing.


While Anton wrestles with his demons, Elisabeth, a young mother of three who is still grieving over the unexpected death of her beloved husband, is in the midst of considering the hardest decision of her life: whether to remarry in order to provide for her family.  Elisabeth feels great shame as she struggles to reconcile the feeling of being unfaithful to her first husband.  If there was another option, she would gladly choose it.  Alas, the harsh realities of wartime force Elisabeth to publish the following personal ad:
Good churchgoing woman, widowed, mother of three.  In need of a humble, patient man, willing to be a father to my children.  Interest in legitimate marriage only.  I have no money, so those who think to profit need not reply.
 In coming across Elisabeth's plea for help, Anton is immediately struck with a new sense of purpose.  Though his first choice would be to eventually return to his Franciscan order, and while Anton remains true to his sacred vows, he feels that supporting Elisabeth and her children is the right thing to do.  This opportunity has the potential to fulfill Anton's deep need to be useful, to find forgiveness, and to protect those who need it most (addressing his need for redemption due to the loss of the children snatched up by the Nazis who shut down Anton's school and religious order).

The soul of this book is revealed in the simplest, and yet loveliest of ways, as two faithful individuals remain true to their vows, their principles, their hearts, and all that defines a life worth living, and for which they are willing to die.  When Anton's involvement in the resistance movement against Hitler brings danger into his new family's life, relationships will be tested, and the true nature of love will be revealed.

Based on the real life experience of one of the author's family members, The Ragged Edge of Night is a timely story that is sure to inspire every reader who is concerned about the extreme tensions that are being felt in today's world.  This is a moment in history when every single one of us can take heart as we consider the difference an ordinary person like Anton can make in the lives of those who are hurting.  I was deeply moved by this book and highly recommend it.








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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale Book Review

A friend told me that Kristin Hannah’s novel The Nightingale was an excellent book and it was. Though I know this book is a work of fiction, it does deal with real situations that happened during the time period that France was occupied by Germany in World War II.

I know things that happen in this book happened to real people in France. I have always read books set in this time period. However, what happened in that war is still hard to believe. Truly unbelievable. Despite knowing that people were treated in this manner, I still managed to come away in disbelief saying to my husband things like, "How could anyone treat people the way they did?" and "How did the French people manage to survive in those conditions?" We are not talking about one or two crazy people here, right? We are talking about an 'army' of people mistreating people.

Anyway, in my opinion, Kristin Hannah has crafted a wrenching story with a family and with characters that you will come to love. Yes, you are likely going to shed some tears. Yes, you will be upset by the violence and the cruelty and the sexual situations in this book though I must say that it is far from the worst book that I have read in those matters though perhaps more disturbing because it feels so real.

The Nightingale deals with the contributions made to World War II by women. Unfortunately, those important contributions like the women depicted in this book who joined the French Resistance or who managed despite incredible odds to feed their families, have not been as widely acknowledged or recognised as those of men.

In particular, this book deals with two quite different sisters: One who wants to keep her family safe; the other who is not willing to accept the things that are happening to them. It is a story of courage and survival parts of which were inspired by real women like 19-year old Belgian, Andrée De Jongh, who took considerable risks helping people escape from France.

Here is the book trailer. I do not know if it is official or not but it does give a good idea of the things that happen in this story:



This book is well done and HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me and by many others. If you love a book that shares a great story about women’s lives and that is historically based you will enjoy The Nightingale. It is riveting. You will not even notice that it the hardcover book is 440 pages or that the paperback is 600, particularly if you read it as an ebook.

By way of further recommendation, you might take the fact that, according to The New York Times in 2016, this book had sold more than two million copies. This book has drawn both men and women as well as young and old readers. As one who has always been captivated by World War II novels it comes as no surprise to me when the Times stated that people are drawn to them. However, I was interested to learn that this book has drawn a younger generation of readers who perhaps relate to this novel because of how young people were drawn to the French Resistance.

If you are interested in reading The Nightingale, you can find it in all formats including eBook, audiobook and traditional paper book, on Amazon by clicking right here.  I’ve just noticed on the cover that this movie is to become a major motion picture. There is not much information available as I write this other than a rumoured movie release date of 2017, which means that once you have read the book you have a movie to look forward to.

If you like historical fiction, you might also enjoy these reviews on Review This:

Secret Healer by Ellin Carsta, which is set in 14th Century Germany.

The movie The Bridge of Spies, which is set in the cold war.

The One Man by Andrew Gross, which is set in Poland in 1944.

See you
At the book store!
Brenda

Quick Link:

Order your copy of Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale from Amazon.






Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Reviewing The Secret Healer

As many of you know, I love to read and historical fiction is a genre that I enjoy very much. I just recently finished The Secret Healer by Ellin Carsta. I might have missed this delightful book if it hadn't been an editor's choice in the Kindle First subscription that is a part of my Amazon Prime membership. It was one of the choices for reading in April. I was not disappointed!

From 14th Century Germany

The story takes place during the 1300s in the German towns of Heidelberg and Worms. This was a time in our history that women were not valued for much of anything except as maybe the property of their fathers or husbands. I absolutely adored the main protagonist, Madlen who is the daughter of the cabinet maker in Heidelberg. Madlen may come from humble means but she is above average in her intelligence and is taken under the wing of the local midwife Clara at an early age. The young girl learns the benefits of medicinal herbs from the midwife which is something that the physicians of the time did not use. The physicians were strong on the use of bloodletting; a treatment that was not much good for any illness as we know now. During a rather difficult birth, Madlen accidentally discovers a technique of soothing the over anxious woman during the delivery process. She will find this method helps her sooth many of the people she is helping when they become rather hysterical during their illness. 

An absolutely despicable resident of her hometown accuses Madlen of killing his wife causing her to flee to the town of Worms where she finds her estranged Aunt Agathe. While learning the skills she will need to become a seamstress her Aunt comes down with what is referred to as the coughing sickness. I believe this was the pneumonic plague that did spread across Europe during this time in history. Madlen is able to use her knowledge of medicinal herbs and nurses her Aunt back to health. As the illness spreads around the town she is called upon to help many of the citizens. She saves many lives but there is a problem. She is not a doctor and the church has taken notice of this healer and decides that she is an assistant to the devil. Madlen, who is hiding under an assumed identity from the people of Heidelberg, realizes that she must now hide from the church, too.

There were many things that I loved about this well written and constructed book. Many of the women in the story were strong and intelligent women who had to hide the fact that they were very capable in their skills. Many were good business women but were never given credit for their abilities. At that time in history only a man was given credit for any sort of acumen to business or skills. So, these women worked their fingers to the bone to support their drunken, lazy and often abusive men in secret. Women were not supposed to know how to read or write, they could not own a business, they could not be educated in schools or universities or be heralded for any of their accomplishments. The story does not come off as a strong feminist bashing of men but the oppression of the women of the time is written in a superb way that really resonated with my soul.

There was a wonderful love story incorporated into the pages along with a good representation of life in the 14th century. The suspense of whether dear Madlen would be found out and what would become of her kept me captivated until the very end. I liked the incorporation of early medicine in the story and the superstitions that were strong during that time in history.

All in all, I highly recommend this wonderful book. I think that fans of historical fiction will most assuredly love this book but I also feel that it is one of those books that will appeal to most women. Currently, it can be pre-ordered and will be released on May 1, 2016. It will be available in both digital and paperback forms. 




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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Day Before 911: A Review

September 11, 2011 (911) Changed the Lives of All Americans


The Day Before 911 reflects on how 911 changed a DOD teacher overseas and the students he served and their families. It begins in 2011, ten years after the terrorists took out the World Trade Center. At that time Elliot was teaching in Germany. He hadn't expected to be back in the classroom. He had cleaned it out at the end of the previous year when he retired to become a writer. But life happened, and he returned to teaching after all. Although he had been teaching high school students in the previous year, he is now facing sixth graders because that's the grade that needed a teacher.

Ground Zero, Public Domain  Courtesy of https://pixabay.com/en/ground-zero-world-trade-center-63035/
Ground Zero, Image License CCO, Public Domain

As he enters the class, he sees he needs a way to build rapport with these new students. He decides to use the school’s coming commemoration of the ten-year anniversary of 9/11 as an excuse tell them a story about a hero named Tony who loved baseball and stood a very good chance of being drafted into the big leagues. Then terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York and brought down the Twin Towers, killing over 3,000 people,  Tony quit baseball and joined the Marines. He was blown up eleven times, but still kept going back to fight.
Elliot’s students found this hard to believe, but he explained that the qualities that made Tony good at baseball were the same qualities that made him a good Marine. He had learned teamwork in baseball and would have done anything for his teammates. Elliot told his students that Tony had “loved baseball and his teammates so much that he joined another team and put on a different uniform just so he could protect the way of life that he was giving up."
As Elliot was beginning his story, one of the girls raised her had to say that her birthday was (September 11.) It hit Elliot that she had never been able to celebrate her birthday on the actual day she was born. The terrorist attacks had happened on her very first birthday. After that, they always celebrated her birthday on September 10, the day before 9/11. It struck Elliot that since he’d taught high school before, this was the first history class he’d taught that had not remembered 9/11. 
Sources: All quotes used here are from The Day Before 9/11 by Tucker Elliot. I noticed after writing this that Amazon also featured some of these quotes readers, including me, had highlighted, on its Kindle edition page.

9/11 - The Filmmakers' Commemorative Edition


See What Happened on that Horrible Day in American History


This documentary film was shot as a result of videographers being at the right place at the right time. They were there to record the training of a firefighter at a firehouse a short distance from the World Trade Center when the first tower was struck.




Child Abuse in the Military

One of he undercurrents in The Day Before 9/11 was child abuse in the military. Elliot blamed himself for the death of two sisters, Angel and her little sister Grace. Angel had many absences from school he should have investigated in person. He also didn't read an email Grace sent not long before her death that might have motivated him to intervene.
He was at a family gathering after burying his grandmother. He was to fly out the next day to speak at a conference. His mother had ordered take-out pizza and he was supposed to pick it up. While waiting to go, he was scanning his email and saw the header of an email sent a few hours earlier by Angel. By this time his nephew was screaming loudly for him to go get the pizza. He deleted the email, not realizing its importance, and had gone to pick up the pizza.

Screen Shot of Email Interface on my Computer

The deaths haunt Elliot through the rest of the book and he fights his guilt and his loss of faith because he believed God hadn't answered his prayers for his students. He knew his students were dealing with the issues these videos discuss. He especially saw the effect on the children of not only absent parents, but the fear of the children whenever a parent left to go to a new post.

These are some of the same issues faced by children Tucker Elliot taught.


The video above explains the unique problems children of military families face. 

Two Special Girls - Sami and Angel

Although this book will show you a lot about living as an expat civilian on a military base during wartime, you will learn much more about what it means to be a teacher and a human being. As Tucker Elliot looks at how his life and the life of his students changed after 9/11, he is filled with shame and guilt. Four girls entered his life -- Sami in Korea and the others, Angel, Grace, and the Birthday Girl, in Germany. Two of them died, and he believes if he'd followed his better instincts instead of withdrawing he might have saved those two who died.
The first special student was Sami. She walked into his life the year he was teaching in Korea. She loved soccer, and he was the athletic director. He used soccer to reach her and help her be strong in the face of change. When the school had to close for ten days after 9/11 for security reasons, Sami had missed Tucker. When she returned after the school reopened, her parents came with her. Sami hugged Tucker tightly and buried her face in his chest as she said she'd missed him. She introduced her parents. He was impressed with both. Her father was high on the chain of command, and Tucker could tell he was as good a father as he could be while gone so much. Tucker thinks:
I knew right then, my worst fear was going to come true.
Not letting the terrorists win means sometimes the good guys are going to die.
I thought, God no. Not this family.
When the classroom was empty, Tucker would go from desk to desk and pray for each student.
Marine looking at wall of Vietnam Memorial  Source: Wikipedia, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/
Marine looking at wall of Vietnam Memorial 
He himself came from a military family. His dad and uncle had fought in Vietnam. His uncle never came home. His grandmother said she had 'received a flag for a son.' Tucker had visited the Vietnam Memorial in the company of his dad, but he couldn't get his dad to talk about his war experiences. Then at the memorial, his dad's actions changed. As he walked along the wall he ran his fingers over several names and prayed. When he came to his brother's name, he fell to his knees, rolled himself into a fetal position and cried.
Tucker had been named after his uncle and felt the burden of needing to be heroic himself and live out the kind of life his uncle never had the chance to live. He saw it as a heavy burden and says he resented carrying that burden because he could never be as good as his uncle.
There is too much pain and wisdom in the book to share it all here. But I will try to share some of it.
He says:
Teaching isn’t rocket science. It’s about being engaged, listening, paying attention. Despite conventional wisdom, you don’t need to talk a lot to teach well. You do need to care, though. Not so much about what people think of you or whether or not they like you, but about the kids and doing what’s best for them.
Sami's family was transferred to another part of the world. She emailed Tucker, but he never opened her emails. When he got to Germany the next year, he met Angel.
It turns out Sami had been Angel's best friend, and was delighted to have Tucker as her teacher. By the time Tucker met Angel, her mother, whom he'd not yet met, was already suffering from depression. Tucker had visited Ground Zero by then, and he reflects, "So many lives had been lost on that day, but ... I'd come to understand that military children continued to be victimized by these attacks." They were constantly losing their parents to deployment, not knowing if they would ever see them again. He couldn't deal with seeing that pain. He had transferred to Germany so he could teach in a larger school and be more anonymous.
It didn't work, though. Angel found him and told him Sami was upset because he didn't answer her emails. Angel had brought a brand new mousepad. She put it down beside where Tucker's computer would go and wrote her name on it in big letters. When he asked what she was doing, she said, 'You forgot Sami. I don't want you to forget me, too.'
Tucker still hesitated to be involved outside of class hours and usually went home at the end of the school day. Compared to the way he had interacted with his students in Korea, in Germany he was almost aloof as he tried to maintain emotional distance.

Autumn and Winter, and Sami Again

Five months later Sami entered his life again. Angel missed three days of school just after Sami came back. He thought of checking on her, but Sami was draining his energy.
Autumn Leaves, © B. Radisavljevic
Autumn Leaves, © B. Radisavljevic
Tucker tells us autumn and the first part of winter seemed to move along with no visible problems, but then all hell broke loose. Sami's dad got called back to Qatar and Angel's dad was sent to Kuwait. Neither family was ever the same again, nor was Tucker. By this time he strongly suspected something was wrong in Angel's family, but Sami wouldn't betray Angel's confidence to tell him what she knew. Angel herself said she wasn't supposed to talk about "family stuff."
Sami kept nagging Tucker to go visit Angel's home to see why Angel was missing so much school. Instead of going, Tucker told Sami to send her mother over to check on Angel's family. When Angel's family was leaving for their new location, Tucker gave Angel his email address and encouraged her to get in touch with him if she needed help. He told her talk and email were two different things.
I got the feeling that Tucker had not opened his emails from Sami because he could see how dependent she was on their relationship and it drained him emotionally. It's obvious, though that he cared about her. He also cared about Angel. Angel finally did send him an email after she left, but he didn't see it until several hours later, and then circumstances discouraged him from opening it. I never could understand why he ignored the girls' emails. I wanted to yell at him to read the emails. His deleting an email from Angel (under pressure from his nephew) may have sealed her doom. (See introduction to video module above.)
It's tough to review memoirs sometimes. Novelists create the ending they want. One can't always control how one's own life or the lives of others will turn out. I don't want to spoil this narrative by telling you all of it. I have hinted at what changed Tucker Elliot. He carried the footprints of Sami, Angel and Grace in his heart. I believe they will always be there. Perhaps he will also discover who he really is and I hope he finds his peace with the God he seems to have lost faith in.
At the end of the book he is on his way to the place where his uncle died, wondering what he will think and feel when he arrives. He wonders if he will find God and forgiveness at the end of his journey. He wonders if he will be strong enough to be good. He ends he book with these words:
...pain is the harbinger of hope. You have to be alive to feel pain. If you are alive, then you have purpose. If you have purpose, then you have hope....God I want to tell Sami that....I want to tell Sami I'm sorry.


The Day Before 9/11


Don't miss this teacher's heartbreaking account of his emotional journey after September 11, 2001. We may have seen the photo of the jets hitting the Twin Towers in New York, but much of the damage done that day is not visible to outside observers. It damaged the spirits of many like Tucker and the families of the children he taught. It destroyed the lives of many who were not even in the United States that day. It just took more time.



See more of my  reviews of books for adults at Bookworm Buffet, the blog I started for that purpose. At Books to Remember, I review some of the best children's books and educational resources for teachers created before Common Core Standards existed. The books  I review there will supplement any honest curriculum and may not be politically correct, even if the companies that published  them now are.




Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.