Tag: Historical Fiction

The Librarian of Auschwitz

Author: Antonio Iturbe
424 Pages
Published: October 10, 2017

Reviewed By: Kim
XXX’s Rating: 5 Stars

Description from Amazon:

Based on the experience of real-life Auschwitz prisoner Dita Kraus, this is the incredible story of a girl who risked her life to keep the magic of books alive during the Holocaust. Fourteen-year-old Dita is one of the many imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Taken, along with her mother and father, from the Terezín ghetto in Prague, Dita is adjusting to the constant terror that is life in the camp. When Jewish leader Freddy Hirsch asks Dita to take charge of the eight precious volumes the prisoners have managed to sneak past the guards, she agrees. And so Dita becomes the librarian of Auschwitz. Out of one of the darkest chapters of human history comes this extraordinary story of courage and hope.

Kim’s Review:

First book of 2018!!! And why I decided to pick a book that would pull my heart out of my chest and stomp on it, I’ll never know! I got this book for Christmas and I couldn’t wait to pick it up. The cover is gorgeous, its based on a true story, and its all about books. As much as I’ve studied the Holocaust and Auschwitz, I don’t think I’ve ever read about the family camp or the children’s school. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve read an account of day to day life in Auschwitz, other than the constant stream into the gas chambers. This book does a great job of capturing the feelings of the prisoners. In other accounts, it seems that all you can feel is the fear and despair. But in The Librarian, there’s a sense of hope that never seems to be extinguished.

Dr. Mengele could easily fit in as the villain in any horror story and be completely believable and terror-inducing. Yet Dita refuses to be cowed. Fredy, instead of looking out for his own interests and well-being like most leaders of that time did, successfully ran a school for hundreds of kids, in the middle of the most deadly extermination camp the Nazis ever set up! How our youth of today manage to “survive” in this world of mean, offensive people, I’ll never know! *cough*sarcasm*cough*

There were so many feelings in this book! I was inspired, heartbroken, excited, scared, frustrated, angry . . . I thought I was going to burst. This is another fiction book that reads like non-fiction. Iturbe researched extensively and spent a lot of time with Dita before writing. The Postscript was actually my favorite part of the whole book because it was wonderful to hear about what kind of person Dita grew up to be. Pretty sure she is my new hero and will remain in that position forever!

I would save this for slightly older teens, keep it in high school classrooms and libraries. But every single high school history teacher should have this book on their shelves. I absolutely recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, history, or just an inspiring story. I would also suggest that every single high schooler read this book. An easy 5 stars! “Books are extremely dangerous; they make people think.”

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

The Painted Bridge

Author: Wendy Wallace
Published: July 17, 2012
306 Pages

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 3 stars

Book Description from Amazon:

JUST OUTSIDE LONDON, behind a high stone wall, lies Lake House, a private asylum for genteel women of a delicate nature. In the winter of 1859, Anna Palmer becomes its newest patient. To Anna’s dismay, her new husband has declared her in need of treatment and brought her to this shabby asylum.

Confused and angry, Anna is determined to prove her sanity, but with her husband and doctors unwilling to listen, her freedom will not be easily won. As the weeks pass, she finds other allies: a visiting physician who believes the new medium of photography may reveal the state of a patient’s mind; a longtime patient named Talitha Batt, who seems, to Anna’s surprise, to be as sane as she is; and the proprietor’s bookish daughter, who also yearns to escape.

Yet the longer Anna remains at Lake House, the more she realizes that—like the ethereal bridge over the asylum’s lake—nothing and no one is quite as it appears. Not her fellow patients, her husband, her family—not even herself. Locked alone in her room, driven by the treatments of the time into the recesses of her own mind, she may discover the answers and the freedom she seeks . . . or how thin the line between madness and sanity truly is.

Kim’s Review:

I was really disappointed in this book. Y’all know me well enough by now to know that I’ll pick up any book about an asylum. I got really excited by the description and the beautiful cover . . . but it was so boring! I’m sorry, and I hate saying it, but this was one of those books that I just slugged through. Normally books take me a couple days, a week at most, but this book took me nearly 2 weeks to finish.

I love books that keep me thinking about the story even when the book is closed, and draws me in to where I can’t wait to sit and open it up again. This book did not do that. I liked Anna and Catherine, and I liked how Wallace brought out the problems of the way the insane were treated back then, and the underlying message of true feminism. The story itself was just ok. There were certain times that the technicalities of photography had me yawing. I wish she had gotten into the relationship between Dr. St. Clair and Anna more, but they barely interacted with each other and it was frustrating. Overall, I don’t think I’d recommend this book to anyone.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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Annexed

Author: Sharon Dogar
352 pages
Published: January 10, 2012

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 Stars

Description from Amazon:

Everyone knows about Anne Frank and her life hidden in the secret annex – but what about the boy who was also trapped there with her?

In this powerful and gripping novel, Sharon Dogar explores what this might have been like from Peter’s point of view. What was it like to be forced into hiding with Anne Frank, first to hate her and then to find yourself falling in love with her? Especially with your parents and her parents all watching almost everything you do together. To know you’re being written about in Anne’s diary, day after day? What’s it like to start questioning your religion, wondering why simply being Jewish inspires such hatred and persecution? Or to just sit and wait and watch while others die, and wish you were fighting. As Peter and Anne become closer and closer in their confined quarters, how can they make sense of what they see happening around them? Anne’s diary ends on August 4, 1944, but Peter’s story takes us on, beyond their betrayal and into the Nazi death camps. He details with accuracy, clarity and compassion the reality of day to day survival in Auschwitz – and ultimately the horrific fates of the Annex’s occupants.

Kim’s Review:

I originally bought this book way back when I was teaching in Hawaii. I went to a teachers’ conference at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC and they gave us a list of book recommendations for our classrooms. Annexed was one of the books and you know I never pass up a good excuse to buy a book!

Holocaust stories are always hard to read so I kept putting it off, but then I finally decided to pick it up and read it. I’m very glad I did. As I suspected, it was a tough read; there were several times that I had to stop to keep myself from breaking down in tears. I hate to admit it, but I have never actually read the Diary of Anne Frank. I’ve seen dramatic productions, but I’ve never read it. However, I do know the story and its details.

This book was a different perspective on the Frank’s story. It is told in the voice of Peter van Pels, in an honest, teenage mindset. We all take many things for granted; things like the freedom to open a window or to have a room to ourselves. Peter’s hopelessness in a situation that, in fact, offered a sliver of hope was so real and palpable. Seeing each member of the Annex as a real person with a personality that often scraped against one another, the constant lack of privacy, depending on a few on the outside to provide necessities . . . I never imagined having to live like that, having my very survival depend on it. This is another book that upper high school teachers should have on their shelves.

There are some adult themes, mainly a teenage boy being a teenage boy, that would keep me from allowing younger kids to read this. I would absolutely require my own teenagers, along with any under my educational care to read this book. I read it in a day and learned much from it. I recommend this to anyone interested in Holocaust history or wants a good emotional read.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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