Author: Elie Weisel
Published: December 4, 2012
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 5 stars
Translated by Marion Wiesel
A profoundly and unexpectedly intimate, deeply affecting summing up of his life so far, from one of the most cherished moral voices of our time.
Eighty-two years old, facing emergency heart surgery and his own mortality, Elie Wiesel reflects back on his life. Emotions, images, faces and questions flash through his mind. His family before and during the unspeakable Event. The gifts of marriage and children and grandchildren that followed. In his writing, in his teaching, in his public life, has he done enough for memory and the survivors? His ongoing questioning of God—where has it led? Is there hope for mankind? The world’s tireless ambassador of tolerance and justice has given us this luminous account of hope and despair, an exploration of the love, regrets and abiding faith of a remarkable man.
Elie Wiesel was one of the great heroes of the 20th century! His books have affected and touched so many people and his life has been an influence for good for so many years. He passed away 2 years ago and y’all know I’ve been on a Holocaust literature kick this year. This book is a short and easy read . . . but emotional like you would not believe! I finished reading The Boy in the Striped Pajamas right before reading Open Heart, so I was already emotional. Elie Wiesel’s death popped up in my Facebook memories a little while ago and all the criticism and attacks made me angry and nauseous all over again. So, reading Open Heart again was actually more meaningful and emotional for me than the first time I read it.
I’m a strong believer in historical education, especially Holocaust education; reading how Mr. Wiesel questioned his teaching and writing, the information he conveyed, whether or not he said too much, killed me! His impact on the world should never be questioned or dismissed, and yet when he believed he might die, he did just that. I just wanted to cry . . . which I’ll admit, I did.
Another thing that struck me, was the idea that he acted like this was his first brush with death. Some would probably say that sounds ridiculous, considering everything he survived as a young kid; I found it refreshing and inspiring. He said that, in the Jewish tradition, he tried to live and focus on life and not death.
This book shows the mind of an inspirational, unselfish, and brilliant man and causes us to think about many things that either never occurred to us, or that we would rather not think about at all. Overall, I think everyone should read this book, especially now that Mr. Wiesel and many other Holocaust survivors have passed away. It’s encouraging, informative, emotional, heartbreaking, and inspiring all at the same time!
Author: John Boyne
Published: October 1, 2015
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 3 stars
When Pierrot becomes an orphan, he must leave his home in Paris for a new life with his Aunt Beatrix, a servant in a wealthy household at the top of the German mountains. But this is no ordinary time, for it is 1935 and the Second World War is fast approaching; and this is no ordinary house, for this is the Berghof, the home of Adolf Hitler.
Quickly, Pierrot is taken under Hitler’s wing, and is thrown into an increasingly dangerous new world: a world of terror, secrets and betrayal, from which he may never be able to escape.
I enjoyed reading this book … but there’s something about it that’s keeping me from saying that I loved it. Pierrot starts out as a kid you have hope for, but then as he grows, he turns into a monster! He even had good influences growing up from the ladies who ran the orphanage. But then, under the influence of Hitler, that sweet little boy dies and a hardened Nazi emerges. I will admit that it’s a very realistic view of how Hitler was able to convince an entire nation to follow him. It just has an air of sugar coating about it.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas was filled with emotion and condemnation and horror. This book almost seemed to excuse the evil actions of Pierrot in order to save some likeableness for him. Although he struggles with regrets, to me, it didn’t seem sincere. He simply wants to make himself feel better and bring some stability to his life. A guilty conscience is a good start, but this book is almost the equivalent of patting a criminal on the head saying, “oh don’t be so hard on yourself!” I wanted to like this so badly and I just didn’t.
I would recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction. But I wouldn’t recommend this to teens, the message is a little too murky and I wouldn’t want to cause any confusion.
Author: Jessica Shattuck
Published: March 28, 2017
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars
Three women, haunted by the past and the secrets they hold
Set at the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, a powerful and propulsive story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined an affecting, shocking, and ultimately redemptive novel from the author of the New York Times Notable Book The Hazards of Good Breeding.
Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once-grand castle of her husband s ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resister murdered in the failed July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband s brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows.
First Marianne rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of her dearest childhood friend, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together, they make their way across the smoldering wreckage of their homeland to Berlin, where Martin s mother, the beautiful and naive Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resister s wife, and her two boys, now refugees languishing in one of the many camps that house the millions displaced by the war.
As Marianne assembles this makeshift family from the ruins of her husband s resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that the black-and-white, highly principled world of her privileged past has become infinitely more complicated, filled with secrets and dark passions that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually, all three women must come to terms with the choices that have defined their lives before, during, and after the war each with their own unique share of challenges.
Written with the devastating emotional power of The Nightingale, Sarah s Key, and The Light Between Oceans, Jessica Shattuck s evocative and utterly enthralling novel offers a fresh perspective on one of the most tumultuous periods in history. Combining piercing social insight and vivid historical atmosphere, The Women in the Castle is a dramatic yet nuanced portrait of war and its repercussions that explores what it means to survive, love, and, ultimately, to forgive in the wake of unimaginable hardship.
It’s hard to criticize a book like this because of its subject matter and our need to condemn the past. I have rated it based on the fact that I enjoyed reading it, I liked the story and didn’t like the characters. I appreciate the way this book lays out life, not as black and white, but in many shades of gray.
I went into this story expecting to like the main character of Marianne because I agree with her on a moral level, and by the end, I did have some good feelings toward her. But for most of the book, I couldn’t stand her. She’s that annoying, overbearing, self-righteous, do-gooder who won’t leave you alone until you do exactly what she’s told you to do. I didn’t like Benita much either. She was far too self-centered for me. I expected to like either one or the other, because liking Marianne OR Benita seemed to be mutually exclusive. But nope, I actually disliked both of them. Ania, I liked. She seemed the most human and realistic of all of them. Yes, she did wrong, but then she stopped doing wrong to protect her children. And she admitted her wrong doing! That is what was so important to me about Ania. Although she had life excuses for why she did things, she admitted they were wrong and then tried to live her life the right way.
So, in the same way that you enjoy reading something you disagree with because you disagree with it and have fun pointing out why you’re right and the book is wrong, I enjoyed this book because I disagreed with and disliked some of the characters. I would recommend this book to readers who like historical fiction and those who enjoy moral dilemmas.