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Thursday, October 20, 2016

NEWS OF THE WORLD by Paulette Jiles

NEWS OF THE WORLD  by Paulette Jiles
This is a wise book. The story of an old man who has lost all his worldly possessions in the Civil War and now reads the newspapers to folks who cannot read or have no access to papers and the 10-year-old returning Kiowa captive girl who has now lost two families in heart wrenching circumstances is also a tale of love, hope and the unbreakable human spirit. Told in spare prose, the story is itself spare, and that moves the reader more than more florid words could.
Doris, one of the supporting characters says of Johanna and other returned captives, “our first creation is a turning of the soul…toward the light. To go through another, tears all the making of the first… to bits…they are forever falling.” (pg.56) Good and evil live in this book. Good wins and we are gladdened.
A lovely book that I can highly recommend.

5 of 5 stars

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

CAUGHT IN THE REVOLUTION by Helen Rappaport

CAUGHT IN THE REVOLUTION   by Helen Rappaport
The lives of the diplomats , journalists, ordinary citizens and foreign expats who lived through 1917 in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg), Russia as it fell from Tsarist rule to peasant’s revolt to anarchy to Leninism is told in exacting detail by Rappaport. Her clear and compelling writing makes this journey into disaster and terror real and immediate.  She is able to carry the reader into the unease that slowly begins to develop into the “practically bloodless” and often times polite early revolution and that then descends into chaos and horror as beatings, death, starvation and cold blooded murder escalate.
As well written as it is researched, the book is surprisingly easy to read. The many (nearly 100) pages of notes will fascinate those of a more scholarly bent. I just enjoyed the clear writing and minute by minute detail.  This isn’t a book for everyone, but anyone with an interest in Russia or revolution or world history will appreciate this book.

4 of 5 stars

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Les Parisiennes by Anne Sebba

LES PARISIENNES  by Anne Sebba
This is a very, very dense scholarly book concerning the women of Paris during WWII.  I ended up reading it as a collection of brief episodes as it was difficult to follow any one person’s activities because of the chronological order of events and the various names used by the women during the course of the war. The “Cast list” was almost useless as women were listed under their family name, or their husband’s name, or their resistance name, etc, but not all of them.
There are many French language phrases and words used throughout the book without translation.
You really need a very good working history of France and WWII to understand the enormity of places and events mentioned in passing, ie, the Hiv d’Vel roundup, Ravensbruck medical experiments, the Comet Line and others.
I would not recommend this book to my book group although I did appreciate the work that went into the writing of the book.
3 of 5 stars

 THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD  by Colson Whitehead
My big problem with this book is: it doesn’t know what it is.  Is it historical fiction? Yes, and no. Is it science fiction? Yes, and no. Is it alternative universe/history? Yes, and no.  I had the uncomfortable feeling all while reading it that I was being played by the author. And that is not a comfortable -- or desirable -- feeling.
THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD tells the story of Cora, a plantation slave, and her desire for freedom.  In this book, the underground railroad is just that – underground.  Many interlocking tunnels with a variety of engines and baggage/passenger cars traverse this railroad. Apparently no one hears or notices these steam engines or the building of the tunnels.  The slavery portion of the story is purely antebellum south and rings true. The rest of the story – not so much. 
The first half of the book found me wondering why I kept reading. The last half, I just wanted to know how Cora fared in this awkward world. I can’t recommend this book.
2 of 5 stars