Tag Archives: WWII

Review: When the Future Comes Too Soon

51locs0rbnl-_sy346_Recap: World War II is taking over the talk, minds and happenings of British Malaya, and the people there are starting to fear for their lives. Young mother Mei Foong realizes things are heating up once Malaya is bombed. As the war worsens and the family must temporarily flee their home for safety, Mei Foong gets to know several other families from her town, including a man named Chew Hock San, who makes her feel things she’s never felt before. But Mei Foong is also married with four children and a fifth on the way. Her relationship with her husband is not ideal. She provides children and a wealthy status for him, and he provides financially for her, but the chemistry has dwindled over the years.

Mei Foong and her family are able to return home, but soon after that, the Japanese take over. People are getting killed, the prices of good skyrocket and Mei Foong’s husband becomes sick. He must go to a hospital far away where he can get the care he needs, but while he’s gone, Chew Hock San starts popping up yet again, offering to help Mei Foong with whatever she needs. The mixture of her fear of the war, her sick husband, her desire for Chew Hock San and her love for her children push Mei Foong to the limit in a time of desperation.

Analysis: As a person who loves World War II novels, I couldn’t put this one down. It’s a war story I’d never heard before; it wasn’t about the Holocaust or Jewish people being persecuted. To read about another persecuted group’s experience, the Malayans, and the evil they faced was eye-opening. More interestingly, Mei Foong’s family wasn’t directly impacted by the war in terms of being killed or tortured. In fact, in many respects, her family was one of the lucky ones — and yet, the war still so badly severed her family and relationships with others. It’s proof that WWII did more than just kill people; it caused an astronomical amount of stress that affected people in unexpected ways. Fresh perspective on something that happens 75 years ago isn’t easy to do, but it’s done here.

MVP: Mei Foong. For a wife who at first is so submissive, Mei Foong ultimately stands up in the only way she can. Because of this decision, her life does not go the way she wanted or planned, but her strength and stubbornness in her decision is undeniable and awe-inspiring.

Get The Future Comes Too Soon in paperback for $10.25.

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Review: The Nightingale

515p3orn1kl-_sy344_bo1204203200_Recap: Viann and Isabelle are two sisters at different points in their lives, who are both dealing with the same struggle: surviving in Nazi-occupied France during WWII. Just because they’re not Jewish doesn’t make things any easier. Viann and her daughter are forced to house a Nazi while Viann’s husband fights in the war. While she prays daily for her husband, she also must continue teaching students at school and being the primary support for her Jewish best friend and neighbor. She carries on with her duties while watching her hometown fall apart and witnessing death and destruction.

While Viann tries to get through each day, Isabelle decides she must do something and joins rebel group. She moves back to France to live with her father, with whom she has a tumultuous relationship. After months of passing notes between other rebels, she takes up an even greater cause: saving injured foreign soldiers by leading them through the Pyrenees Mountains into Spain.

The story goes back and forth between WWII and a time 50 years later, when one of the sisters considers returning to France for the first time since the war.

Analysis: As much as I love books, it takes a lot for one to make me cry, and The Nightingale had been sobbing, but not in a depressing way like My Sister’s Keeper, and not in a unnecessarily depressing way like One Day. The ending of The Nightingale was simply so perfect, so beautiful that it brought tears of joy to my eyes in the best way. These sisters suffered through so much and made so many sacrifices. Their lives didn’t go the way they wanted or expected them to, but the way they lived them was worth it in the end. Without giving away too much, it was just beautiful.

The mystery of which sister was telling the story 50 years later kept me turning pages as much as their own individual stories. Even the less interesting sections about Viann cooking dinner were still fascinating because of the greater issues going on around her.

I also loved that this was a Holocaust fiction novel about two non-Jews. It makes it obvious that even for the groups that weren’t targeted, there was still so much pain and anguish, and that’s not something we hear about too often when reflecting on Europe during WWII.

MVP: Isabelle. She received the least amount of love. Her family constantly pushed her away. She never received the support she needed or deserved. And yet, she showed more love, gave more support and exhibited more strength than any of the characters in the novel. She made life possible for so many people, and that cannot be ignored.

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Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ Released in Germany for First Time in 70 Years

76793512Mein Kampf, or what would be translated as My Story, is the autobiographical book that helped place Adolf Hitler in a position of power in Germany before WWII. Because of that, the German state of Bavaria refused to print the book after Germany lost World War II. But as of January 1, 2016, the book’s copyright expired, and now Mein Kampf has reached bestseller status.

 

According to Mic, only 4,000 copies were planned the first printing of this new — and annotated — edition. As of last week, pre-orders hit 15,000.

The new version was annotated those reading it for scholarly use. An author featured last week on NPR’s “Fresh Air” said Mein Kampf is written in mostly statements, not arguments, and that the book is less impactful than Hitler’s speeches and oratory at the time. He had no fears about what the reprint of the book could mean. Other supporters also agree that the book serves an educational and scholarly purpose.

But since our current world still experiences so much hatred toward other ethnicities, races and religions, it’s hard for me to understand the good that the re-release of Mein Kampf brings. I believe in free speech, and as a Jewish person, I am curious to try and understand where his anti-Semitism started. But the thought of a vulnerable, irrational person reading this also makes me nervous.

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Review: The Reader

Recap: It’s a daring, forbidden relationship, but how is 15-year-old Michael supposed to resist the beautiful, curvacious woman more than 20 years his senior? The Reader tells the story of Michael and Hanna’s 30+ year relationship in post-WWII Germany.

The story begins when Hanna rescues Michael after he falls ill on his walk home from school. He is very sick for a few months, and afterwards, he finally seeks out Hannah to thank her for her heroic actions. But their friendship quickly and ferociously turns sexual, and suddenly Hanna, a 36-year-old train conductor, is sleeping with a high school student. After some time, the sex turns into love, and all the while, Michael reads to Hanna. When they’re not making love, he’s reading stories, teaching her about the world outside their lovesick bubble.

Suddenly, Hanna leaves town. But it’s not the last Michael sees of his first and only true love. They do meet again — but this time it’s in court, and it’s not sexual at all. Hanna is on trial for a Nazi war crime — one that only Michael, who spent all those months reading to Hanna, knows she did not commit. But off she goes to jail, and Michael makes it a point to continue their relationship.

Analysis: The beauty of The Reader is that the novel is written so eloquently, yet like a diary. With Michael narrating, he doesn’t go into details. He speaks bluntly and openly to the readers, nonchalantly mentioning the night he fell in love with Hanna and their sexual escapades. His matter-of-fact narration sets the tone for the novel itself; the story moves quickly without much description. Author Bernhard Schlink writes The Reader so one storyline flows immediately into and causes the next. I like a book that moves quickly and wastes no time.

But I also like book with intertwining stories and surprises, which is what Schlink offers here. I knew that Michael and Hanna would meet again, but I didn’t think it would be during a war crimes trial. While Michael and Hanna are involved, there’s so little we know about Hanna. So initially, her involvement in Auschwitz is shocking.

The trial shines light on how Germany struggled to deal with the war even years after it ended. It also speaks to the issue of illiteracy, which — we can infer and later learn for a fact — is why Michael reads to Hanna. Big social issues, historical fiction, and romance play dynamic roles in The Reader, which left me fascinated and wanting to learn more.

MVP: Hanna. She had her issues — illiteracy, a murder conviction, sexual relations with an underage boy, and obvious insecurity. But she’s bold. She commands power, albeit unknowingly, over others in a way that’s both infuriating and captivating. She’s as complex as complex characters get, and I just wanted to know more about her.
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