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THE ORPHAN’S TALE: A WWII Story ~Pam Jenoff

Monday, March 13th, 2017

We are partaking of a story, THE ORPHAN’S TALE, in which the author wishes the reader to ask the question –“What would I have done?” in these circumstances?  Since there are two protagonists who become friends in the course of the story this is particularly challenging.

Jenoff has been interested in this period of time since she worked at the US State Department and several interesting stories crossed her path during her work.  One story was about a trainload of small Jewish babies, which was transported across Germany during the war and what happened to these little people.   The second story was about a famous Jewish Circus in Germany and a famous German Circus from Germany who toured the war torn, occupied countryside during the war.  The German Circus Owner apparently protected and kept hidden a number of the Jewish performers so that they would survive.  A third story emerged about the Jewish women who had married German soldiers and officers and what became of them when they had to divorce.  Are you interested now?, as these stories are merged in an interesting fictional tale about the war?

Noa is a young 16-year-old Dutch girl who becomes pregnant by a German soldier and is expelled from her home.  She goes to a home for unwed mothers until the baby is born and the doctors and nurses take her baby from her as the boy is not blond haired and blue eyed.  She is told he will be adopted and she finds a job as a cleaner at the local railway station.  She steals a baby coming through on a train from a car of dozens of babies. Stumbling into the woods she is rescued by a German Circus owner at winter training.  Here she meets Astrid.

Astrid is the daughter of a Jewish family who for centuries has owned a Circus in Europe.  She has chosen to marry a young German man who is becoming an officer and she leaves her family and her trapeze artistry.   Her husband wishes to become an SS officer and thus divorces Astrid.  She cannot find her family yet returns to the winter site to help train the artists in the German Circus.  The circus is having a rough go of it financially working around the war and yet still in the spring begins its tour.  Lots of hiding and working out and scary circumstances to endure.

As these stories come together the two women create a bond as Astrid teaches Noa and Noa risks for the sake of the baby and for everyone’s future.  In such difficult circumstances, it is truly astounding the outcome and the resolution of this story.

THE ORPHAN’S TALE is not a difficult read and I think many, many readers would enjoy the story and learning about the circus trains of another time.  The capturing of the prejudice and the thinking of the time by Germans and by the Frenchmen of the countryside played well with the problems of being Jewish and of being in the Circus.  They were not gypsies, they were talented, well trained artists.

Another opportunity to look at history within a story and I believe High School students would also enjoy this read and seeing what it takes to “save” people for the future and how to change minds.   TLC Book Tours http://tlcbooktours.com/2016/12/pam-jenoff-author-of-the-orphans-tale-on-tour-februarymarch-2017/ sent me this e-book for review and I can highly recommend THE ORPHAN’S TALE.

Pam Jenoff:

“Pam Jenoff is the author of several novels, including the international bestseller The Kommandant’s Girl, which also earned her a Quill Award nomination. Pam lives with her husband and three children near Philadelphia where, in addition to writing, she teaches law school.” (From TLC Books)

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“Jenoff expertly performs a pirouetting tale worthy of a standing ovation. A circus of hidden Jews, a powerful friendship, The Orphan’s Tale proves that the human spirit defies hate, fear, and gravity with a triumphant ta-da!” —Sarah McCoy, New York Times bestselling author of The Mapmaker’s Children”

Related:
Adolfo Kaminsky A Forgers Life
The Mapmaker’s Children
Hannah Coulter

POINT OF NO RETURN: A WWII Novel ~Martha Gellhorn

Monday, February 27th, 2017

THE POINT OF NO RETURN had an amazing history when first printed and then in 1989 it was retitled from THE WINE OF ASTONISHMENT to THE POINT OF NO RETURN and Gellhorn wrote a new forward and re-released the novel.  It has been a best seller for years.

“Originally published in 1948, this powerful novel follows a U.S. Army infantry battalion in Europe through the last months of the Second World War—through the Battle of the Bulge, the Allied sweep across Germany, and the discovery of the Nazi death camps. Jacob Levy, a young soldier from St. Louis, has never given much thought to politics, world affairs, or his own Jewish heritage, but after the liberation of Dachau, he confronts the horror of the Holocaust and takes his own violent revenge. Jolted into a new understanding of humanity’s connectedness, he comes to terms with his own Jewish identity and grapples with questions of individual moral responsibility that are still contemporary fifty years later.

“In her afterword, Martha Gellhorn traces the roots of the novel in her own experience as a war correspondent who first heard of the Nazi concentration camps during the Spanish Civil War and herself got to Dachau a week after American soldiers discovered the camp at the end of a village street.” (From Amazon’s page)

Ms. Shull  sent me an e-copy of this book for review.  It took me quite a while to squeeze it onto the schedule and it was well worth the read.  I was right there in the rain and snow, cold to the bone as the American troops worked through the woods in the Battle of the Bulge and took their rest in Luxemburg City.    Powerful read.  Emotional read.

“Martha Gellhorn was born in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1908.  She dropped out of Bryn Mawr to pursue a career in journalism.  Gellhorn spent time living in Paris; documented the Great Depression for the Federal emergency Relief Administration; traveled with her future husband, Ernest Hemingway, to Spain to cover the Spanish Civil War; and journeyed to Western Europe to cover World War II.  Her reporting career was distinguished and lengthy, as she also covered the Vietnam War and conflicts in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Panama. An author of both fiction and nonfiction her works include the memoir TRAVELS WITH MYSELF AND ANOTHER and the novels POINT OF NO RETURN, WHAT MAD PURSUIT, and THE TROUBLE I’VE SEEN. She died in 1998.” (Book Cover)

Related:
Gone To Soldiers
Adolfo Kaminsky: A Forger’s Life
A Constellation Of Vital Phenomena

ADOLFO KAMINSKY A FORGER’S LIFE: A Memoir ~Sarah Kaminsky (Translated by Mike Mitchell)

Monday, November 21st, 2016

“Already published in six languages to a global audience, ADOLFO KAMINSKY A FORGER’S LIFE, critics have called it riveting, thrilling, precise and touching, written like one of the best spy novels, and one of the most captivating books of the year.”(From publicity sheet – Meryl Zegarek Public Relations, Inc.  www.mzpr.com )

Imagine a young boy, a Russian Jew exiled to Argentina and now immigrating to France with his family as the Nazi regime is taking over the countryside.  The boy is allowed some time to attend school and he becomes fascinated with chemistry – helped by a Pharmacist he is able to study and learn.  Then his mother dies, and he must go to work as a dyer (coloring fabric) and here he learns even more chemistry.  The family is rounded up and confined but their Argentinian paperwork keeps them from being shipped to the death camps.  Adolfo Kaminsky is now sixteen and alone and as he finds his way he is brought into the resistance movement and learns how to forge papers and passports.  He learns how to create the machines they need to print the documents and how to age and distress the paper and the forms.

He is also learning photography and development of film.  He worked underground with a team and is meticulous about not being followed and remained invisible.  He was never arrested over his career though he did have to dash away a number of times and move his point of operations many times.  He would not take any money for his efforts and work – never paid.  He was always inventing and selling his photographs as a front to keep going.   He created paperwork for the homeless concentration camps survivors to enter Palestine and create settlements.  When WWII was over his efforts continued for the next thirty years to help all oppressed people, including the Algerian Freedom Fighters even Pacifists in the United States during the Viet Nam War.

Sarah Kaminsky, the youngest daughter, listened to her father dictate this story when he was nearly 80 years old.  They as a team were able to meet and interview many of the people who were part of the story.  When the book was published, the team of father and daughter began to speak at schools and tell the story to young people who were the same age as the young boy who taught himself chemistry and learned how to forge all the paperwork.  This is a riveting story of a non-violent hero of a huge war and a self-effacing, creative voice for the oppressed.  It is a best seller in eleven countries and is now translated into English.

“Sarah Kaminsky (b.1979 in Sidi M’hamed, Algeria) is a French actor, screenwriter and author.  She was three years old when she immigrated to France with her father Adolfo, who is of Russian Jewish origins, carrying an Argentinean passport, and with her mother Lei..la, a Tuareg Algerian.  Sarah Kaminsky is currently employed as a screenwriter at several production companies in France.  She lives in Paris.”

“Mike Mitchell (b. Rochdale, England) has been active as a translator from German-English and French-English for over thirty years.  He is the recipient of the Schlegel-Tieck Prize for translations of German works published in Britain, has won the British Comparative Literature Association translation competition three times, and has been shortlisted for numerous other awards.  In 2012 the Austrian Ministry of Education, Art and Culture awarded him a lifetime achievement award as a translator of literary works.  He lives in Scotland.”

This book was a remarkable read and on the top of my list to share with others.

Related
Gone to Soldiers
Autumn in Oxford
The Boys in the Boat
Sarah Kaminsky TED Talk
Sarah Kaminsky Wikipedia

FINDING FONTAINEBLEAU: An American Boy in France ~ Thad Carhart

Monday, July 11th, 2016

“Long before mass tourism and globalization, France was simple, soulful, and every inch stimulating.  Carhart knew it all and shares this with us with the deftness and insight of a master storyteller.”  (Cover:  Leonard Pitt, author of WALKS THROUGH LOST PARIS)

FINDING FONTAINBEBLEAU is a beguiling memoir of post war France with loving stories about baguettes and penmanship learned with quill pens and black ink.  I enjoyed every page and every story in this book and was sad when I turned the last page.  At age 4, Carhart’s military family was moved from the Virginia suburbs to Fontainebleau, France.  The family celebrated their move with trips all over the countryside and discoveries while attending French schools.  With five children and a big old “woodie” Chevy station wagon they explored.  The author captures a great deal about French culture and habits.  It is a remarkable story.

The Nazi invasion truly made a difference to the hearts and minds of the French and the subtle protections on the individual levels are recorded in the stories.  PBS is doing a series on the importance of NATO and this story talks about the beginnings of those treaties.  War changes so much.
About the Author

The son of an air force officer, Thad Carhart grew up in a variety of places, including Washington, D.C.; Fontainebleau, France; Minneapolis; Amherst, Massachusetts; and Tokyo. After graduating from Yale, he worked for the State Department as an interpreter. His first book, The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, appeared in 2000, published by Random House. Across the Endless River, a historical novel came out in 2009 with Doubleday. He lives in Paris. (AMAZON)

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I was constantly thinking about who I wanted to share this book with and for what occasion.  Carhart has returned to France with his family as an adult and has been given tours by the architect who is refurbishing The Castle Fontainebleau.  The layers of tile, the roofing material, the commitment of the people of France to their historic sites and the damage done by millions of tourists as they visit is fascinating.  Then the stories of the Kings, Queens, Mistresses and how they changed the buildings and added on to the design, and how consistent and authentic the designs and repairs were to the original buildings – fascinating.

The author’s Mother and the recorded stories about the 5 siblings and their adjustments to a new house and country are loving and often humorous.  The word delightful just keeps coming to mind.

I just wrapped up my copy for the biking architect in my family as his birthday is tomorrow and he will so enjoy this story to the max.  It did make me want to visit France and particularly Fontainebleau.  I have been excitedly talking about the book at my book groups as even though it is a very different read, I think they will enjoy the look at the 50s and what it would be like to be transplanted, not knowing the language, as a child.

TLC Book Tours   sent this book to me for review and it is wonderful.

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