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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)

Pam Jenoff Facebook
Pam Jenoff Web
Pam Jenoff Twitter

“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

A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING: A Novel ~ Ruth Ozeki

Monday, December 5th, 2016

A nearly perfect read, which came into my awareness with nearly perfect timing, and gave me a nearly perfect excuse to do nothing else except read; Exquisite.

The story begins with a 16-year-old girls voice saying:  “Hi! My name is Nao, and I am a time being. Do you know what a time being is?  Well, if you give me a moment, I will tell you.” This child’s story is compelling and sometimes funny and sometimes very difficult.  Nao is trying to figure out life and how to live it after having been living the “good” life in California and now whisked back to Japan in the dot com bust.   Her father is extremely depressed and it is affecting the whole family.  The guilt, the anger, the shame is difficult to understand and yet it draws one into the story.  The bullying and shaming that Nao must endure is horrific.

There is a second story that takes place on an island on the British Columbia Coastline.   Ruth, a writer, is wandering the beach and finds a “Hello Kitty” lunch pail in a heavy plastic shipping bag.  When opened the lunch pail contains a journal and a Kamikaze pilot’s letters and watch, it appears to be debris from the Japanese tsunami of 2011.  It is Nao’s journal and her story and history.

The story is also about the Zen experience of life as shared by Nao’s lessons from her 104 year old great grandmother, who is the mother of the Kamikaze pilot.  How can there be humor in such a story?  There is a great deal of humor in the story.  The characters on the island truly come alive and participate in the story.  Ruth and her partner Oliver are strong characters in their own right.  Fact and fiction twirl about as compliments to understanding the deeper issues facing each person-culture.  Is Nao still alive and well?  How could this person be tracked down and could they all be on the Internet?

My book group chose this book and so it is apart of my own library.  The other members of the group discovered that there was a reader’s play of this story being performed in the city and they bought tickets and went to the performance.  We cannot stop talking about this book and we all agree that there is perfection in the writing of this story, which makes it a huge recommendation and a must read for so many people I know.    I just had to share it with you

Bursting with symbolism, a story for our time – full of topics to discuss; breaks the barriers and expectations of traditional thinking.

Ruth Ozeki Webpage
Ruth Ozeki Twitter

From the website:

“Ruth Ozeki is a novelist, filmmaker, and Zen Buddhist priest.Her first two novels, My Year of Meats(1998) and All Over Creation (2003), have been translated into 11 languages and published in 14 countries. Her most recent work, A Tale for the Time-Being (2013), won the LA Times Book Prize, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critic’s Circle Award, and has been published in over thirty countries. Ruth’s documentary and dramatic independent films, including Halving the Bones, have been shown on PBS, at the Sundance Film Festival, and at colleges and universities across the country. A longtime Buddhist practitioner, Ruth was ordained in 2010 and is affiliated with the Brooklyn Zen Center and the Everyday Zen Foundation. She lives in British Columbia and New York City, and is currently the Elizabeth Drew Professor of Creative Writing at Smith College.”

“Tantalizing”– The Washington Post
“A spellbinding tale.” – O, The Oprah Magazine
“Fractures Clichés” – ELLE
“Delightful.” – The New York Times Book Review
“Terrific”– The Seattle Times

Related:
Breakfast with Buddha
Lunch with Buddha
A Piece of Sky, A Grain of Sand

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