Category Archives: WWII

The Nightingale

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When I first started reading The Nightingale I was immediately reminded of Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. Both novels are very similar, in some respects. They both take place in France during WWII and deal with the German occupation of the country. Both are tragic tales about the courage of ordinary people who become extraordinary.

The Nightingale is a novel about family. Two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, have been torn apart by the tragic death of their mother and their father’s inability to take care of them. As they grow older the rift continues to deepen. Vianne marries early and starts a family as her way of coping with the loss, while Isabelle escapes from various boarding schools making her way back to their father in Paris before being sent out again.

The war brings the two sisters together again in their family home in Carriveau. Isabelle is determined to stand out and help the French Resistance, while Vianne is determine to hide in the background and take care of her young daughter. But naturally, nothing goes as planned in war.

The sisters soon find themselves doing things they never thought they would to protect those they love and find the glory they wish to achieve. They realize things about each other and themselves that they had refused to see before. And find out that maybe the other sisters’ way of thinking may not be so wrong after all.

Isabelle becomes further and further involved in the Resistance, earning the name The Nightingale. Vianne becomes a force herself trying to protect the children of Carriveau and surrounding areas.

I don’t want to say too much however. This is a novel that you must experience for yourself. It is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. I did indeed cry for about the last quarter of the novel. There is so much tragedy that is all the more heartbreaking because it happened. People’s capacity for hope is an amazing thing. Even in the bleakest of times there is something to strive for.

Rating: 5/5

Stay tuned for the next, and last, installment of Book Battle 2015. Happy reading!

 

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A Re-Return

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Next up in Book Battle 2015 is a novel that I started reading but didn’t finish. There aren’t many novels that I start and don’t finish simply because I have a compulsive need to finish every novel even if I don’t particularly care for it. In this case, I just couldn’t read the novel fast enough. I checked Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale out from the library many moons ago and started to read it but couldn’t finish in time before I had to return the novel. I’ve placed a hold on the novel and have finally got it back so that I can finish it.

I can’t wait to finish the novel and see what happens to each of the characters. I have a feeling that this is one novel that will bring me to tears. The other Hannah novel I read for this challenge, The Winter Garden, had me crying and I feel this novel will be very similar.

Stay tuned for the full review of The Nightingale. Happy reading!

All The Light We Cannot See

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“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”

All The Light We Cannot See is one of the most beautiful novels I’ve ever read about WWII. Doerr has an amazing knack of capturing morality and humanity and holding it in his palms while things play out. You can tell that he meticulously researched this novel and yet it’s so incredibly readable. The chapters are short and oscillate between the two main characters, Marie-Laure and Werner. The oscillating keeps the story in constant motion and keeps the reader on their toes. Through the flashbacks and switching of years and characters, the story begins to emerge in starts and stops. You get to see the growth and stagnation of certain characters and the impact they have on this story.

Both brutal and beautiful, All The Light We Cannot See made me think, wonder, and cry. I became so attached to the characters I couldn’t put the book down. I had to know how the story was going to play out and how the two main characters lives were going to interconnect. At first I thought the characters were going down one specific path but, as it turned out, I was wrong. Their certain paths seem almost predetermined but Doerr throws in some surprises. Werner, the mechanical genius with the need to belong, fights his basic nature to be part of the Hitler youth movement until a major event shocks him back to himself. Marie-Laure, a young Parisian girl who has lost her sight, relies exclusively on her father until he is turned in by a neighbor and arrested. Then Marie-Laure must figure out how to navigate life without him. When these two incredible people connect it’s wondrous. The scenes still bring tears to my eyes as I type this.

This review can’t be complete without mention of the Sea of Flames, the diamond that perhaps caused all the ruckus? I loved how Doerr toyed with the idea of fate and our perceptions of objects and how that perception can change worlds. This diamond is said to be cursed. Anyone who holds it will live forever but the people around him will perish. “That something so small could be so beautiful. Worth so much. Only the strongest people can turn away from feelings like that.” Men fight wars over this diamond and this diamond is the glue of this story.

Rating: 5/5 Please go out and find a copy of this novel.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Book Battle 2015. Happy reading!

Award Winners

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Next up in Book Battle 2015 is a Pultizer Prize winning book. I had such a hard time picking the next category. My categories are dwindling which is both exciting and little sad. At first I was going to read Larry McMurty’s Lonesome Dove but the book was checked out at the library so I thought I’d move on. And then while at work I heard about All The Light We Cannot See, the 2015 award winner. One of my co-workers was reading the novel and he couldn’t stop gushing about it. He was saying how readable it was and that it was an incredible story. I immediately put the book on hold at the library and was finally able to pick it up. I cannot wait to see what this story has in store. It’s been more than a month of waiting for this novel so my expectations are fairly hight.

From the back of the book jacket it’s a story told in two viewpoints and set during WWII. The main characters are a blind French girl and a mechanical prodigy from Germany. The two stories are supposed to collide in the town of Saint Malo, France and I can’t wait to see how.

Stay tuned for the full review of All The Light We Cannot See. Happy reading!

Slaughterhouse Five

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Slaughterhouse Five

“So they were trying to re-invent themselves and their universe,” says the narrator in Slaughterhouse Five. This quote sums up one of the main themes in the novel quite nicely. Trying to cope with his life and especially his experiences in WWII, Billy Pilgrim becomes unstuck in time. He creates a new universe where he can travel back in forth in time to escape the situation he’s in. His time travel lets Billy conveniently escape whatever situation he doesn’t want to deal with, like visiting with his mother in the hospital. When each time shift occurs, it’s interrelated to whatever Billy happens to be thinking about or experiencing. Billy’s thoughts are heavily influenced by his favorite author, Kilgore Trout. Billy even states the similarities between his time on Tralfamadore and Trout’s novels, in particular the novel called The Big Board. 

Slaughterhouse Five was my first foray into Vonnegut and I have to say it was amazing. This novel really got me thinking and analyzing making my English major kick in big time. There were so many themes and symbols that were just beautiful in the novel, like the one above. The other symbol I really liked in the book connected to this theme of mortality. Billy is talking to the Tralfamadorians about why they chose him to take back to their planet. The Tralfamadorians explain that every moment simply is. Like being an insect trapped in amber. This was a perfect way to explain Billy’s experiences in WWII, forever encasing him and connecting him to the tragedy of Dresden.

The narrative style of Slaughterhouse Five presents itself like a stream of consciousness writing but is very cleverly mapped out. The narrator begins the story providing the background and then the novel jumps to Billy Pilgrim and his experiences, with the narrator interjecting into Billy’s narrative making the story more universal.

I won’t give away any more about the novel because I really think you need to go pick it up and read it. Vonnegut is an amazing writer with such a unique voice and command of his own style. After finishing Slaughterhouse Five, I immediately wanted to read more of his novels. Perhaps I’ll get to explore more of the fourth dimension. So it goes.

Stay tuned for the next installment in Book Battle 2015. Happy reading!

Winter Garden

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Where do I begin? This book was masterful. The story building in the beginning was a little slow but once that was established the book took off. Told in both the past and the present, the novel describes the relationships and hardships between family members amid the scars of war. The depth of strength, resilience, and compassion in people is amazing. 

 The novel begins with the death of Evan, the Whitson family patriarch and the glue that holds the tenuous bonds of family together. His dying wish is for his two daughters, Meredith the oldest and Nina, to take care of their mother Anya and listen to the fairy tale she has told them since they were children but in full this time. At first both are so overwhelmed by the task of trying to crack their mother’s cold exterior that they just retreat and protect themselves the only way they know how. For Meredith it’s working until everything else becomes and blur, and for Nina it’s running away to hide behind the lens of her camera. But it quickly becomes apparent that both sisters can no longer deny their father’s wish. Nina returns to listen to the fairy tale and prompt her mother to tell her more about her past. It’s through this fairy tale that the sisters learn the truth of their mother’s Russian past and begin to reestablish bonds that were broken by Evan’s death. 

 I won’t give anything away because this is a novel that you must experience first hand. The beauty and the tragedy of it are both heart breaking and breath taking. I honestly cried throughout the last 100 pages of the book. I was so mesmerized by the tale the author was weaving of war torn Leningrad and the reign of Stalin. Russia is a country with so many secrets. There are stories presented in this book that I’ve never heard about or learned in any history class. The deprivation and fear of the Russian people under Stalin was horrifying to read. The most heartbreaking scenes are the ones in Leningrad during WWII where the people had to scrounge for whatever food they could find, even boiling their own wall paper and leather belts. The human spirit and will to survive even the harshest environments is incredible. 

This book really affected me in a way I didn’t anticipate. I think the older we get and the more experiences we have under our belt gives us more emotions to carry with us. The older I get the more emotional I become and perhaps this is the reason. You have a bigger well to draw empathy from than you do as a child.

Rating: 5/5 Go read this book immediately!

Stay tuned for the next installment in Book Battle 2015. Happy reading!



Everything Is Illuminated

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Everything Is Illuminated

Book Battle 2015 continues with a novel by an author under 30, and that novel is Everything Is Illuminated. I saw the trailer for this novel, well the movie adaptation, years ago and thought that it would be entertaining but for some reason never went out to see it. And in a way I’m glad I didn’t because now I get to read the book first and then watch the movie. As if I needed more impetus to read but then it never hurts.

The author of Everything Is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer, published the book in 2002 when he was 25, pretty impressive. The basic premise is the main character, who has the same name as the author, goes to Ukraine in search of a lady named Augustine that saved his grandfather’s life from the Nazi’s during WWII. Now I’m not sure exactly if this is autobiographical or a literary convention the author is using but I will keep you updated on what I find out. Based solely on the book’s jacket, I think this is going to be one wild ride of a read. I admit the jacket design had me a bit confused, it’s an inversion of itself black and white lettering on one side and white with black lettering on the other. Going from back to front you also have to flip the book upside down to read each flap. Typical for me, I started on the wrong side and when I went to open the book all the text was upside down. Though the design did pique my interest, well played jacket designer.

I’m pretty pumped to begin the next phase of the Book Battle and can’t wait to see what’s in store for me in Everything Is Illuminated. Happy reading fellow Book Battlers!