Tag: Holocaust

Nov 04

The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure

Book Club, Historical Fiction, World War II 33

Bonjour Bookworms,

Look at me! I read the book for Wine and Whining (one of my IRL book clubs) this month! Wahoo! I’m doing a little dance in celebration of being a responsible book club member. Today we’re going to France… During WWII. The Nazi occupation was a nasty time, y’all. We’re going to talk about The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure.

Full Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Because I do not live in a society policed by the Gestapo, I have no fear of reprisal should I have any negative commentary. Wahoo, freedom of speech!

parisarchitect

Lucien Bernard is an architect. He lives in Paris under the Nazi occupation and lives tries to maintain something approaching a normal life. It’s tough to get a gig when your homeland is controlled by a hostile army, and money is a pretty big deal when you’ve got both a wife and a fancy mistress. Lucien starts out as a pretty big jerk. In addition to being a big fat cheater face, he’s pretty antisemitic. The Nazis are easy to pinpoint as the worst of the worst in terms of antisemitism (deservedly so, I mean, HOLOCAUST.) However, Europe (in addition to other parts of the world) have been pretty unfriendly to the Jewish people throughout history. Spanish Inquisition, anybody?

Lucien meets up with a wealthy man named Manet about a job. In exchange for putting in a good word with the Germans and getting Lucien a commission to build a factory, Manet would like Lucien to design a hiding place for Jewish refugees. Lucien is appalled, but he’s also greedy. He doesn’t care about the Jews he may be helping, he cares about money. He also cares about his ego, and likes the idea of outsmarting the Gestapo. Nobody likes having their country invaded.

As it turns out, designing hiding places is Lucien’s gateway drug into becoming a decent human being. One hiding place leads to another and another. Lucien’s cold dead heart slowly begins to thaw and he sees the plight of the Jews for what it is- a horrendous abomination that needs to be stopped.

I kind of loved this book, you guys. It reminded me a bit of Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, as it was one of the first books I read about French Jews during WWII. I have read so much about the Jews in Poland and Germany, but for some reason France’s situation came as a surprise to me. It shouldn’t have, I mean, it was OCCUPIED BY THE NAZIS. Could this war have GOTTEN any uglier? Makes me ashamed to be a human… But then I read a lovely story of redemption like The Paris Architect, and I think humanity may not completely suck.

Since we’re on the subject and there’s no lack of material, what are some of your favorite books that explore WWII? Tell me about them, Bookworms. I’d love to get some more recommendations. 

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of The Paris Architect for your own collection, please consider using this link and purchasing through Book Depository. Any purchases you make garner me a small commission, the proceeds of which I fully intend to invest in the purchase of more books. 

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May 14

The Tough Stuff: Top Ten Tuesday

Coming of Age, Contemporary Fiction, Frightening, Memoirs, Non Fiction, Psychological, Tear Jerkers, Top Ten Tuesday, Young Adult Fiction 59

Hola Bookworms,

Today is another Tuesday, and another GLORIOUS list, the topic of which was provided by The Broke and The Bookish. Today’s topic is to list out books that deal with difficult subject matter, and the ones I’m choosing are all kind of a downer. That doesn’t mean they aren’t BRILLIANT books, because they are. It just means that they’re emotionally draining, so, you know, don’t read them all in a row.

TTT3W1. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. This book is amazing, but such a tough read. Speak is about a girl entering high school. She is date raped at a party, and while she calls the police to break up the party, she can’t bring herself to tell the authorities what happened to her. She starts her high school career as the narc who ruined the best party of the summer all while dealing with the emotional hurricane of attending school with her rapist. It’s a rough read, but really worth it. I highly recommend it.

2. The Color Purple by Alice Walker. Race and incest and violent relationships and homosexuality and secrets and lies and children and turning gender roles upside down… It’s pretty amazing. It’s exceptionally powerful because it’s written in an epistolary format in a regional dialect. Try to get through it without crying. I dare you.

3. Room by Emma Donoghue. This choice seems even more appropriate now given the news coming out of Cleveland of the three women held captive in a home for a decade. Room is about a young woman who is abducted from her college campus parking lot. She is locked in an inescapable sound-proof shed and regularly raped by her captor. Eventually these systematic rapes result in a successful pregnancy and she raises her little boy, Jack, in this shed. Jack is five and he narrates the book. I think this was a brilliant choice on Donoghue’s part, because hearing this horror story through the eyes of “Ma” would probably have been too much to bear. The innocent goggles of a child make things tragic and yet, in a way, hopeful.

Don't let the colorful cover fool you, this is NOT for the faint of heart.

4. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. Teenagers with cancer! Watching mere children face down their own mortality won’t tear at your very soul or anything. Young love cut tragically short by disease won’t make you bawl your eyes out. Living with a debilitating illness that is slowly eating your body from the inside when you should be out shopping for prom dresses and going through your angsty phase in giant baggy pants won’t mar your psyche! So heartbreaking. So good.

5. Smoke Over Birkenau by Liana Millu. Talk about the tough stuff. It simply does not get any “tougher” than books about the Holocaust. There are a lot of books on the subject, and I’ve read a number of heart wrenching personal accounts. It’s difficult to pick just one, but since I really have to pace myself on reading these (so I don’t get overwhelmed by humanity’s ability to inflict horror on itself for incredibly stupid reasons) I thought it might be overkill to fill this list with Holocaust books.

6. Every Last One by Anna Quindlen. Whooo boy this one’s a doozie. Depressed teenagers. Eating disorders. Young love denied. Unbelievable acts of violence. Dealing with the aftermath. This is a draining read, but it’s really well done. Sure, it feels a bit like you’re being stabbed in the heart with a dull spoon, but it’s a good pain. It’s NOT a true story, thank God. At least you can tell yourself that when you’re sobbing into your pillow…

everylastone

7. Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume. I don’t care how open and honest and cool you are with your kids. It is awkward as heck to discuss periods with your prepubescent daughter (this, coming of course, from a former prepubescent daughter. The thought of having this conversation with my own offspring makes me preemptively uncomfortable.) Thank GOD for Judy Blume. Thank GOD for this book. That GOD it existed when I was 12. Margaret made all the late bloomers out there feel less alone. Thank you, Judy Blume, for being awesome.

8. Still Alice by Lisa Genova. Yeah, it’s tough to be a teenager, Margaret, but it’s even tougher to be an adult with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. As you follow Alice’s mental decline you feel her frustrations and her anguish, as well as her moments of hope and triumph. It’s a beautifully rendered story, and it will make you keenly aware of your own precarious mental state. You may want to order a lot of fish oil caplets or whatever antioxidant thingies they have on the market today that are supposed to help keep your brain going strong to old age and beyond…

still alice

9. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. What would you do if the most basic part of your identity, your biological gender, were called into question? Our protagonist is raised as a female but due to a gene mutation, she’s biologically male… At least, mostly. A coming of age story with the added bonus of some sweet historical fiction elements plus all the psychological turmoil that goes on when a person doesn’t fall neatly into a gender category. Powerful.

10. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen. Forget everything you saw in that movie. I don’t care if it won Angelina Jolie an Oscar, the book was MUCH better. It’s Susanna Kaysen’s true life account of her time in a mental hospital. I read this a long time ago, but there was one part that seriously resonated with me. Kaysen described her descent into crippling depression as the world slowing down and time crawling by. She said that there were two ways to go crazy- for everything to slow down or for everything to speed up. I’ve always thought that if I ever needed to be institutionalized, it would be due to the super fast worst-case-scenario in flashes of horror kind of crazy, at which point my brain would completely short circuit and the slow would set it. It probably says a little too much about me and my mental state that I’ve given this so much thought, but you know. I’m bad at lying.

So Bookworms, tell me. What are your top picks for books that deal with the tough stuff? I’m all ears (at least until my psychotic break, but I think we’ve got some time.)

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