Review: The World That We Knew

The World That We Knew

Alice Hoffman

Simon & Schuster Australia

Scribner

ISBN: 9781471185830

RRP $32.99

 

Description:

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Dovekeepers and The Marriage of Opposites comes Alice Hoffman’s darkly magical story of a heartbreaking time of war when men became monsters, children navigated a world without parents, and women were willing to sacrifice everything for those they loved.

 

In Berlin, at the time when the world changed forever, Hanni Kohn knows she has to send her twelve-year-old daughter away to save her from the Nazi regime. Turning to an old woman who is familiar with Jewish magic, she finds her way to the daughter of a rabbi who creates a Golem, a mystical Jewish creature sworn to protect Hanni’s precious daughter Lea.

 

Lea’s journey with the Golem to France is fraught with danger and raw emotion. They travel from Paris, where Lea meets her soulmate, to a convent in western France known for its silver roses, to a mountaintop village where three thousand Jews were saved, to a farm where the bees never forgive.

 

What does it mean to lose your mother? What makes a family? How is it possible to survive cruelty and continue to love? In a life that is as unreal as a fairytale, Alice Hoffman’s The World That We Knew takes us on a journey of loss and resistance, good and evil, the fantastical and the mortal, to a place where all roads lead past the angel of death and love is never-ending.

 

My View:

This book opens with a brilliant few pages, the tension and the drama are agonizing. I am so pleased the style quickly changed to one of magic realism; I could not have kept reading at the pace of the introductory pages, such a great emotive hook is deployed by the author; heartbreakingly good.

 

This is a narrative that makes no apologies for the atrocities it highlights. Facts are simply stated, then we move on, there is no glorification of war and war crimes, vendettas and prejudice, the facts speak loudly and should wake even the near deaf.

 

Themes of family, identity, love, what it means to be human, kinship, resilience and sacrifice are explored in this heart stopping, and unforgettable read. This is not an easy read but it is a monumental, outstanding and I imagine, soon to be, award winning novel. Read it today. A captivating read.

 

 

Guest Review: Cilka’s Journey – Heather Morris

Cilka’s Journey
(The Tattooist of Auschwitz #2)
Heather Morris
Bonnier
Echo
ISBN: 9781760686048

 

Description:

From the author of the multi-million copy bestseller, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, comes the new novel based on an incredible true story of love and resilience.

Her beauty saved her life – and condemned her.

Cilka is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp, in 1942. The Commandant at Birkenau, Schwarzhuber, notices her long beautiful hair, and forces her separation from the other women prisoners. Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly given, equals survival.

After liberation, Cilka is charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy and sent to Siberia. But what choice did she have? And where did the lines of morality lie for Cilka, who was sent to Auschwitz when still a child?

In a Siberian prison camp, Cilka faces challenges both new and horribly familiar, including the unwanted attention of the guards. But when she makes an impression on a woman doctor, Cilka is taken under her wing. Cilka begins to tend to the ill in the camp, struggling to care for them under brutal conditions.

Cilka finds endless resources within herself as she daily confronts death and faces terror. And when she nurses a man called Ivan, Cilka finds that despite everything that has happened to her, there is room in her heart for love.

 

Brenda’s View:

Sixteen-year-old Cilka’s arrival at Auschwitz-Birkenau was followed by three years of heartbreak, torture and loss. It was also where she lost her innocence; where she met Gita, who was to be her best friend, and Lale the tattooist who marked her, and everyone else, with the number that identified her. At the time of liberation, in 1945, Cilka was interrogated and charged as a collaborator. Her punishment was to be 15 years in the notorious Vorkuta Gulag in the icy wastes of Siberia. Cilka’s life would change once more…

The hut that the women were housed in, where Cilka eventually formed friendships, was cold and miserable. Working in the mines was debilitating, exhausting work, but when Cilka met a compassionate woman doctor at the hospital and was asked to work there as her caring nature would be an asset, Cilka was grateful. Conditions were a little better but each night she returned to her hut after being confronted with death and shocking injuries. The fortitude and strength that Cilka held inside rarely faltered, but more was to come to test her. What was to be the outcome of this horror for Cilka? Would she ever know peace?

Cilka’s Journey by Aussie author Heather Morris is the sequel to The Tattooist of Auschwitz where we met Lale as he told his story. Once again, the author has based her new story on fact, with Cilka being a real person, set in history; the settings are horribly authentic; the bravery and courage of Cilka mentioned to the author by Lale when she interviewed him. The artistry of the author as she blended fact with fiction shows a great amount of research – her mention of that research and how much time was devoted to it, is at the end of the book. Cilka’s Journey takes us back to a shocking time in history, a time I hope is never repeated. It is also a historical novel I highly recommend.

With thanks to Bonnier/Echo and associated publishers for my ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

 

Post Script: Her – Garry Disher

Her

Her

Garry Disher

Hachette Australia

ISBN: 9780733638541

 

Description:

Out in that country the sun smeared the sky and nothing ever altered, except that one day a scrap man came by . . .

 

Her name is scarcely known or remembered. All in all, she is worth less than the nine shillings and sixpence counted into her father’s hand. She bides her time. She does her work.

 

Way back in the corner of her mind is a thought she is almost too frightened to shine a light on: one day she will run away.

 

A dark and unsettling tale from the turn of the twentieth century by a master of Australian literature.

 

 

My View:

This is a very quick, very dark, very disturbing read, written with skill and flair. Underpinning the bleak narrative are themes of resilience, the importance of family – in its varied forms, of solidarity and of the female bonds that sustain life and offer hope in desperate situations.

 

Disher skilfully captures the essence of the times and the Australian locations succinctly – early 1900’s, rural backdrops, you can hear those banjos strumming “Deliverance” style in your head as you turn the pages, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uzae_SqbmDE  the poverty, the gloom, the desperation, the harsh conditions; the landscape ruling with a mean and spiteful fist, its fingers tightly clamped, strangling hope.

 

This is not what I would call an enjoyable read. This is however a remarkable, memorable, poignant and haunting read that I dare you to forget.

 

Post Script: Ache – Eliza Henry Jones

Ache

Ache

Eliza Henry Jones

Harper Collins

ISBN: 9781460750384

 

Description:

A year ago, a devastating bushfire ripped Annie’s world apart – killing her grandmother, traumatising her young daughter and leaving her mother’s home in the mountains half destroyed. Annie fled back to the city, but the mountain continues to haunt her. Now, drawn by a call for help from her uncle, she’s going back to the place she loves most in the world, to try to heal herself, her marriage, her daughter and her mother.

A heart-wrenching, tender and lovely novel about loss, grief and regeneration, Ache is not only a story of how we can be broken, but how we can put ourselves back together.

 

 

My View:

I have had great difficulty trying to find the right words to describe my reaction to this book. It was an amazing read – written so beautifully, the writing seducing the reader to read more and more…and the feelings it evoked…an abundance of feelings.  The characters so credible and the situations they face almost unbearable at times and almost unbearable to read such is the empathy I felt for these paper people.

 

Survivor guilt, grief, PTSD…this book covers it all yet  despite the challenging scenarios presented in this narrative it is not a negative or depressing read, in fact it is full optimism. Read and discover your new favourite author.

 

 

Guest Review: Lioness – Katherine Scholes

Lioness

Katherine Scholes

Penguin Australia

ISBN: 9781921518768

 

Description:

Young Angel Kelly and her mother are travelling by camel across the dusty plains of northern Tanzania when disaster strikes and they face a struggle between life and death.

Australian medical researcher Emma Lindberg arrives at a nearby field station, hoping to lay to rest a grief she’s carried since childhood.

Their worlds collide when human footprints are found in the desert, among those of a lioness and her cubs.

Caught up in a desperate search for a missing person, Emma makes an extraordinary journey deep into the African wilderness. When she finds there is more at stake than she first thought, she has to look inside herself for strength, courage and faith. Only then can she discover the fierce love of the lioness.

A moving and heart-warming novel that asks what it really means to be a family – and what it takes to be a mother.

 

Brenda’s View:

When Australian medical researcher Emma Lindberg went to Tanzania on a pilgrimage to the field research station that her mother had worked and died at twenty five years previously, she had vague ideas of spending a few hours there, then continuing on to participate in a Safari Tour. But she had only been at the station a short time and a mother camel and her calf arrived in a distressed state. The larger camel carried a saddle pack and was injured – but there was no sign of the owner. Daniel, the veterinary surgeon at the station and Emma decided to follow the trail the camels had left, but had no idea the terrible disaster they would discover…

The footprints of a lioness and her three cubs mingled with human footprints and the worst was deemed. But although the police air search had been exhaustive, Emma and Daniel refused to give up hope. They headed into the desert on a search that would take them far into the African wilderness. But would they locate what they were desperate to discover? And would Emma be able to find the inner peace she had been unknowingly searching for? It seemed to Emma that by going to Tanzania she had set in motion an upheaval over which she had no control…

Lioness by Aussie author Katherine Scholes is a heart-warming story of love and loss; of courage and tenacity – and of the amazing resilience of children. The lioness in this story – Moyo – was very special. The vast ruggedness of the African desert was brought to life in this novel, along with the sheer beauty of the area. Lioness is my first by this author and it definitely won’t be my last. 5 highly recommended stars!