Guest Review: The Viennese Girl – Jenny Lecoat

 

The Viennese Girl

Jenny Lecoat

Allen & Unwin AU

ISBN: 9781760877927

 

Description:

Inspired by the true story of a young Jewish girl – Hedy Bercu – who fled to Jersey from Vienna only to find herself trapped on the island during the German occupation.

In June 1940, the horror-struck inhabitants of Jersey watch as the German army unopposed takes possession of their island. Now only a short way from the English coast, the Germans plan their invasion.

Hedy Bercu, a young Jewish girl from Vienna who fled to the isolation and safety of Jersey two years earlier to escape the Nazis, finds herself once more trapped, but this time with no way of escape.

Hiding her racial status, Hedy is employed by the German authorities and secretly embarks on small acts of resistance. But most dangerously of all, she falls in love with German lieutenant Kurt Neumann — a relationship on which her life will soon depend.

A remarkable novel of finding hope and love when all seems at its darkest.

 

Brenda’s Review:

When her employers escaped the island of Jersey, Hedy Bercu decided to stay put. Her parents and siblings were still in Vienna and she hoped that Jersey wouldn’t be occupied. But two years after her escape from Vienna, the Nazis arrived on the island and gradually took over, using their power to dominate and terrify the inhabitants.

Hedy was Jewish but kept it to herself. Her best friend Anton and his new girlfriend Dorothea kept her secret, but the hunger and deprivation caused Hedy to take a risk, gaining herself a job as a translator for the Germans. She was only earning a little, but the food coupons helped stave off starvation. Falling for the German lieutenant, Kurt Neumann wasn’t part of her plan, but soon it became apparent he felt the same way. Hedy’s acts of resistance were dangerous and could mean the end of her life, but still she continued. What would happen to Hedy in the months and years which followed?

The Viennese Girl by Jenny Lecoat is based on the true story of a young Jewish girl, Hedwig Bercu, and what happened to her during the German occupation. Heartfelt, heartbreaking but also filled with hope, the determination of Hedy was phenomenal. Starving, thin and weak, she gritted her teeth and kept on going. What an amazing young woman. Jenny Lecoat has written an excellent historical fiction novel of one more aspect of World War II and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Highly recommended. 5 stars

With thanks to Allen & Unwin for my ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.

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.

 

 

Review: Manhattan Beach – Jennifer Egan

Manhattan Beach

Jennifer Egan

Hachette Australia

Little Brown Book Group

ISBN: 9781472150882

 

Description:

Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to visit Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. She is mesmerized by the sea beyond the house and by some charged mystery between the two men.

 

‎Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that once belonged to men, now soldiers abroad. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. One evening at a nightclub, she meets Dexter Styles again, and begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life, the reasons he might have vanished.

 

With the atmosphere of a noir thriller, Egan’s first historical novel follows Anna and Styles into a world populated by gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men. Manhattan Beach is a deft, dazzling, propulsive exploration of a transformative moment in the lives and identities of women and men, of America and the world.

 

 

My View:

This is the way I like to learn history – wrapped inside an artfully written work of fiction. Gangsters, bootlegging, corruption, bribery, war, women’s rights in America…so much to learn about in this what could be called a historical/ coming of age piece of fiction.

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Review: Coming Home to Island House – Erica James

Coming Home to Island House

 

Coming Home to Island House

Erica James

Orion

ISBN: 9781409159605

Description:

The captivating new novel from Sunday Times bestselling author Erica James.

It’s the summer of 1939, and after touring an unsettled Europe to promote her latest book, Romily Temple returns home to Island House and the love of her life, the charismatic Jack Devereux.

But when Jack falls ill, his estranged family are called home and given seven days to find a way to bury their resentments and come together.

With war now declared, each member of the family is reluctantly forced to accept their new stepmother and confront their own shortcomings. But can the habits of a lifetime be changed in one week? And can Romily, a woman who thrives on adventure, cope with the life that has been so unexpectedly thrust upon her?

 

Brenda’s Review:

Romily Temple returned home to Island House after her tour of Europe, where she was promoting her latest crime novel, to discover her new husband and greatest love, Jack Devereux, gravely ill. Jack’s best friend, lawyer Roddy Fitzwilliam was tasked with sending messages to Jack’s estranged family, calling them home, where Jack hoped to make amends for his mistakes of the past.

The necessity was that siblings Hope, Kit and Arthur, plus their cousin Allegra, were to spend a week together at Island House, getting to know one another once again, and to forgive the issues that had driven them all apart those many years ago. Could they do it? There would be a lot of adjusting to be done, and with war imminent, change was happening…

Romily was an adventurous spirit; probably one of the reasons Jack had fallen in love with her – but was she up to the sudden change in her life?

Beautifully written historical drama, Coming Home to Island House is my first by author Erica James, and won’t be my last! Set between August 1939 and December 1940, WWII impacted heavily on the characters, as well as past grievances, forgiveness and love. I was completely enthralled by this novel, which was both heartbreaking and heartwarming and I have no hesitation in recommending this 5 star read highly. I’d like to thank Maggie for the recommendation as well 🙂

With thanks to Hachette AU for my ARC to read and review.

Post Script: Miracles Do Happen – Fela and Felix Rosenbloom

A remarkable story of strength, resilience, family and survival.Miracles Do Happen

Miracles Do Happen

Fela and Felix Rosenbloom

Scribe Publications

ISBN: 9781925322309

 

Description:

In 1933, a ten-year-old Jewish girl, Fela Perelman, befriended a new family that had moved into her street in Lodz, Poland. There were three children in the Rozenblum family — Rose, Felix, and Maria. Fela and Rose became best friends, while Felix kept his distance. Five years later, Fela and Felix discovered that they liked each other, and soon became sweethearts.

 

When war broke out not long after, the Jews of Lodz found themselves under German occupation, and were soon forced into a ghetto. For Fela and her family, and her community, it was the start of a descent into hell. Fela eventually survived the ghetto, forced labour in Germany, and then the last 17 months of Auschwitz’s existence and the death march out of it.

 

For Felix, the Germans’ intentions were crystal clear. Late in November 1939, as a 17-year-old, he decided to flee eastward, to Soviet-controlled Polish territory. He begged his family to come with him, but they felt unable to. Felix spent the war doing forced labour in the Soviet Union, often in very harsh conditions.

 

After the war, miraculously, Fela and Felix found each other. None of Fela’s family had survived. Of Felix’s immediate family, only his two sisters had survived — and they were now in Sweden. The young couple were bereft and alone. This is their story.

 

 

My View:

A remarkable story of strength, resilience, family and survival.

 

A poignant memoir that is told in two parts: Fela’s story of life pre-world war two, a time of innocence and meeting the boy who was destined to become her husband and an economically worded description of life during the war and as an inmate of Auschwitz and other detention centres. I am glad for the sparseness of words – what Fela has written must have been very difficult to survive let alone recount afterwards. The horrors penetrate event the toughest psyche.  Fela story ends with her migration to Australia.

 

Felix’s story is a little different – yet just as haunting and survival just as miraculous as that described in Fela’s narrative; forced labour in Russia was no doubt an extremely difficult and perilous, yet Felix survived and post war reconnected with Fela and eventually migrated to Australia.  What a remarkable story. What resilience!

 

I think we all would benefit from reading these courageous personal stories – a reminder of just how hostile life was during this ghastly inhuman war (all wars are unconscionable). There are lessons for all here.

 

PS

Love the cover art – the images and the tactile paper.

 

Post Script: Playing With Fire – Tess Gerritsen

Cover Playing With Fire

Playing With Fire

Tess Gerritsen

Random House UK, Transworld Publishers

Bantam Press

ISBN: 9780593075296

 

 

 

Description:

What if your child wanted you dead?

 

Julia doesn’t understand what is happening to her daughter, but she thinks she knows what’s causing it. She is terrified for Lily, and for herself, but what scares her more is that no one believes her.

 

If she is going to help Lily, she will have to find the answers alone, embarking on a search that will take her to the shadowy back streets of Venice.

 

There, Julia uncovers a heartbreaking, long-buried tale of tragedy and devastation – a discovery that puts her in serious danger. Some people will do anything in their power to keep the truth silent . . .

 

 

My View:

Tess Gerritsen is a writer who does not let you down! This fast paced mystery will have you tearing through the pages racing to the climax! A dual time lined mystery, one narrative set in Italy during WW11 is heartbreaking and devastating, and the other, a contemporary narrative, collides with the WW11 story in an explosive and haunting manner, startling with its conviction.

 

The settings and the music provide a most exquisite backdrop to this story – I could feel the music racing across the pages – sometimes passionate and vibrant, sometimes sad and mournful – either way they added a level of emotional connection to the dual narratives; the perfect glue to connect the two stories.

 

The twist in the conclusion will leave you gasping! And relieved. And just a little disappointed; I really enjoyed the haunting, paranormal aspect of this narrative and would love to see this author try her hand a full blown paranormal mystery. A great read.

 

Post Script: The Port Fairy Murders – Robert Gott

Outstanding!

The Port Fairy Murders

The Port Fairy Murders

Robert Gott

Scribe

ISBN: 9781925106459

 

Description:

The Port Fairy Murders is the sequel to The Holiday Murders, a political and historical crime novel set in 1943 featuring the newly formed Homicide department of Victoria Police.

 

The department has been struggling to counter little known fascist groups, particularly an organisation called Australia First that has been festering in Australia since before the war. And now there’s an extra problem: the bitter divide between Catholics and Protestants, which is especially raw in small rural communities.

 

The homicide team, which once again includes Detective Joe Sable and Constable Helen Lord, is trying to track down a dangerous man named George Starling. At the same time they are called to investigate a double murder in the fishing village of Port fairy. It seems straightforward – they have a signed confession – but it soon becomes apparent that nothing about the incident is as it seems.

 

Written with great verve and insight, The Port Fairy Murders is a superb psychological study, as well as a riveting historical whodunit.

 

My View:

Outstanding!

 

An Open Letter to Robert Gott

 

Dear Mt Gott (or may I call you Robert?)

 

I am writing to complain about your latest book, The Port Fairy Murders. I recently (last night) read this novel and was engaged, enchanted, invested and so involved in this narrative that when I read to the end of page 282 and then there was no more I was bereft! Surely there must be more? What will happen to Joe Stable next? Does poor Tom recover? What about Helen? She will be devastated by that phone call. And then there are the relationships stalled and unfulfilled. And did I mention the villains? There are villains to be caught and murders to be solved.

 

If you need inspiration I can send you many pictures of coastal towns in South Australia (courtesy of our recent holiday) that will send your fingers flying across the keyboard. Do you need help with research – I have some spare time, I can do. Come on Robert, where is the next episode?

 

Your loyal fan

 

Carol