The Other Me – Leeds, London, Germany – Saskia Sarginson

the other me

Why a booktrail?

The trauma of war and the search for identity and one girl living two lives in Germany and England…

Story in a nutshell

Klaudia – London

An only child who lives with her parents.With a religious mother and a German father, she is teased at school and so retreats in to her shell and a new identity – Eliza. A girl who desperately wants to escape from beyond the shadows and constrains of her life.

Otto and Ernst – pre War Germany

Otto and Ernst are brothers and both members of the Hitler Youth Movement. Otto is keen to belong whilst Ernest is in love with a Jewish girl.

A search for identity and belonging

Place and setting

 Leeds university Where she goes to university and then to study drama and dance. She goes to a fireworks display in Roundhay park London Croydon Where Klaudia grows up, goes to school and is bullied Brixton This is the real thing, the edge, urban bustle and grime of a city. There will all sorts of possibilities here. MAP 2 Germany  *Berlin - Topography of Terror.  Niederkirchnerstrasse 8, +49 30 2545 0950, topographie.de. Be aware that this outdoor museum, built on the site of the former headquarters of the SS and Gestapo, is not for the fainthearted *Jewish museum Lindenstrasse 9-14, +49 30 2599 3300, jmberlin.de.  *The Allied Museum • Clayallee 135, +49 30 818 1990, alliiertenmuseum.de.

Leeds university
Where she goes to university and then to study drama and dance. She goes to a fireworks display in Roundhay park
London
Croydon
Where Klaudia grows up, goes to school and is bullied
Brixton
“This is the real thing, the edge, urban bustle and grime of a city. There will all sorts of possibilities here.”

Germany
*Berlin – Topography of Terror.
Niederkirchnerstrasse 8
Be aware that this outdoor museum, built on the site of the former headquarters of the SS and Gestapo, is not for the fainthearted
*Jewish museum
Lindenstrasse 9-14, jmberlin.de.
*The Allied Museum
• Clayallee 135, +49 30 818 1990, alliiertenmuseum.de.

Croydon 1980s and Leeds 1990s

Klaudia lives in Croydon, South London with her parents and has a sad lonely life. Bullied at school when the kids find out that not only is her father the caretaker but a German as well ( or Nazi according to them) her life becomes unbearable.

There are three of us at home. Well four if you count Jesus

In the 1990s, Klaudia has now abandoned her Identity and has effectively ran away to Leeds to university where her life starts over. But then this world runs into trouble when her old life follows her and the lies she’s told come back to haunt her. This running away from her story and from the place she grew up is poignant as she realises that here she can be anyone she wants to be, have new friends, start over and erase her London past. Her father has a past that she knows little about and what she does find out haunts her.

Germany

The story weaves once again back to the past as the brothers Ernst and Otto, 1930s Germany are being primed for war. Ernst is a poignant narrator as he looks back at what happened during those war years and how his brother Otto changed so much before his eyes. This was a dark dark time and the harrowing descriptions of the German campaign, in Ukraine, in Russia are brutal in their detail. But it was this line, this ideology which chilled us the most –

The Fuhrer tells everyone that the future of Germany is in the hands of its youth. There is strength in numbers. We have a new and giddy power.

How the legacy of war haunts every one of us. How memories of the past come back to haunt us, how past and present merge and how misunderstandings of human emotions and reasons can linger, fester, and damage.

Booktrail Review – Susan

This is a story about the search for identity. Klaudia who has problems in the UK with her religious mother and German father. Then with Otto and Ernst who grow up very different during the Hitler regime. although Klaudia’s story was interesting, it was the Otto and Ernst story which really capture my attention – for it raised questions that I’d never really thought of before. Just what must it have been like to have been a young man during Hitler’s rise to power. How easy was it to follow that way of thinking or try to stand out and follow your own convictions?

Both Klaudia and the brothers both feel different, the isolation and difficult choices are very hard to bear. But to see not only their lives but 1930s Germany in general through their eyes was a real insight into the time and place. These boys as with others like them are rounded characters, individuals despite the Nazi ideal of ‘collectivism’.

Ernst was the man I wanted to learn about the most and his story is very intriguing indeed.

The Neruda Case – Chile, Mexico, Cuba, Germany, Bolivia – Roberto Ampuero

neruda case

Why a booktrail ?

A mystery set against the backdrop of the Chilean 1973 coup which paints an interesting portrait of the  poet Pablo Neruda

Story in a nutshell

Cayetano Brulé, is Cuban but lives in Valparaiso, Chile. At a dinner party one evening he comes across the poet Pablo Neruda who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971, just two years previously. As they talk, Neruda provides him with a challenge – to find a man he has not seen for many many years.

He hands him a pile of Simenon’s Maigret detective novels and tells him that these will help give him all the detective skills he needs. The only important thing is that he finds this man – Neruda is dying of cancer and this is his final wish.

Cayetano finds that this mission takes him away from Chile, to Mexico, Cuba, East Germany, and Bolivia, where he meets a wide range of people and situations. On the trail for one man – Dr. Angel Bracamonte, a researcher on the medicinal properties of native plants, but Neruda does not want to find Bracamonte for his medical skills.  There are more personal reasons at stake.

Place and setting

The booktrail features the locations within Valparaiso as these are the most closely connected to Neruda and provide a fascinating view of where he spent time. La Sebastiana - http://www.fundacionneruda.org/es/la-sebastiana/informacion-visita Calle Ricardo de Ferrari 692 Neruda’s house in the city The Mauri Theatre Where he sees Alfred Hitchcok’s The Birds at a Sunday Matinee befire diving into the din of the city outside San juan de Dios hill Where Cayetano Brule has an appartment la Moneda  - http://www.gob.cl/en/guided-tours/ Salvador Allende and the political events occur from this political centre Plaza Anibal Pinto where cayetano goes to the cafe del poeta Alemania avenue where Cayetano visits the Al Baba cafe and sees the Mauri theatre
The booktrail features the locations within Valparaiso as these are the most closely connected to Neruda and provide a fascinating view of where he spent time.
La Sebastianahttp://www.fundacionneruda.org/es/la-sebastiana/informacion-visita
Calle Ricardo de Ferrari 692
Neruda’s house in the city
The Mauri Theatre
Where he sees Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds at a Sunday Matinee before diving into the din of the city outside
San juan de Dios hill
Where Cayetano Brule has an appartment
(Santiago) – la Moneda presidential Palacehttp://www.gob.cl/en/guided-tours/
Salvador Allende and the political events occur from this political centre
Plaza Anibal Pinto
Where Cayetano goes to the cafe del poeta
Alemania avenue
where Cayetano visits the Al Baba cafe

Valparaiso Chile – the home of Pablo Neruda and a key location for watching events of Chilean history unfold. From the days following the opening of the Panama Canal to the coup of Salvador Allende, this novel is a tale of one poet, Chile’s most well known and his search for secrets, during his final days in his beloved homeland.

The backdrop of the history and landscape of Chile run parallel to the story and form a large and informed picture of a country in turmoil.

In the 1970s, Cayetano, his wife, and Neruda watch the consequences of the political landscape play out right in front of their eyes –

The attempted coup came live and direct over the radio, like in the American movies, turning the country into a passive spectator

The media buzz and the fear and excitement of the people show a country on the edge where tension is the order of the day. This is a country going through some troubling times.

With each section of the book named after one of Neruda’s women, each takes the story further and explains a side to the man not seen in the western world. Pablo Neruda has three houses, the most famous of which is La Sebastiana and his poetry dots the literary landscape here giving a unique view of the man sitting in the armchair he names La Nube. A man who loves women as much as words and whose life was filled with both grandeur and meanness.

The trail from Chile to Mexico, Cuba, East Germany, and Bolivia, is one of danger , Chilean history and expat frustration. Revolution is coming and Chile is a country which will feel the full force of this drastic change. With such a thrilling backdrop, the story of Neruda and his mystery search shows a side to Chile never seen before and a poet and his life which takes centre stage.

Bookish musings

If you are interested in the poet Neruda and want to learn a little about Chilean history, this is a fine way to do it. A slow plot in parts and one which develops over the whole book but what this leaves you with is a full and immersive impression of Chile, its history, and its people.

I knew a little of Neruda having studied him for A level Spanish  and then again at university but never had I seen him like this before. Some of it fictional yes, but this still gives an interesting view of him in his own surroundings.

To me this took centre stage and the story took a back seat but this didn’t spoil the enjoyment of the book. A potted cultural, poetic and political study of Chile for despite the many locations, Chile takes centre stage, but when the history is this fascinating, this is no bad thing.

A very interesting and immersive read

Roberto Ampuero is speaking at the Taylor Institute in Oxford @TAYOxford  on May 28th and appearing at the Hay Festival on May 30th. You can follow him on twitter –@robertoampuero

http://londres.cervantes.es/en/default.shtm

https://www.hayfestival.com/p-9869-will-smith-and-roberto-ampuero.aspx

 

The Dressmaker of Dachau – London, Paris, Belgium, Dachau – Mary Chamberlain

Dachaubook

Why a booktrail?

A young woman’s attempt to survive despite the ultimate betrayal and the onset of war. Her skills as a dressmaker will have unexpected consequences..

Story in a nutshell

London,1939.

Eighteen-year-old Ada Vaughan has just started work for a modiste in Dover Street. She would love a career in couture but first needs to escape the dreariness of family life in Lambeth.

When she meets a man called Stanislaus von Lieben, she is catapulted into a world of glamour and romance. So, when he suggests a trip to Paris, despite the rumblings of war, she overlooks all possible dangers to take a chance.

When war is declared, both she and Stanislaus are trapped in France.

But then she is cruelly betrayed and her world falls apart. These are not easy times for anyone but when Ada is taken prisoner, it will take her ultimate resolve and skills as a dressmaker to try and survive in the best way she can.

Place and setting

London Ada first lives at Theed Street Dover Street  This is where she works as a seamstress of sorts Paris Arrives at Gare due Nord on her arrival and then she moves with Stanislaus to  Boulevard Barbès Belgium They escape to Mons and then Namur  Dachau Where Ada is taken to and she ends up working and becoming the Dressmaker of Dachau
London
Ada first lives at Theed Street
Dover Street
This is where she works as a seamstress and ‘modiste’
Paris
Arrives at Gare due Nord on her arrival and then she moves with Stanislaus to Boulevard Barbès
Belgium
They escape to Mons and then Namur
Dachau
Where Ada is taken to and she ends up working and becoming the Dressmaker of Dachau

Written against a real historical background of the outbreak of war in Europe, this is a tale of one woman’s resilience despite tragedy.

Ada leads a sad and uneventful life in Lambeth, London  and so wants to escape her life. Ada became her designs, a walking advertisement for them. Working for the modiste in Dover street, the craves the life she feels she can’t have. She might feel  out of her depth in the Savoy and the Ritz where the young ladies who buy the clothes she models and then makes, but this is the life she desires.

She conjured Hollywood and the glamourous world of the stars and brought them into the drawing rooms of the everyday.

Stanislaus is a breath of fresh air amongst the  otherwise stiff fabric of her life.They go to Richmond Park and  eat chestnuts on a cold winters day, and drink ginger beer. But then he tells her ‘You belong in Paris, I can see you there, sashaying down the boulevards turning heads’.

Paris

From Charing Cross, she crosses over the continent and arrives at the teaming Gare Du Nord which is full of ‘sweating turmoil’ . Still unsure of Stanislaus and the future, this is still a way out of her life and a way ahead.

However, when Hitler invades Poland, everything changes. They move appartments in Paris and end up on the Rue Barbes. Stockpiles of sand bags line the streets and the ‘stale onion of fear’ permeates the Paris air. They flee to Mons in Belgium and then Namur before tragedy strikes….

Dachau

Alone and afraid, Ada ends up in Dachau and works, quite literarily to save her life. “They call you the Dressmaker of Dachau’ says one German guard. She is used and abused but yet her spirit never dies. It is the next stage of her journey where she will find out her fate and if she will ever hear of Stanislaus again.

Bookish musings 

A book which was both fascinating and allowed the tension and the horror of Dachau to build with the interesting build up and back story of Ada and Stanislaus and their flight across Europe.

Having got to know Ada quite well, (Stanislaus was more of an enigma for reasons which become clear in the story), I felt as if I went with her on her journey despite wanting to whisper in her ear and check if she knew what she was doing!

Dachau is a major setting in the book but it is also the culmination of Ada’s journey across several countries during war time and her journey as  a woman with a skill and desire to sew.

To use a sewing analogy, lots of threads come together and weave a tale of heartache and shocking twists! And I won’t reveal what happens to Stanislaus but…..

An enticing read and a insight into Dachau and how one woman with a skill for sewing could survive there.

The Lady from Zagreb – Germany, Switzerland and Yugoslavia -Philip Kerr

untitled

Why a booktrail?

The tenth Bernie Gunther mystery  and the search for a German actress hiding in Zurich. Under Goebbels orders…..

Story in a nutshell

In 1942, there are many worse places to be than Zurich, and detective Bernie Gunther has seen his fair share of them. So when a superior asks him to track down a glamorous German actress believed to be hiding in Zurich, he takes the job. Not that he has much choice: the superior is Goebbels himself.

Soon Bernie finds himself involved in something much more sinister for the actress turns out to be the daughter of a fanatical Croatian fascist, the sadistic commandant of a notorious concentration camp.

Now the Swiss police ask for Bernie’s help on a cold case they have. One with connections to some powerful people back in the Reich.

Place and setting

FRANCE - La Ciotat - http://www.edentheatre.org/ The Eden theatre which is the oldest cinema in Europe and was where the Lumiere brothers showed their first film according to the novel. Where the novel opens GERMANY - Berlin - Babelsberg studios - http://www.studiobabelsberg.com/en/ Where the actress Dalia in the novel works and where Goebels meets her CROATIA - Zagreb The Church of St Mark in Zagreb is one of the old roman catholic curchs tat Gunther says there are more of here than in the VAtican telephone directory. St Marls is the one with the fairystory roof which seems to be made from haribo sweets. CROATIA - Pula,  Istria - where Dalia was born SWITZERLAND - Zurich Gunther often walks near Lake Zurich to people watch and visits the town of Rapperswill which he describes as a charming cuckoo clock town on the north shore
FRANCE – La Ciotathttp://www.edentheatre.org/
The Eden theatre which is the oldest cinema in Europe and was where the Lumiere brothers showed their first film according to the novel. Where the novel opens
GERMANY – Berlin – Babelsberg studios – http://www.studiobabelsberg.com/en/
Where the actress Dalia in the novel works and where Goebels meets her
CROATIA – Zagreb
The Church of St Mark in Zagreb is one of the old roman catholic curchs that Gunther says there are more of here than in the Vatican telephone directory. St Marls is the one with the fairystory roof which seems to be made from haribo sweets.
CROATIA – Pula, Istria – where Dalia was born
SWITZERLAND – Zurich
Gunther often walks near Lake Zurich to people watch and visits the town of Rapperswill which he describes as a charming cuckoo clock town on the north shore

Locations – – 1943 and 1954

Berlin to Zurich to Zagreb

Bernhard  (Bernie) Gunther has a dark and troubled past. He has worked for some shady people and some shady organizations in previous books and now he now finds himself working for none other than Goebbels.

As Goebbels moved his head in an avian sort of way, I realized that with his black hair and beaky nose he reminded me most of a carrion crow

Goebbels orders Gunther to help him with his latest mistress/love interest. The lady in question  is an actress at the famous Babelsberg studios and he has had his eye on her for a long time. In those days, Goebbels eye on you meant that your future was decided by him instantly and so it’s a matter of time before this lady’s future is decided.

She needs help in tracing her father who is thought to be a monk somewhere in Croatia,  and so Gunther is sent to Yugoslavia to find him. Of course the setting and time period of the scenes in this part of the world is hard to read about

The state of Croatia was established as a Nazi state, ruled by the militia known as the Ustase.

And it’s probably no exaggeration to say that outside of Croatia, and away from the influence of the Axis powers, Yugoslavia is now in total chaos

The tapestry is richer when the author mixes both fictional and real characters together. As well as Goebbels, we meet General Walter Schellenberg, and ‘Joey the Crip’ – real characters from history where we gain an insight into their personalities.

The historical settings are both horrific and fascinating. We didn’t know anything about the Ustashe movement in Croatia during WW2, or the positions of the Swiss for that matter but the crimes against humanity are evoked in brutally raw detail to illustrate the reality of it all.

Russians will do to this country and to our people what they are doing now in Croatia

A moral maze of countries, cities and people all trying to get through the horrors of war. And at the centre – a man – Goebbels who wants a certain actress to star in the next picture he produces at the famous Babelsberg studios.

The Storms of War – Hampshire, France – Kate Williams

storms of war

Why a booktrail?

An epic saga of one family’s fortunes across the miles during the Great War and its impact on those who went and those who stayed behind. The first of a trilogy.

Story in a nutshell

England 1914

Life is good for the de Witt family. German Rudolf and his aristocratic English wife Verena are planning the wedding of their daughter, Emmeline, to a rich and successful man. Eldest son Arthur is in Paris and Michael is studying at Cambridge.

But this is the story of the youngest child Celia  – she dreams of escaping her cosseted world and of exploring further afield

But wars cost dreams and its the whole family and not just  Celia who risks losing it all. So she joins the war effort which takes her on a journey she might never have contemplated otherwise.

But there is one small detail that in her haste to have her dream, she has overlooked. A small detail that in war could mean something very serious….

Place and setting

This is a story of war and how it affects everyone in the smallest way. How it affects families and those who go to war and those left behind

The war trenches on the Western Front –

The novel opens with a soldier shivering with fear in a trench. This are the hard facts of war and the reality. but what was his path into getting here? The novel then is a flashback which starts to explain what life was like before the war and who the soldier was…

Stoneythorpe Manor, Hampshire is based on Bramshill House, a Jacobean house which was  used as a red cross hospital in the war and is was later used as a police training college. It is said to have many ghosts including a bride who accidentally locked herself in a chest on her wedding night and was not found until 50 years later http://www.heritageopendays.org.uk/directory/bramshill-house Loos France Micheal serves in the trenches here Pozieres France In the trenches where the rats were as big as cats London - Crystal Palace one of the camps into which Germans were commandeered during the war http://www.crystalpalacefoundation.org.uk/history/crystal-palace-timeline-1937-2005 London -Alexander Palace http://hidden-london.com/gazetteer/alexandra-palace/ London - Knockaloe on the Isle of Man one of the camps into which Germans were commandeered during the war and this is the one where Rudolf ends up - the most notorious. this BBC article on the excavation site is interesting - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/28263003
NPIA – Stoneythorpe Manor, Hampshire is based on Bramshill House, a Jacobean house which was used as a red cross hospital in the war and is was later used as a police training college. It is said to have many ghosts including a bride who accidentally locked herself in a chest on her wedding night and was not found until 50 years later
http://www.heritageopendays.org.uk/directory/bramshill-house
Loos France
Micheal serves in the trenches here
Pozieres France
In the trenches where the rats were as big as cats
London – Crystal Palace
one of the camps into which Germans were commandeered during the war
http://www.crystalpalacefoundation.org.uk/history/crystal-palace-timeline-1937-2005
London -Alexander Palace
http://hidden-london.com/gazetteer/alexandra-palace/
Isle of Man – Knockaloe 
one of the camps into which Germans were commandeered during the war and this is the one where Rudolf ends up – the most notorious.
This BBC article on the excavation site is interesting – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/28263003

the-storms-of-war1

Germans living in England at the breakout of war –

A German family living in England at the breakout of war – how were they treated and how did they manage to live with what their homeland was doing whilst their friends in their adopted land fled in fear? The De Witt family sees the fear of war from a unique perspective which provides the novel with a new and insightful view of what it was like to live in the lead up and during the war if you were German..

It would be so convenient for the Germans who live in England if there were no war. After all in a conflict, who would they choose?

An English country house in Hampshire-

When the letter comes to the house from the son who has gone to war, there is a sadness and a realisation that this will be no short time away

“Send me a kiss. All the chaps say we will be back in England before you know it, a couple of months, we think”

But time at the house is as yet idyllic and charming. A family who has earned its money from the butchers trade and who now lives comfortably arranging marriages for their daughters. But father Rudolf is a German who is soon suspected  of betraying the one country he has done everything for.

A saga in a family which spreads out over decades and countries leading back to the fortunes of the De Witt Family. The first in a trilogy which is set to explore so many other facets of this time and place.

Bookish musings

A long book but one which really looks at a unique perspective of the war – that of a German family living in England and gradually feeling the effects of war from those they have known and worked with for years. As suspicion and fear grow, so too does their dubious status in their community. Where the first part of the novel is the build up to this, the rest is the aftermath of what happens when a family get split up and when one member of the family is accused of spying.

This was a great if not long read but one which showed a new insight into the usual war story. I knew nothing of the German camps in England at the time and the workings of the Asquith government were fascinating. The calmness of the English country home and gardens contrasted well with the raw, dark dankness of the trenches and the impending war.

Pleased this is a trilogy as there were many avenues left open to explore. I shall be back for a another epic read!

Gutenberg’s Apprentice – Germany – Alix Christie

gutteberg

Step back in time to the world where publishing was born and see 1450s Mainz, Germany come alive before your very eyes.

This is the untold story behind Gutenberg’s printing press -and of his key partners. Johann Fust, was intrigued by the idea and so agrees to finance the project if Gutenberg takes on his adoptive son, Peter Schoeffer, as an apprentice.  Peter than takes up the story of how their toil, blood sweat and tears enabled the publication of around 180 bibles. And ultimately how they changed the face of publishing.

mainz

Delve into the world where publishing was born and see 1450s Mainz, Germany come alive before your very eyes. Gutenberg comes across as a hot headed, sometimes nasty yet well developed character as does his apprentice Schoeffer and the work of these two men amidst the chaos and trading spats of the time is fascinating to see. The city was struggling as a hotbed of trade and religion and the disappearance of the scribes was seen as a threat against both. Historically fascinating if a little heavy going in places, the slow pace could be rather linked to how laborious a task the advent of printing really was. A fascinating story that requires telling as a fictional account in order for us to get inside the characters’ mindset. The story flows across the page much like how a scribe crafted his words…with historical swishes and blotches of dark intrigue.

men

All in all, a fascinating and illuminating read – the most interesting thought that this let me with was the timeless tension that exists today between the old ways and the new. In Gutenberg’s day, the work of a scribe was being eroded by the advent of the printed word much like how traditional book publishing feels threatened by the advent of the kindle . The overlying reality must ultimately be to see how both can transform reading and history over time.

The moment that publishing world and the printed text came into being is something probably many of us have thought or wondered about but never given much thought to. With the Gutenberg’s apprentice, the reader can enter into that very world and stand beside the key men involved in its development. And it makes for a very fascinating journey indeed. One which the booktrail was very proud to have been allowed to go on prior to publication.

You’ll be pleased to know that the author worked with a very modern computer and did not have to write the entire novel by hand with a scribe of any kind. She is  – @alixechristie and the fab website with tons more information on the background to the book can be found here – http://www.gutenbergsapprentice.com/gutenberg-bible/

The Book Thief – Germany

 

71H2SJik5AL._SL1380_

Set in Germany in the years 1939-1943, The Book Thief tells the story of Liesel, narrated by Death.

 

71H2SJik5AL._SL1380_

Liesel is effectively a war orphan  – she and her brother are packed her off to foster parents. Her young brother sadly dies on the train.  Death is standing beside her when she steals her first book left lying beside her little brother’s graveside in the snow . Ironically it is called, The Gravedigger’s Handbook.

 

There was something black and rectangular lodged in the snow. Only the girl saw it. She bent down and picked it up and held it firmly in her fingers. The book had silver writing on it.

 

This book is the start of Liesel’s journey as with it, she starts to teach herself to read with the help of Hans Herbermann, her foster dad. As well as her books, Liesel’s best friend is a boy called Rudy who becomes a confidant, friend and playmate.

 

One night, a Jewish boy turns up at Liesel’s house. His father was a friend of Hans, and who taught him the accordion. Despite the Herbermann’s being German, they do not share the hatred of  Jews that the government does and so he agrees to shelter the boy in the basement.

 

An illustration from Max's book
An illustration from Max’s book – depicting the cellar and the wall of words that they build together

Imagine smiling after a slap in the face. Then think of doing it twenty-four hours a day. That was the business of hiding a Jew.

 

Max and Liesel become friends and the time he spends in their home shows the extent of human empathy and understanding that we sometimes forget. The way the two ‘sides of the war’ come together in human form is both haunting and heartbreaking.

 

He writes for Liesel over an old copy of Mein Kampf – pages painted white to allow Max’s story to shine through –

 

An illustration from Max's book
An illustration from Max’s book

 

 

 

The setting of the book is WW2 and the small German village of Molching near Munich, on Himmel Street –

 

Himmel = Heaven

Whoever named Himmel Street certainly had a healthy sense of irony. Not that it was a living hell. It wasn’t. But it sure as hell wasn’t heaven either.

 

Bombing damage to the old town in Munich - image courtesy of Wikipedia
Bombing damage to the old town in Munich – image courtesy of Wikipedia

Himmel Street and Molching are fictional names but Molching is said to be based on Olching and Himmel Street is so called because that was the nick name given to the ‘street’ in the Sorbibor extermination camp which led to the extermination chambers

71H2SJik5AL._SL1380_

Death is a vivid and captivating narrator who watches and waits in the shadows and the contrast between death and the living is stark and very effective – for the book despite the narrator is not all depressing and in fact the overlying message is one of hope and the human spirit. The setting may be bleak but the book is not. for alongside death, is the character of a little girl who just wants to read and understand and escape from the horrors of her life

 

The book was red with black writing on the spine. Der Traum Trager. The Dream Carrier. She thought of Max Vandenburg and his dreams. Of guilt. Surviving. Leaving his family. fighting the Fuhrer. She also though of her own dream – her brother, dead on the train and his appearance on the steps just around the corner from this very room.

 

I had never read a book written in the unique way in which the Book Thief is. It’s like sitting in a theatre, standing stage left narrating the action unfolding in life in Molching.

The words are poetry, the musical rhythm lyrical and the words carefully crafted to fully explore the feelings, raw emotions and environment of the horror of World War 2 –

 

Glowing pockets of streetlights

Dark, passive buildings

The town hall stood like a giant, ham-fisted youth, too big for his age. The church disappeared in darkness the further his eyes travelled upwards.It all watched him.

 

Read the book and see the film. A unique and heartbreaking story – uniquely written and uniquely unforgettable.