[760]: In Another Time by Jillian Cantor

This book was a bit of a surprise. It’s romance and history set in the backdrop of Nazi Germany. But what made it surprising was the time travel elements — perhaps I should’ve warned you about spoilers. Oh well.

Max and Hanna met before Germany lost its mind and allowed Hitler to brainwash them into thinking the Aryan race was superior. I found this particular plot point to be interesting as it showed how the German people slowly fell into the narrative that Jews did not belong in Germany. As well, how some Jewish people were lulled into a complacency. They didn’t think one person could influence an entire nation to do his evil will. It most certainly is chilling to hear the propaganda being echoed down South in the present, only the supposed enemies this time are asylum seekers and illegal immigrants crossing the border. Not only that, it’s interesting to see how Hitler slowly and effectively made work of turning the media and his political rivals into the enemies of the people. Which is also what’s happening in the States. If we’re ever not to repeat history, I hope people are paying attention.

Anyway, believe it or not, this book is a historical romance between a German and a Jewish girl. I’m always ready for heartbreak when I pick up a book set in World War II. So business as usual when I decided to read this book. Like I mentioned previously, this has time travel elements. It reminded me of The Time Traveler’s Wife in such a way that Max kept disappearing on Hannah, so aside from the German-Jewish coupling a taboo at that time, their relationship was tenuous at best. I felt Hannah’s frustration because just when they were making headways in their relationship, Max disappears on her (through no choice of his own, mind you). Over the years, the pattern repeats. I felt like they were apart more than they were together.

Despite of that, I did enjoy this book. It was not pretty, nor as historically significant as The Tattooist of Auschwitz. But it still made my heart ached as any novels in this setting usually do.

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[719]: Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

Everyone Brave is Forgiven
by Chris Cleave

I’ve read my fair share of World War II novels. And one thing that’s glaringly missing is the presence of coloured people in the story. For whatever reason, there just doesn’t seem to be a place in the story for them. Like they weren’t even around in that particular part of history. This is, of course, only based on the books I’ve read.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven, however, changed that perspective for me. Because this book dealt with a woman who, despite her family’s and friend’s wishes, defied odds to help an African American child who soon lost his only parent to the war. You could also say that this boy saved her in turn at some point in her life. Because in war, you grab on to the only family you could find.

But that’s only part of the story.

This also had an inconvenient romance, not only because the world was at war, but because our heroine was already practically engaged to another man when she met another. And considering she was setting him up for her best friend, the dynamics of their relationship was not only inconvenient, it was also complicated.

Mary North is a privileged daughter of an MP who decided to enlist soon after war was declared. The only job she could get was a teaching position. She wasn’t enthusiastic about it at first but soon realized that it was her niche. But it was a tumultuous time when the threat of a bombing was almost always imminent. When the order came down to relocate the schools to the country, her superiors thought it best for her to stay in the city. Leaving her jobless and feeling inept.

Then she met the head of school administrators to demand a job. Tom Shaw didn’t know what hit him. Mary was determined, headstrong and didn’t leave Tom any choice but to “make up a position” because she wasn’t taking no for an answer. She was responsible for the kids that were remaining that mostly had learning disabilities and coloured kids. So at the time when Hitler was terrorizing much of Europe, England was dealing with racism in their own backyard. Probably not as brutal as they did in America where lynching and separatists ruled the South but subtle or not, it was something that black people dealt with everywhere.

Among other things, this book is about the blitz bombings England suffered during WWII. The constant displacement of people, the lack of food, the deaths and in the midst of it all, the people’s attempts to find some normalcy through the horrors. It’s also about what life was like to the soldiers serving in Malta. When they dealt with practically the same lack of resources and the constant bombings. They find camaraderie, comfort, and compassion even towards their enemies. Because in war, everyone is a victim in one way or another.

Chris Cleave crafted a story that covers a wide range of topics. There was a romance loosely based on how his grandparents got together; there’s racism that affected children who lost their parents to the war. It’s an account of survival in any way shape or form; of not losing hope no matter how easy it would be to give in. And many times, I thought the characters would for sure succumed to the weight of their troubles. But no one gave up. The dialogues were light even if the circumstances were not. Cleave found a way to infuse humour even at moments when things were dire.

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[566]: The Kommandant’s Girl by Pam Jenoff

18910917 The Kommandant’s Girl by Pam Jenoff
MIRA | Kindle Edition
September 1st, 2011
Historical Fiction | Romance
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

Nineteen-year-old Emma Bau has been married only three weeks when Nazi tanks thunder into her native Poland. Within days Emma’s husband, Jacob, is forced to disappear underground, leaving her imprisoned within the city’s decrepit, moldering Jewish ghetto. But then, in the dead of night, the resistance smuggles her out. Taken to Krakow to live with Jacob’s Catholic aunt, Krysia, Emma takes on a new identity as Anna Lipowski, a gentile.

Emma’s already precarious situation is complicated by her introduction to Kommandant Richwalder, a high-ranking Nazi official who hires her to work as his assistant. Urged by the resistance to use her position to access details of the Nazi occupation, Emma must compromise her safety—and her marriage vows—in order to help Jacob’s cause. As the atrocities of war intensify, so does Emma’s relationship with the Kommandant, building to a climax that will risk not only her double life, but also the lives of those she loves.

This is my first Pam Jenoff book. I know very little about the kind of books she puts out other than they’re usually historical romance. I have been attracted to stories where the romance is inherently founded on hate. And there could never be a more contemptuous romance than that of a Jewish girl and a German officer.

Emma Bau has only been married to her husband Jacob for merely six weeks before the Germans invaded Poland. Forced to flee, Jacob severed ties with Emma for her safety. She found herself imprisoned in a commune with her people. There, she saw just the kind of life that was in store for them; where disease and hunger slowly killed them one by one. In the dead of night, she was taken by a member of the resistance to live with Jacob’s aunt. An upstanding Polish citizen who was clandestinely helping Jacob’s cause. Through one of her dinner parties, Emma meets the enigmatic Kommandant Richwalder.  The obvious attraction helped convinced the resistance to recruit Emma to their cause. By working with the kommandant,  she could monitor confidential messages that passed through the kommandant’s desk. As the monstrosity of Hitler intensified, so did the growing relationship between Emma and Richwalder. And she would do anything to help the cause, if only to save those that she loves.

The problem that I have with this book is rooted to the fact that Emma didn’t seem to have given much thought as to who Richwalder was. The instant attraction that she felt didn’t really make that much sense to me. There was no ingrained hatred, mostly passing thoughts where she had to remind herself how many Jewish people where dying in the hands of the Germans such as the kommandant. Other than that, it was instant lust all around.

In Emma’s defence, the kommandant seemed to be cut from a different cloth than those of the other officers. We see flashes of guilt, and distaste for what was going on in his watch. Perhaps that was why it was easy for her to fall into bed with him.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything gripping about this book. I did not hold my breath in suspense. She was tasked to retrieve documents that was pertinent to the cause, but the reader never did find out of the consequence of her missions. The most frightening thing that happened here was when she witnessed the pregnant wife of a Rabbi get shot. That was hard to take, but since it happened in the beginning of the novel, the reader had plenty of time to recover. Not that I looked forward to reading the atrocities of the war. I just felt like it was not a good representation of what really happened.

Still, this does not diminish my interest with her books. In fact, I picked up a couple of more in the same vein. I’m looking forward to reading them only to get a better grasp on her story telling. I really hope I’ll like them more than I did with this one.





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[562]: The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons


The Bronze Horseman / Paullina Simons

I have an insatiable appetite for historical romance. Epic love stories that usually take place during the war. There’s just something about overcoming difficult situations that make the romance even that much more remarkable — unforgettable. The passion is more intense. I’m convinced that the added danger elevates it to another level.

The Bronze Horseman is a beast that I’ve been meaning to slay for years now.  I’ve read so many glowing reviews about this book/series. Unfortunately, an eight-hundred-pager was something I could not afford – time wise.  So for months after I got my Audible account, I’ve been checking to see if this book was available for download. Fast forward to now, and I’m sitting here afflicted with the worst case of book hangover.

If you must know, the book is set in World War II Russia. The Germans are on the attack. We find a very young Tatiana on an errand to buy supplies to get them through a war that set the country in a panic. With her red dress and heeled sandals, she looked older than her barely 17 years of age. While waiting for her bus, she buys an ice cream ( creme brûlée). The imagery speaks of how carefree she is even with the news of a German invasion. She even forgets the list of things she needed to buy. There wasn’t any sense of urgency. While she was waiting for the bus, she notices a decorated soldier watching her every move. He’s handsome. He approaches her, then they talk a little. They get on the bus. They wait each other out. As if they’re playing chickens. Soon, the bus empties leaving her, the soldier,  and the bus driver.  It was such a unassuming meeting. Uneventful. But while all those were happening, I had a sense that something bad was going to happen right there and then. So I wait. And I wait.

That pretty much sums up how I felt while reading this novel. I was kept in suspense, but most of the time, of my own making. I was always waiting for the bad things to happen, because – well, the book is about a Russian army officer who was harbouring a very dangerous secret, and there was one person who knew how to use this knowledge to his advantage. Also, because the book was about war, in a place that doesn’t prosper liberty to begin with. Tatiana and Alexander also has to keep their relationship under wraps, so as much as this book was about romance, my heart was going a mile a minute because I was kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.

This book may look daunting at first, but I promise you that you will not be able to put it down. It will have you mesmerized from the first page until the very last. The ending may have destroyed a piece of my soul. But I take comfort in the fact that I have the next book in the series. It was everything I’ve expected and everything I didn’t. Paullina Simons spun a web so intrinsically crafted that a reader will not have no choice but to read upon bated breath.


GOODREADS SUMMARY | September, 2009 | 810 pp. | Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars 


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