RSS

Tag Archives: history

Review – The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz – Denis Avey

Avey_Auschwitz_mech.inddThe Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz
Author: Denis Avey

Description:
The almost unbelievable story of Denis Avey, now 92, began in 1944 when he was captured and sent to a POW work camp. He was put to work every day in a German factory, where he labored alongside Jewish prisoners from a nearby camp called Auschwitz. The stories they told him were horrifying. Eventually Avey’s curiosity, kind-heartedness, derring-do, and perhaps foolhardiness drove him to suggest–and remarkably manage–switching places with two of the Jewish prisoners in order to spend a couple of harrowing days and nights inside. Miraculously, he lived to tell about it.

Review:
I wasn’t sure if I was going to write a review of this book, but it seemed kind of appropriate considering that yesterday (the day that I finished it), marked 20 years since the Holocaust Museum opened in DC. And i had just spent an afternoon there the previous week (even though I have been multiple times, it is still an emotional/moving experience that leaves me shaken). This was particularly so because on the cover of the book, you could see the sign from Auschwitz that said “Work Will Make You Free” (translated). There is a similar replication of that sign at the Holocaust Museum. I found it interesting that there has been some debate over that sign – it was a well-documented fact that it was over the gates of Auschwitz I (the most well-known of the satellite of the camps). However, according to testimony in the book, it also appeared as a sign over Auschwitz III, right next to the POW camp where Avey was being held.

I do have to admit that I was expecting a bit more – when you see a book that is titled, “The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz,” – you would likely expect lots of danger and intrigue. There was that, but at the same time, I think that the author also played down his accomplishment. Yes, he could have been killed for what he did – but he managed to survive. I also expected that it would going to be for a long period that what actually occurred – but the majority of the book was dedicated to the lead-up to him becoming a POW, and then his life post-war. The POW portion of the war only encompassed about 6 short chapters in the book. But they were intriguing – I guess it would be hard to write on a topic when you experienced the same hell, day in and day out.

But stories like this are intrigued to me. I always thought that if I decided to pursue a graduate degree in history (rather than psychology), that I would likely focus on the Holocaust or some other aspect of war/military history. But at the same time, I had never considered looking at it from a psychological perspective. But that is just me mumbling away. I would definately recommend this book for anyone who is interested in WW2 memoirs. I think that it would also be a good book for students studying the WW2 European theatre because the author touches on a lot of the different operations that were on-going (the Africa Korps, Rommell in Africa, some of the Naval battles); as well as his time as a POW. It is a sad thought knowing that each year, more and more people with this memories are dying and soon there will be none left – and all that will remain are memoirs like Avey’s and personal recollections, like the work done by the Shoah Foundation to record the stories of survivors.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on April 30, 2013 in Book Review

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Review – Pandora’s Bottle – Joanne Sydney Lessner

Layout 1Pandora’s Bottle
Author: Joanne Sydney Lessner

Review Copy Provided by Author

Description:
When financier Sy Hampton purchases this legendary bottle—which, through a quirk of preservation, may yet be drinkable—he shocks the wine community by choosing to uncork it privately with a female companion, rather than share it at a special public event. Sy intends the evening to be a quiet reassertion of his virility in the throes of middle age, but for ambitious restaurateur Annette Lecocq, the event offers an irresistible opportunity for much-needed publicity. Their competing agendas are not the only things to collide on the fateful night. Caught in the crossfire are Tripp Macgregor, a waiter on the verge of his long-awaited Broadway debut, and Valentina D’Ambrosio, the beautiful but unworldly working girl from Brooklyn Sy hopes to impress.

Review:
For me, this book could easily be divided into 2 parts, before the wine and after the wine…and the second part was more interesting than the first. I will say up front that I’m not a huge wine drinker and when I do, I go for the cheap sweet wines – I’ve never been to a tasting class or anything like that. So some of the intricacies of it went over my head. I do think that someone who enjoys wine would probably enjoy the first part more than I did. But secondly, it seemed that the characters in the first part weren’t real – they seemed too stiff, too perfect – even while they were struggling, i had a hard time relating to them. That did, however, change in what I call P.W. (post-wine).

I found the second half of the book to be much more enjoyable than the first – I think because it was almost like the characters had come to life. Whereas before they were stiff and ehhh…they seemed more alive – I felt like I was getting to know them more, rather than just sitting and watching them from the sidelines. The story also got more intriguing in this half. Weird, I know. I will admit that about 1/3 of the way through, I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue, because I wasn’t sure if it was worth it. But I am glad that I did. Overall, I would give the first part of the book 2 stars, and the second half 4 stars, so an average of 3 overall.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 22, 2013 in Book Review

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Review – Sky Burial – Xinran

sky burialSky Burial
Author: Xinran
Translator: Julia Lovell and Esther Tyldesley

Description:
It was 1994 when Xinran, a journalist and the author of The Good Women of China, received a telephone call asking her to travel four hours to meet an oddly dressed woman who had just crossed the border from Tibet into China. Xinran made the trip and met the woman, called Shu Wen, who recounted the story of her thirty-year odyssey in the vast landscape of Tibet.

Shu Wen and her husband had been married for only a few months in the 1950s when he joined the Chinese army and was sent to Tibet for the purpose of unification of the two countries. Shortly after he left she was notified that he had been killed, although no details were given. Determined to find the truth, Shu Wen joined a militia unit going to the Tibetan north, where she soon was separated from the regiment. Without supplies and knowledge of the language, she wandered, trying to find her way until, on the brink of death, she was rescued by a family of nomads under whose protection she moved from place to place with the seasons and eventually came to discover the details of her husband’s death.

Review:
The sub-title of Sky Burial is An Epic Love Story from Tibet and epic is surely the word the describe it. The book itself was tiny – only about 3.5 inches wide by 6 inches tall (so smaller than a normal MMPB), but it encompassed over thirty years in that few amount of pages. Which makes me wonder how an author who doesn’t write in English can convey in 200 pages what it takes some writers 600 pages to do…but that is a thought for another day…

This was the story of a true, unending love – not the type of love that you see in a standard romance (as much as I love them), but the type of love that many of us could probably only dream of. I don’t know about anyone else, but spending 30 years in the isolation of Tibet, trying to find out what happened to my husband of only a few months isn’t necessarily something that I had considered. The flow of the story was beautiful – I started reading it while I was stuck riding in a van to a work location (about an hours drive) and by the time we turned around to head home two hours later, I was 70% of the way done with it (and finished it on the second half of that commute).

I had to admit that the romantic in me hoped for a different outcome than what occurred – but at the same time, there was closure to the story. It was hard to tell while reading whether this was fiction or not – from the description of the book, it could have been biographical, but at the same time, there were elements that I think the author took creative license with. Either way, I highly recommend it for anyone interested in learning more about the nomadic people in Tibet, or about Tibetan history (around the time that China invaded it). I look forward to hearing peoples thoughts if they decide to read it. 4 stars overall.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 28, 2012 in Book Review

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 418 other followers