Reading Around Even in Darkness: Comp books
Here are blurbs on a few of the books I’ve been reading.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See is the best of the best for this intrepid novel reader and author of WWII Historical Fiction. It is a coming of age story told in precise luminous language. It evokes time and place through the sensory filters of a bright sensitive blind girl being hidden in occupied France, and through the troubled yearning of a young German soldier who is part of the occupying forces. The victory of love and the human spirit in the midst of desperation and evil stands side by side with Doerr’s beautiful rendering of the passions and wonder of young minds, the precious gifts of the natural world, and the small details that form the fabric of our lives. This is a must-read.
Love and Treasure by Ayelet Waldman
A treasured necklace and a granddaughter’s promise set the stage for Ayelet Waldman’s century-wide exploration of wartime love, Hungarian Jewish society, Nazi looting, an American soldier and the modern day legacy of all that transpired. Throw in a beautiful dwarf, the burgeoning women’s movement, and a pathetic psychoanalyst, and what you have is a great read with vivid characters, wonderful historical grounding, and an engaging plot you won’t soon forget.
The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure
As a writer of WWII/Holocaust fiction with a particular interest in the role of art in wartime, I looked forward to Charles Belfoure's The Paris Architect and it did not disappoint. Lucien Bernard, the novel’s protagonist, must reckon with the changes to his bourgeois life after the German occupation of Paris. Over the course of this war thriller, Lucien comes through the refiner’s fire of danger, temptation, evil and threat to a purer sense of his best self. Along the way he is challenged to change his beliefs about his art, Jews, love relationships, business, and the German enemy. The cast of righteous Gentiles in this novel, and the sacrifices they made contribute to the underrepresented stories of these brave people. I found that the predictability of the plot (with one notable exception) was actually satisfying, and worked well to allow for showcasing elements of character and shifts of perspective that helped this book depart from the “typical” Holocaust story.
Elizabeth Rosner’s The Speed of Light, 2001
Paula and Julian had a Hungarian cantor- grandfather, their father was a Sonderkommando at Auschwitz, their aunt, a child violinist. Paula is a singer, Julian a failed physicist. Julian suffers in the inherited grip of his father’s unresolved agony and guilt and the heightened awareness that isolates him from all but his sister and his solitary work. Sola has lost a child, a husband and then her whole village in the grip of guerrilla war fare and has been rescued by nuns and doctors and brought to this country. She cleans to cleanse herself. These are the characters who people Elizabeth Rosner’s The Speed of Light.
"We needed the stories to tether us to the world; sharing them among ourselves could keep us connected to the dead and to one another." Such a gifted story shared, and I am tethered to Elizabeth Rosner! In my current campaign to understand the need of second and third generation family members of Holocaust survivors to find their places in the history and outcomes of that horror, The Speed of Light is a beautiful rendering of inherited memory, the legacy of trauma, and the enduring power of love and devotion as redemption for pain and suffering. I so enjoyed the artful shifts in point of view and narrative voice, and Rosner’s poet's rendering of the natural world alongside these inward characters. Bravo!