Book review

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Statistics

Format: Paperback

Length: 451 pages

Genre: Historic Fiction

Publisher: Scribner

Date of Publication: 6th May, 2014

Rating: 5/5 stars


I received this book as a part of my birthday book mail from the #bookdivas and I absolutely loved it. However, I could not get to reading it for about 5 months! This was one book that I knew I had to read before the year ended and I’m glad that I did.

The book has won several accolades such as Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (2015)Audie Award for Fiction (2015)ALA Alex Award (2015)Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Fiction (Runner-Up) (2015)Ohioana Book Award for Fiction (2015)Andrew Carnegie Medal for Fiction (2015)Idaho Book of the Year Award (2014)National Book Award Finalist for Fiction (2014)Goodreads Choice Award for Historical Fiction (2014) and Nominee for Best of the Best (2018)International DUBLIN Literary Award Nominee (2016)

The Blurb

Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

The Book

The book hooked me from the very first page. The young life of Marie-Laure reminded me of a book that I read a long time ago where a grandfather trains his blind grandchild in puzzles and educates her by taking her around the museum, though I have forgotten the name of the book. (If any of you know it, please tell me!)

I loved reading both the points of view but I enjoyed Werner’s experiences and his way of looking at the world more than Marie-Laure’s. I was glad that the author did not turn her into a simpering little girl but showed that people who are sight impaired can play a pivotal role even in the times of war. I expected the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner to be interconnected much earlier in the book. Certain parts of the book seemed to be dragging on a bit too much and seemed unnecessary to the entire plot. The end left me dissatisfied. I had a higher expectation for the book but on the whole, it was an intriguing read. What really moved me was the part where Marie-Laure is haunted by her experiences when she re-visits the places of her childhood. War displaces the lives of everyone, but children have it worse than everyone else.

The Author

Anthony Doerr is the author of five books, The Shell Collector About Grace Memory Wall Four Seasons in Rome and All the Light We Cannot See . Doerr’s fiction has won four O. Henry Prizes and has been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories, The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, and The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Fiction. He has won the Barnes & Noble Discover Prize, the Rome Prize, the Story Prize, the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Award, and the Ohioana Book Award three times. Doerr lives in Boise, Idaho. Become a fan on Facebook and stay up-to-date on his latest publications.

TL;DR: A moving story that surprises you and makes you realise that the repercussions of war reach far and wide.

What is your favorite genre?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @thefoodandbooklife

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Book review

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Statistics

Format: eBook (Kindle) 

Length: 288 pages

Genre: History, Historical Fiction

Publisher: Bonnier Publishing Australia

Date of Publication: 27th January, 2018

Rating: 4/5 stars


I love reading historic fiction. It is one of my favourite genres. I especially love books based on the World War and the Holocaust because they represent a period in history that we must never forget. I had heard a lot about this book and could not wait to get started.


The Blurb

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions. 

The Book

I love reading historical fiction. It is one of my favourite genres. I especially like reading books based on the World War and the Holocaust because they represent a period in history that we must never forget. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris is a memoir of Lale, a Holocaust survivor. It begins with Lale being herded into the infamous cattle wagons and takes us on an emotional journey through the three years of his survival in one of the most horrific concentration camps in history.

Due to the author’s style of writing, the first half of the book did not have the kind of effect on me that I thought that it would. I don’t mean to imply that the story isn’t powerful because it is. But it did not make me bawl. However, the second half of the book and the Afterword by the author felt more personal and broke my heart to a million pieces. Some of Lale’s story seemed to rely mostly on luck, especially towards the end but for someone who lived through the unluckiest part of history, Lale can have all the luck in the world and it would still seem inadequate in comparison.

The Author

Heather Morris is a Native of New Zealand now resident in Australia, working in a large public hospital in Melbourne. For several years she studied and wrote screenplays, one of which was optioned by an academy award winning Screenwriter in the U.S. In 2003, she was introduced to an elderly gentleman “who might just have a story worth telling”. The day she met Lale Sokolov changed her life, as their friendship grew and he embarked on a journey of self scrutiny, entrusting the inner most details of his life during the Holocaust. Heather originally wrote Lale’s story as a screenplay – which ranked high in international competitions – before reshaping it into her debut novel, The Tattooist of Auschwitz.


TL;DR: A moving tale which could have been written better but one that is important for the world to know


What are your favourite historic fiction reads?

Tell me in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life

Book review, Received for Review

The Tree House by Glenn Haybittle

Statistics

Format: Kindle

Length: 174 pages

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from NetGallery in exchange for an honest review


The tree house is a comparatively short story with a background set in World War II in the Nazi occupied France. I have a morbid fascination with anything to do with WWII so I jumped at the chance to read this book and was certainly not disappointed as is evident in my very high rating.

The author

Glenn Haybittle, the author of The Tree House was born in London. He has authored other books such as The Way Back to Florence and The Memory Tree. His work, Evie and Jack is set to release later this year.

Blurb

Max and Ada, ten-year-old neighbours, are engrossed in composing a book of spells in a tree house in Paris when the Nazis arrive to occupy the city. Max, the child of a rape and abandoned by his mother, is in foster care; Ada is Jewish.

Almost fifty years later Max, the black sheep of the family, summons his grandson to tell him the story of those years in Paris and reveal a guilty secret that has eaten away at him. His mind is now set on digging up the past and he wants Mark to accompany him across the English Channel. His dying wish is to shed light on the two missing women in his life: Ada and his mother. Mark though is struggling with his own existential crisis. There is a missing woman in his life too.

A deftly accomplished tightrope act of pathos and humour, The Tree House is a bewitching novel of loss and restitution, heritage and the hereafter.”

The book

The book begins with Max wanting his grandson, Mark to take care of his things after he dies. In order for Mark to understand the importance of the things that he is to be left in charge of, Max decides to tell him the history behind them. The stories of Max’s childhood were, by themselves, very interesting. They are told simultaneously from a child’s point of view while being analysed from an adult point of view. I loved how the author seamlessly switched between scenarios without confusing the reader. The book concentrates on Max and Ada’s friendship and shows how intimacy is developed innocently among children. Their interactions and imaginations remind us of our own childhood with make-believe games and the staunch belief that everything will work out as we plan them. It is only the later that small cracks begin to appear in their relationship, spurred on by the hatred that is brought in by the Nazis. While the children do not understand the hate that is directed towards the Jews in the beginning, they are quickly made aware of the situation. In their own childish ways, they try to remedy the situation but the adults have a very different plan in mind.

The book also deals with mental illness in the form of claustrophobia, social anxiety and avoidant personality disorder. It shows how difficult it is for people suffering from these conditions to make others aware of their conditions and to get them to understand their situation. It brings to focus the difficulty that they face in dealing with everyday situations that most of us take for granted. Mark and Max try their best to appear normal so as to not alarm the people around them but find it extremely draining and prefer to be their real selves. However, they are riddled with guilt about the problems that they cause to the people that are closest to them. I wish there were many more books written about mental illness in such a realistic tone.

The end, although was a little predictable was still gut wrenching and you can’t help but root for Mark and hope that he manages to find some semblance to structure in his life. I absolutely loved every part of the book except the few predictable instances at the very end which cost the book the last half of a star.


TL;DR: A great book that touches upon the influences of war on the everyday lives of the citizens and deals with mental illness in a very respectful way.


I am a huge fan of books that deal with mental illness and books that are set during the World War. Do you know of other books that have these themes? Suggest some in the comments below or on my Instagram @the_food_and_book_life