Tag Archives: World War II

The Daughter's Tale: A Novel Book Review

As parents, we will do almost anything to ensure that our children will grow up to be happy, healthy and productive members of society. But during wartime, a parent’s main concern is that they, their children and their family survives the war.

Armando Lucas Correa’s latest book, The Daughter’s Tale: A Novel starts in modern-day New York City. Elise Duval is in her golden years. Born in France and raised as a Catholic, her formative years were during World War II. After the war, Elise moved to the United States, where she was raised by her uncle. Then a stranger brings Elise a box that opens the door to her past.

In 1939 in Berlin, Amanda Sternberg and her husband live a comfortable life with their two young daughters. But Amanda and her family are Jewish and the noose around Europe’s Jews is tightening. Making the ultimate parental sacrifice, Amanda puts her older daughter on a boat to the Americas before fleeing to France with her younger daughter.

Amanda hopes that living in France will provide the respite that she and daughter desperately need. But the Nazis are not too far behind. When Amanda is forced into a labor camp, she knows that the only way to save her daughter is to send her away.

This book is fantastic. What drew me in was the force of Amanda’s love for her children and how she knew instinctively that in order to save her children’s lives, she had to send them away. Regardless of faith, family background or cultural history, it is a message that I believe speak to all of us, especially those of us who have children.

I recommend it.

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The Other Windsor Girl: A Novel of Princess Margaret, Royal Rebel Book Review

It’s hard to be the younger sibling. Especially when your older sibling(s) are beloved.

The late Princess Margaret, younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II, was quite the wild child back in the day.

Her story is told in the new novel, The Other Windsor Girl: A Novel of Princess Margaret, Royal Rebel, by Georgie Blalock. Through the eyes of Vera Strathmore, the daughter of an impoverished aristocratic family, the viewer is swept into the world of Princess Margaret. At the beginning of the novel, Margaret is young, spoiled, passionate and tempestuous. Vera, still hurting from the death of fiance during World War II, is a writer who dreams of moving to New York.

A chance encounter with Margaret changes Vera’s life and her priorities. Drawn into Margaret’s inner circle, Vera watches as she falls madly in love with Peter Townsend. Peter works for the royal household, is older and married. Despite the criticism, Margaret is determined to have her man.

While Margaret is cordoned into royal responsibilities, Vera begins to wish to be untied from a life tied to the Princess. Soon another scandal envelopes Margaret and Vera must choose how she wants to spend the rest of her life.

This book is brilliant. There is a perception when it comes to royalty, that living that life is akin to a fairy tale. But the reality of that is life far from the fairy tale that it is perceived to be. In telling Princess Margaret’s story through the eyes of Vera, the viewer is taken to a world that is essentially a golden cage. It is a cage that when perceived from within, can be unappealing.

I recommend it.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Fairy Tales, History, New York City, Writing

The German House Book Review

After a war, those who have survived just want to get back to normal. But what happens years after the war when the sins of the past come back to haunt you?

The new novel, The German House, written by Annette Hess and translated into English by Elisabeth Lauffer, takes place in Germany in 1963. Eva Bruhns is 24 years old. Her memories of World War II are nothing more than foggy memories of childhood.

Like many of us at that age, Eva is ready to stretch her wings. Her parents are the owners of The German House, a successful restaurant. She lives with her family in the apartment above the restaurant and is ready to marry her wealthy boyfriend.

Accepting a job as a translator, Eva works for David Miller, an investigator who wants nothing more than to prosecute those who were responsible for the death of millions. As she is pulled further and further into the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials, Eva begins to question not only her life choices but the history of her nation and her family.

In theory, this book should have been a good read. Within the World War II/Holocaust genre, this is a narrative that does not receive the same attention as other narratives within the genre.

It’s not a bad book to read, I was just underwhelmed by the time I reached the end of the story.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

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My Favorite Movies of 2019

Going to the movies is sometimes akin to stepping onto a roller coaster. Sometimes you love the film your seeking. Sometimes you hate it.

My favorite movies of 2019 are as follows:

  1. The Farewell: The Farewell is my favorite movie of the year because it is heartfelt, genuine and thoroughly human. In the lead role, Awkwafina proves that she can play much more than the comic relief.
  2. Avengers: Endgame: If there was a perfect way to end a film series, this film is it. Balancing both action and narrative, this thrill ride is pure perfection.
  3. Judy: Renee Zellweger is an absolute shoe-in for the Oscars as the late film icon Judy Garland. Disappearing in the role, she tells the true story of the final years of Garland’s life.
  4. Downton Abbey: Transferring a popular television show to the big screen is often easier said than done. The Downton Abbey movie is the perfect film bookend to this beloved television program.
  5. Harriet: This biopic of Harriet Tubman is nothing short of tremendous. In the lead role, Cynthia Erivo is Harriet Tubman.
  6. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: This final entry in the Skywalker saga is not perfect, but it ends with both a nod to the past and an open door to the future.
  7. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: The late Fred Rogers was more than a milquetoast children’s TV host. He taught generations of children in ways that go beyond the classroom. Inhabiting the role of Mister Rogers is Tom Hanks, who reminds viewers why we loved him.
  8. Joker: In this re imagined world from that Batman universe, Joaquin Phoenix adds new layers to this iconic character while talking frankly about mental illness.
  9. The Song of Names: Based on the book of the same name, the film follows a man who is trying to discover the secrets of a missing childhood friend.
  10. Frozen II: This sequel to the mega-hit Frozen was well worth the six year wait. Instead of doing a slap-dash direct to video type sequel, the filmmakers expanded this world in new ways, making the story even more relevant.

This will be my last post for 2019. Wherever you are, thank you for reading this year. May 2020 be bright and hopeful.

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Filed under Books, Downton Abbey, Feminism, History, Mental Health, Movie Review, Movies, Star Wars, Television

Best Books of 2019

To say that I am a bookworm is an understatement. As you might expect, I’ve read quite a few books this year.

Without further adieu, my list of the best books of 2019 is below.

  1. The Women of the 116th Congress: Portraits of Power: This book is #1 because it represents how far American women have come and how far we need to go before we are truly equal. In celebrating the success of these female politicians, the authors are paving the way for the next generation of women to represent their country.
  2. The Unwanted: America, Auschwitz, and a Village Caught In Between: This compelling and true story of one small town and it’s Jewish residents during World War II is as compelling as any fiction novel of the Holocaust.
  3. Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II: Telling the story of Audrey Hepburn‘s childhood during World War II, this book is a must-read for both movie junkies and history nerds alike.
  4. Summer of ’69: History is not just facts in a book. It the lives and experiences of those who lived through that period. In telling the story of one specific family, the summer of 1969 comes alive.
  5. Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators: The revelation of Harvey Weinstein’s actions two years ago was appalling and world-changing. In bringing his actions to the light, the authors are giving his victims what should have been theirs in the first place.
  6. Unmarriageable: A Novel: This adaptation of Pride & Prejudice set in Pakistan proves why Austen’s novels are universally loved and rebooted time and again.
  7. The Mother of the Brontes: When Maria met Patrick: The previously untold story of Maria Bronte (nee Branwell) is a fascinating story of the women who would bring Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte into the world.
  8. Becoming Eve: My Journey from Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi to Transgender Woman: It takes guts to be yourself. It takes even more guts when being yourself means that you are no longer part of the community you grew up in.
  9. She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement: The reporters who broke the Harvey Weinstein scandal knew what they were up against. They also knew how important it was for the public to know the truth.
  10. The Winemaker’s Wife: Love and betrayal are enough to handle. Add in war and you have this marvelous novel set in France during World War II.

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Filed under Anne Bronte, Book Review, Books, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Feminism, History, Jane Austen, Movies, Pride and Prejudice

The Song of Names Movie Review

Music has a unique way of reaching all of us.

In the new movie, The Song of Names (based on the book of the same name by Norman Lebrecht), Martin (Tim Roth) and Dovidl (Clive Owen) were as close as brothers when they were boys. But Dovidl’s past and his secrets have torn their relationship apart.

Their first meeting comes as World War II is on the horizon. As a young boy, Dovidl (Luke Doyle) is a wunderkind on the violin. But he is a Jew living in Warsaw. His talent takes him to England and a shared bedroom with Martin (Misha Handley). After the war is over, the boys are now young men (now played by Jonah Hauer-King and Gerran Howell) and are as close as ever. But as Dovidl becomes known as a music prodigy, he must also grapple with his faith and the fate of the family he left behind in Poland.

Decades later, Martin is searching for his friend, who has all but vanished. Can he find Dovidl and discover the secrets that he carries with him?

I loved this movie. I loved it because at its heart is a story of friendship that starts during a tumultuous time in history. As the years pass and the reality of their world is exposed, both Martin and Dovidl must grapple with their experiences. I also loved the ending. It was not a happy ending as Hollywood would see fit, but it worked for the movie.

I recommend it.

The Song of Names is currently in theaters.

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A Hidden Life Movie Review

It’s easier to follow the crowd. It’s harder to follow your gut and go against the grain, even if that means putting your freedom and your life at stake.

The new film, A Hidden Life, tells the true story of Franz Jägerstätter. Franz (August Diehl) and his wife, Fani (Valerie Pachner) are farmers. Living in rural Austria during World War II, they have three children. Then Franz is called to serve his country.

But there is a catch. Every man who serves must swear loyalty to the Nazi Fuhrer. Franz’s conscious tells him that he cannot make such a statement. This refusal sends Franz to prison and potentially, to his death.

Written and directed by Terrence Malick, this film is as much a message on respecting your instinct as it is to honor the memory of its subject.

The problem with this movie is that is far too long. It is 180 minutes from opening credits to closing credits. As much as I understood where Mr. Malick was going as a writer and a director, he could have cut it down by an hour and it would have been fine as is.

Though the visuals were stunning and the narrative format was interesting, it cannot overcome more screentime than was necessary.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

A Hidden Life is presently in theaters.

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How to Fight Anti-Semitism Book Review

When one has a problem and wants to deal with it, the first step to admit that you have a problem. But one first had to admit that they have a problem, which more often than not is the hardest step.

70+ years after World War II and the Holocaust, the number of antisemitic acts is rising to records that has not been seen in decades.

Earlier this year, journalist Bari Weiss published her new book, How to Fight Anti-Semitism. The book opens with the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Ms. Weiss’s hometown. The main focus of this book is that up until recently, American Jews have felt safe. We live in a nation that guarantees our rights as citizens, that allows us to openly practice our faith. That facade of safety is crumbling to reveal the ugliness of hatred and antisemitism.

Ms. Weiss hits the nail on the head. Not only does she go into detail about antisemitism in history, she also talks about how antisemitism has infiltrated American politics. Not just on the right, as one might assume, but on the left as well.

She forces the reader, regardless of faith or family background, to not look away from the darkness of antisemitism. By looking directly at the darkness, the reader is challenged to fight against antisemitism and ensure that all of us are treated respectfully.

I absolutely recommend it.

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The Unwanted: America, Auschwitz, and a Village Caught In Between Book Review

War has a way of bringing out both the best and the worst in people.

The Unwanted: America, Auschwitz, and a Village Caught In Between, by Michael Dobbs, was published earlier this year. It tells the story of the Jewish residents of Kippenheim, a small town in South Germany. Before World War II, it was a pleasant place to live. The Jewish and non-Jewish residents found a way to co-exist peacefully. That is, until 1940.

In the fall of 1940, the Jews of Kippenheim were forced to leave their homes and live in a camp in France. They knew that their only way out was to emigrate. But the world was closing its door to the Jews of Europe. The odds of getting out of Europe were slim at best. No one knew what was coming, but they knew that their lives were in danger.

This book is amazing. Meticulously researched and written, the book does not read like a college textbook. Using letters, interviews and diaries, the author takes the reader on a journey that can only be described as unsettling. Reading like a novel, the author slowly reveals the fate of the book’s subjects.

I recommend it.

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Thoughts On the Shooting in Jersey City and the Nationality Execution on American Jews

After the Holocaust, we said never again. Never again would let our neighbors and our government kill us for who we are. But the phrase “never again” has become empty.

Yesterday, there was a mass shooting in Jersey City. When the dust finally settled, six people were dead (the suspects included). Among the deceased is a police officer who gave his life to protect innocent civilians and two members of the city’s growing Hasidic Jewish community.

It would be too obvious to talk about gun control and the serious need (which continues to be ignored by certain politicians) for reasonable gun control laws. But then again, it would also be obvious that the suspects were motivated by hate and antisemitism.

In Washington D.C., the man who goes by the title of President of the United States has signed an executive order to protect those of the Jewish faith against discrimination. Specifically, the executive order is in place to protect students, professors and staff on college campuses from being harassed because they are Jewish.

On the surface, this is exactly what is needed. But, like anything that you know who does, there is another side that could be easily ignored. In this executive order, Judaism is defined as a nationality. It is not a nationality. if it was, all Jews would come from one country. But we don’t.

Would one refer to Christians as a nationality? Or Muslims, Hindus, etc as a nationality? No. Like all faiths, we come from all over the world. There are two problems with this mis-categorization. The first problem is that it is wrong. Am I shocked that no one in the administration did their homework? Not at all.

The second problem is that labeling Jews as a nationality could lead to a slippery slope. In the years leading up the World War II, the term “the Jewish race” bounced around Europe like a ping pong ball. Let’s just say that these terms don’t bode well for anyone, especially those in the specific group being mentioned.

I wish we had a President who understood that he needs to be humble, mature, thoughtful and prepared for the job at hand. Instead, we have a man baby with the temper of a tantruming toddler, an ego the size of Texas and an intellect that is non-existent.

G-d help this country.

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