My Dear Ones: One Family and the Final Solution by Jonathan Wittenberg

my dear onesWittenberg presents the fate of his family members and friends through a series of written correspondence throughout the Nazi regime, the war and the years after WW2.

I can imagine it must have been incredibly painful and frustrating to read such loving, but often mundane letters, knowing that they were being prevented from writing the truth. Their letters were censored and towards the end more or less dictated to them by others, to give the impression they were being cared for by their captors.

At times it seems as if the author would rather accept the frivolity and pretence of the content of the letters, despite being aware of and relating the historical facts and truth. I believe this is his attempt to maintain a scholars neutrality. Never presume, and if you can, always back your facts up with evidence, which he has done in every instance. He has narrowed down the possible scenarios to the nearest provable possibility, and does not venture into what might have happened. His conclusions are based on written testimony and eyewitness reports.

The factor of the unknown is what plagued, and still plagues, the majority of the survivors and their descendants. The Nazi regime and their collaborators were meticulous record-keepers and when the time came experts at destroying said records and evidence.

You can’t erase years of well-planned mass murder. You can however change the narrative of history, which is why Holocaust deniers are so dangerous.

Wittenberg reads between the lines, as his family members have done before him, so the narrative becomes one between stark reality and wishful thinking. It is obvious that Jonathan Wittenberg has spent a lot of time searching for some wisp of memory, a physical residue or a sense of being in the locations his ancestors once walked, lived and died in.

In trying to find understanding and peace, he has also tried to find an imprint they may have made on their journey through life. Something more than just restricted handwritten letters, and although these are a priceless family heirloom, one can feel he wanted to connect with them on a more spiritual level. I feel you, I feel your pain. We are family, my blood is your blood, and we will never forget you.

Which is of course the essence of any biographical or autobiographical story about the Holocaust. To tell the world, remind the new generations of those who live on only in the memories of their loved ones, so they will be less inclined to repeat the past.

In his own way Jonathan Wittenberg, Rabbi Wittenberg has created a written testimony to keep the memories alive. To keep the truth from being extinguished, much like every inch of their existence and their lives were eradicated in an attempt to act as if they had never even existed at all.

Buy My Dear Ones at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @RabbiWittenberg

Visit jonathanwittenberg.org

Advertisements

Wildfire by Ilona Andrews

wildfire12The Hidden Legacy series is young fresh and quite steamy. It has the complexity of a more seasoned urban fantasy and the lightness that will attract younger readers.

The whole marry and procreate to create the perfect magical being for your magical house has a eugenics feel to it. Perhaps not so distanced from real life and the quest to create the perfect human.

In a world where we can already manipulate the choice of gender, hereditary diseases and general appearance, the need for magical or indeed perfection is actually quite a popular topic.

Nevada has done some growing up and is stepping up to protect her family by making the correct political moves and planning strategically instead of with her heart. To beat the the rules of the houses you have to be able to think and act like them.

One of the highlights of the story is of course the romance between Nevada and Rogan. The two of them are like a well-tuned machine in both a professional and personal sense. The chemistry is explosive, which of course is one of Andrews specialities. Being able to create tension, longing and pure animal attraction between the main characters.

It is what readers have come to expect from Andrews, a solid urban fantasy with memorable characters and plenty of potential for further development.

Buy Wildfire at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @ilona_andrews @AceRocbooks

Visit ilona-andrews.com

The Vagrant by Peter Newman

The-Vagrant-Peter-Newman.jpg.size-230An enthralling fantasy with a main character who doesn’t speak and only communicates through physical interactions and body language.

Interestingly enough the author has chosen not to compensate for the lack of verbal interaction by having the character talk to the reader via his thoughts.

Instead his communication takes place through the actions, words and interactions with others. In particular Vesper, Harm and the goat. Yes, you read that right, a goat. A very stubborn goat with a keen sense of survival and more attitude than a teenager in the middle of a hormone rush.

I just want to slip a murmur of dissatisfaction in about the Hammer. Plot-wise what happens to her was a mistake. The four of them, sorry five plus the grumpy goat, not only make for great reading, but her development was a treasure trove of potential.

It’s a sign of a good story and a great storyteller when a reader connects to the characters in a way that makes them believe they know better.

The story switches from past to present, as we slowly learn more about the silent wanderer and how he and Vesper ended up together. Simultaneously we are introduced to that evil that won the war and the aftermath of its influence. I didn’t find those parts of the story as compelling as the ones with the merry band of misfits. Perhaps because Harm, Vesper, the Vagrant, the Hammer and the goat are such strong characters, as opposed to the enigma and essence of the enemies.

I look forward to reading more about this particular group of characters, especially when it comes to keeping an eye on Vesper as she grows.

Buy The Vagrant at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Lewis Man by Peter May

Copy of the lewis man

Every time I come away from a Peter May book I always find that I have taken some information from it that I didn’t know before. He always manages to create a subtle mixture of fiction and historical fact. May likes to wade in the complicated layers of genealogy and family dynamics. In The Lewis Man he creates a fascinating crime with a hefty layer of emotions and family secrets.

It isn’t that uncommon for grandparents or parents to keep certain parts of their lives completely secret from their children or grandchildren. It might be because the pain and memories are hard to bear or perhaps the secrets are kept to keep the next generations safe.

In this case Fin Macleod’s baby mama finds out that her father isn’t who she thought he was. The body of a young man has been discovered in a peat bog. Perfectly preserved, and a DNA match to Tormod MacDonald.

May has the reader wander between the past and the present. Following young Tormod before he became Tormod, and the old Tormod to try to discover who killed the bog boy. It isn’t quite as easy as it sounds, because Tormod is suffering from dementia, so retrieving information from his muddled brain becomes quite difficult.

I liked the way May integrated the dementia story into the mystery. He shows the difficulty, the pain, the emotional upheaval and the complete desperation of all the people involved. There is no candy coating of some of the more harsh reactions to the disease, which is an honest and realistic approach to the issue.

Once again May also highlights dark mistakes made in certain eras that tend to be swept under the carpet. The displacement, relocation, dumping and mistreatment of orphan children, who were scattered in large numbers over the Scottish Isles.
As always it was a very good read.
I received a copy of this book via Edelweiss, courtesy of the publisher.

Read more about the first book in this series The Blackhouse.

Trial by Fire by Frances Fyfield

TrialByFire_zps68a56255

Fyfield’s writing is quite busy, often overladen with description or dialogue when less could be more. It is also quite dry and drawn out. What it lacks it literary prowess it makes up for in solid plot. The murder and subsequent revelation of the murderer is very well done.

Living together in the suburbs is an experiment for the couple. Bailey enjoys the housewife mode Helen has slipped into and Helen seems to think acting like an overpaid maid equals a successful relationship.

I mean come on, who waits up till nearly midnight to run their man a bubble bath and make them dinner? Not exactly realistic and certainly bound to end up making someone unhappy.

You can almost see the cracks in their relationship starting to appear, during the duration of the case and certainly towards the end. Bailey speaks to Helen, as if she were a disruptive little housewife who can’t behave properly in society.

It is hard to understand why Helen is completely passive in her job and relationship, despite her abilities, education and intelligence. Instead of acting upon her instincts she chooses to make half-baked attempts at solving this crime. She happens to stumble upon the right answer and ends up putting herself in extreme danger.

I enjoyed the way Fyfield constructed a very subtle net around the killer. I t isn’t until the last moment that the reader sees the net being drawn in around the person and various other leads are cut from the tangle of clues.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of Edelweiss.