Here’s a look at some of the books I’ve read over the past couple of months. My reading tastes are widely eclectic but I mainly enjoy historical fiction and non-fiction, and the occasional gripping fiction work.
The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman
This book is told through the voices of Lenka and Josef and is a love story set against the backdrop of the Holocaust and its aftermath. It begins in pre-World War II Prague where the characters of Lenka and Josef fall in love. Ultimately they are separated by war’s forces and neither knows what has truly happened to the other until a chance encounter almost half a century later. I’ve always enjoyed reading novels about the Holocaust and I especially liked the fact that this was set in the Czech Republic, a country I would love to visit. I felt that Richman did a wonderful job blending the past and the present together since it continually jumps back and forth between time periods.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
If you ever think you don’t have enough in life, read this book. If you’re ever ungrateful for all the things you have in your life, read this book. I think most people are aware that the level of poverty in India is unimaginable, that the way most people live there is heartbreaking and unheard of in the 21st century. And yet it’s only when you read Boo’s work where you learn about the horrific way the people there are forced to live do you obtain a better level of understanding. Although there are dozens of slums found in Mumbai (and India as well), Boo’s non-fiction tells the tale of one of them, focusing on the lives of its residents who she met and got to know over time. You may be repulsed at times from what you read, you may think that Boo is making the content up, but she’s not. This is how some people live their lives and we in the Western world should not ever forget it.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
After booking my plane tickets to Savannah I knew that I wanted to read this famous real-life tale about the city since it would undoubtedly be more telling than any guidebook. Even though it’s nonfiction, it reads like a novel and I raced through it incredibly fast. Although the film adaption of the book really only focuses on the murder trial of local resident Jim Williams, the book starts a lot earlier and thus gives readers a more in-depth look at Savannah society through the eyes of an outsider, John Berendt. Some of the things he writes about seemed ludicrous and yet I have no doubt that they were real considering how small, Southern, and rich in history the city is. I definitely recommend reading this book, but do yourself a favor and skip the movie. I watched it after I got back and it did the book no justice at all.
Number the Stars by Lois Lowery
This is one of the most famous children’s books about the Holocaust and as a child I had read it. However, after traveling to Denmark in June and hearing about the Resistance movement there during World War II I wanted to read it again and bought a copy to add to my book collection. Set in Copenhagen, it tells the story of two friends, one Christian girl and one Jewish girl, who are dealing with life under Nazi occupation. As an adult I enjoyed reading Number the Stars again and I think anyone else would as well. While the writing is for children, the content is obviously of a more mature level since war makes everyone grow up fast.
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
I’ll admit, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about so when it was first announced that a previously unknown work of Lee’s was going to be published, I naturally requested it from the library. As an unofficial sequel of sorts to Lee’s most famous work, To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman takes place about 15 years later. Scout is no longer the rough and tumble single digits tomboy, but rather a grown woman in her 20s (she also goes by her real name, Jean Louise) who lives in New York City but is returning home to Alabama for a visit. As for the furor regarding the whole “Atticus is not who you thought he was,” well, keep in mind the fact that the book was written decades ago at a very different time in America. It was interesting to read it in modern day.