Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday Books: Three Reviews!!!

This week while on vacation I managed to read three books and start a fourth! FUN!! Also, I have decided to post my full reviews here at my blog, instead of referring you to my goodreads page. I'm back to posting them in both places. I did this because my friend, K, told me she doesn't follow the goodreads link. Which means... she was missing out on my fabulous reviews! Disastrous! So I'm posting them again and continuing to attempt to have at least one review for you each Friday.

Without further adieu, here are my three reviews for this week (don't you just love vacations?) --

(1) Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948 by Madeleine Albright - 4 stars

It took me three weeks to read this book. Nevertheless, I really liked it, and learned a lot! The first half was slow-going. It was almost like reading a history text. Albright set the stage in order to explain the build-up and context of her early life. The second half of the book was much more readable and personal. The reader learns about Albright’s relatives and of her own personal saga, touring sites in Europe where her ancestors had trod.

Albright was born in Czechoslovakia in 1937. Her father worked in politics; the family moved around as he was appointed ambassador here and there. Her family socialized with historical and political figures of Europe before, during and after WWII. She grew up in London (during WWII), Prague, Yugoslavia, Switzerland, and ultimately her family was granted political asylum in the United States. As you probably know, she was the U.S. Secretary of State under Pres Bill Clinton.

Albright was ignorant of the fact that she had Jewish heritage and that many of her relatives had died in the Holocaust. She grew up Catholic, and was very young at the time of the war; she was a typical self-absorbed child who didn’t remember having any grandparents, and her parents never talked about that part of her past. It wasn’t until relatively recently that she discovered the truth about her past.

This book was written as part of her own painful probe into her ancestry, the terrible fate that 25 of her relatives fell victim to, and her analysis of the history, events, politics, and people who helped shape who she is while also shaping our current world.

I found this book fascinating. One thing I loved was the over-riding philosophy of Albright’s family of origin – be honest, truthful, ask questions, learn as much as you can, care about your fellow human beings, help as much as you can to speak up for good and optimism; be a moral, decent human being. This philosophy is what drove her father in his work and continues today in Albright’s life work as well.

(2) Y by Marjorie Celona - 4.5 stars

This well-written book is about a girl who, as a newborn baby, was abandoned on the front step of a YMCA. The story follows her life as she is placed with foster families and ultimately adopted. It also follows her birth mother, starting before the birth, and tells her story of what led to the abandonment of the baby. The two stories grow together and intertwine as the plot unfolds.

It was a page-turner. I read this book in one day. The characters are so well-developed and diverse. They all seemed like real (flawed) human beings; I was interested in them all and didn’t have a favorite. I was also very interested in the theme of adoption. It has always fascinated me. As a young girl I only thought of it in the romantic sense of “saving” the life of a poor child who is without a family. As an adult, of course, I know the experience is much more complex. This book delves into those complexities. Other themes in the book are family, the “luck of the draw” that life hands you, and what we do with what we are given.

(3) The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan - 3 stars

This book had more potential than was realized. It sounded like it would be great, but something was odd about this book. The main character, Grace, was unlikeable. The mix of personalities in the lifeboat was interesting, but I didn't always understand what led people to do what they did. (Would you jump overboard to your death just because someone told you to??) I was able to finish this book out of semi-interest and curiosity, but I don't highly recommend it.

1 comment:

Anne Simonot said...

Oh what a relief! After reading some glowing reviews of The Lifeboat, I was quite disappointed while reading it. I could barely force myself to finish it. I thought I must be the only one who wondered how the author could make such a great concept into such a boring story!