WWW Wednesday 9/23

IMG_1384-0

Welcome back to WWW Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words.  To participate, just post the answers to the three w’s and then go on over and post your link for the week in the comments of Sam’s masterpost.

The three w’s are, as always:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What will you read next?

Continue reading

The Kommandant’s Mistress by Sherri Szeman

The Kommandants MistressThe Kommandant’s Mistress by Sherri Szeman:
(Summary taken from Good Reads)

This powerful, disturbing, yet utterly compelling first novel tells the story of a Nazi Kommandant and his Jewish prisoner/lover by weaving together three points of view: his, hers, and a supposedly objective view presented through official documents.

Now, that’s not much of a summary, I know, but I think it’s fairly accurate, and really all you need to know to decide whether this book is for you or not if you’re not the type to read reviews.

The first thing I want to say is that this was not an easy book to read.  I devoured it, but the subject matter and the style the author chose to use both made it difficult.  Because I am a writer, I’m going to start with the style and then move onto the subject matter.

I’m not sure how big of a spoiler it is to explain what was so unique about the writing style, so consider this a WARNING: potential spoilers abound.  Having said that: this book is not told linearly AT ALL.  There is no warning for when you jump backwards and forwards in time other than that it will not be either mid-sentence or mid-paragraph.  But there are no spaces to indicate a new scene with the exception of chapter breaks, and the chapters do not lead into each other.  It’s very stream-of-conscience where the closing line of one time-line/memory/scene will trigger the opening line of the next, but the scenes don’t always feel ‘complete’ when they jump to the next one.  Sometimes you’ll jump back to a previous scene and sometimes you won’t.

Further, because you first get the Nazi Kommandant’s perspective and you then get the Jewish mistress’s perspective, the story feels a little Rashomon-esque, where you see two very different takes on the same events.  Who you sympathize with is up to you, of course, but because we get his view first and hers second, and because he emphasizes truth so very much, I found myself believing her story more.

I want to state something very clearly before I go farther: I am Jewish.  This might bias me, yes, but the relevant part of that is that there is no time I can look back to and say “Here is when I learned about the Holocaust, before this time I did not know about what happened.”  So there was not a lot in this book that surprised me or that I did not know in general terms, because by this point in my life I have heard and read so many stories, including about the Jewish women taken as ‘lovers’ by high-ranking Nazis.

Now, onto the subject matter.  This is not a love story or a romance, and for that I am very happy.  The nuances of the relationship between von Walther and Rachel are deeply complex and I thought that, for Rachel’s story, it was very believable that von Walther would still be a huge shadow over her life after liberation to the point that her husband would remark on von Walther’s lingering influence.

Both of them were amazingly complex characters, although I only appreciated the full depth of them both when I read Rachel’s perspective (Part II).  Seeing the events he described through her eyes confirmed some of my suspicions and filled in the blanks in ways I hadn’t expected.

I would love to recommend this book to as many people as can get their hands on it, but it does deal with disturbing subject matter.  The relationship dynamic between the two main characters is, of course, a huge part of that, but so are the atrocities described throughout the entire book.  Still, if you are all right with the subject matter, I don’t think I can recommend this novel highly enough.

To close, I have several points to make.

Firstly, this is still historical FICTION.  The characters and events are based on historical FACT, but quite a few things were changed or made up whole.  Let me state that those things made up whole were people’s names and interactions between people.  None of the atrocities were made up even if they happened to fictional people.  This entire story COULD HAVE happened.  It didn’t, as the known historical facts of both von Walther’s and Rachel’s lives attribute.

Secondly, while the subject matter is disturbing and Szeman does not shy away from graphic imagery, she handles it with the utmost respect.  I’m not sure how better to explain it then that and to say: SZEMAN DID HER RESEARCH.

Finally, do not read Part III (which looks a bit like an appendix) until after you’ve read the first two parts.  Because it looked like an appendix, I made the mistake of reading it earlier on than I should have, and I think I would have been much happier saving it for last.

On a completely unrelated note, this story fulfills my 1940-1959 time period for my When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Top Ten Tuesday – Freebie!

It’s time for Top Ten Tuesday again!  Hosted by the broke and the bookish, Top Ten Tuesday is a list of your top ten things on a bookish theme.  This week was a freebie, so I went back to the early archives of Top Ten Tuesday and chose ten topics.  I couldn’t pick just one, and then I found that I couldn’t come up with ten things for all of them… ^^;;

Continue reading

Top Ten Tuesday – Top Ten Unfinished Series

Top Ten Tuesday rolls around once again, hosted as always by the ladies over at the broke and the bookish.  This week’s theme is top ten series that are fully published that you haven’t finished reading.  So, allow me to present the ten series I started but never finished – even though the author did:

1. The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson
I read the first book, but it took me longer to read than it should have if I’d enjoyed it more, and it left off in a spot that I was content with, so even though I own all three books, I’m not sure that I’ll ever get around to reading the next two.

2. The Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth
Anyone who read last Tuesday’s Top Ten (posted a few days late, oops!) will know that I didn’t really click with Tris Prior, Divergent’s main character.  And since I’m a character-driven reader, this is another series I don’t foresee myself continuing, even though the first book didn’t wrap anything up with its conclusion

3. The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness
This is one that I’ll probably continue – when I finally get my hands on a copy of the second book for long enough.  I loved the first one, but I just kept running out of time to read the sequel before it had to go back to the library.

4. Glasswright series by Mindy Klasky
I read the first one so long and ago – and maybe the second? – that I would have to go back and reread from the beginning if I were to pick this series back up.  I honestly don’t remember much – including whether or not I liked it!  Still, it’s sitting on my shelves somewhere.

5. Heirs of Alexandria series by Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint, and Dave Freer
Read the first one all the way through earlier this year as part of my When Are You Reading? Challenge and now I need to read the rest, but I’ve got so much else on my TBR pile that I’m not sure when that will be.

6. The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson)
Another series I’m not planning to continue.  I read the first three or so books and then kind of gave up in frustration over the characters.  Sound familiar? 😉

7. The Lotus War trilogy by Jay Kristoff
Again, read the first one.  I’m not sure if I plan to finish this series or not.  Don’t get me wrong: I really liked the first book.  But.  But I’m not sure if my heart – and my tear ducts – can take the next two books.  I mean, I only got through Malazan Book of the Fallen because I was pretty sure the end would be bittersweet not heart-breakingly bitter.  This series… we’ll see.

8. The Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger
I read the first one, Soulless, and I liked it well enough, but steampunk really isn’t my genre, so I doubt I’ll ever get around to reading the rest of the series.

9. The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
The ones I’ve read are entertaining, but not so entertaining that I’m trying to read all of them (or read them in the right order, oops).  Again, it’s a case of not exactly clicking with the character.

10. Discworld by Terry Pratchett
There’s so much TO read that I’m not sure I’ll ever get through everything.  Right now the one I’m dying to read is the last Tiffany Aching novel, The Shepherd’s Crown.

And this is without mentioning the series-in-progress that I’m reading, plus I’m sure there are other series I DNF-ed at one point or another.

Anyone have some thoughts on which of these I should bump up in priority?

Top Ten Tuesday – Characters I Didn’t Click With

It’s my Top Ten Tuesday!!  Late, just like my WWW Wednesday, due to helping my sister move.  Apologies.

For those who don’t know Top Ten Tuesday, it’s run by The Broke and the Bookish and happens every Tuesday.  Each week has a different theme and you pick your top ten for that theme.  This week is Top Ten Characters You Just Didn’t Click With.

Continue reading