(Review) Distant Signs by Anne Richter

02_Distant Signs
Publisher and Publication Date: March 7, 2019. Neem Tree Press.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 240.
Source: I received a complimentary copy, but was not required to leave a positive review.
Audience: History readers of post World War II East Germany.
Rating: Very good.

The book was first published as Fremde Zeichen in 2013.
The translation to English is by Douglas Irving, 2019.

Link to the blog tour: https://www.hfvirtualbooktours.com/distantsignsblogtour/

Amazon
The book is not available in Kindle. The Hardcover was published March 7, 2019. The paperback was published November 21, 2019.

Distant Signs Poster_web

03_Anne Richter

About the Author:
Anne Richter was born in 1973 in Jena, in the former German Democratic Republic. Her degree in Romance languages and English included study periods in England, Italy and France. In 2011, Anne was nominated for the Ingeborg Bachmann Prize, a highly regarded German-language literary award. Her debut novel, Distant Signs, was published in Germany in 2013. Anne is currently writing her second novel.
Douglas Irving is Scottish. He studied German and Spanish at Aberdeen University. In 2014, he completed a Masters in Translation at Glasgow University. His first translation, Crossing: A Love Story by Anna Seghers was published in 2016 in the US to positive reviews. His translation of Anna Seghers’ last work published in her lifetime, Three Women from Haiti, is set to follow.

Summary:
Distant Signs is an intimate portrait of two families spanning three generations amidst turbulent political change, behind and beyond the Berlin Wall. In 1960s East Germany, Margret, a professor’s daughter from the city, meets and marries Hans, from a small village in Thuringia. The couple struggle to contend with their different backgrounds, and the emotional scars they bear from childhood in the aftermath of war. As East German history gradually unravels, with collision of the personal and political, their two families’ hidden truths are quietly revealed. An exquisitely written novel with strongly etched characters that stay with you long after the book is finished and an authentic portrayal of family life behind the iron curtain based on personal experience of the author who is East German and was 16 years old at the fall of the Berlin Wall. Why do families repeat destructive patterns of behaviour across generations? Should the personal take precedence over the political? Can we rise above our histories and political identities to forge a new understanding of the past and to welcome change?

My Thoughts:
My first thought about Distant Signs is character study. This is a book strong in a character study of the protagonists.

The protagonists or main characters:
Margret
Hans
Sonja, Hans and Margret’s daughter
Johanna, Margret’s mother
Friedrich, Margret’s father
Lene, Han’s mother
Erwin, Hans’s father

The thoughts behind the characters are shared. So, I’m privy to the layers of thoughts and feelings behind the words and actions. However, there is an absence of completeness. What I mean is the characters don’t fully complete the thought pattern behind the feeling. So, if there is a feeling of sadness, that sadness is not addressed but pushed back. Each of them are affected by World War II. Even the family members who were born afterwards. Those who were living during the war are emotional vacuums. It’s a topic they don’t want to discuss, but its presence is like an elephant in the room. The people don’t feel the freedom to express what they really need to express. And, it’s possible they don’t know how. Yet, there is deep anger and sadness. Instead, they are stoic or detached. Needs and desires are stifled. Sometimes they don’t even look at one another, their eyes shift away to another object.

My second thought is Distant Signs showed me the shifting political ideology of the people. From the National Socialist German Workers’ Party or Nazi Party, to the German Democratic Republic or Communism. It’s interesting how people justify what role they portrayed in the war.

Distant Signs is a sad book with a glimpse of hope. I wanted to make this last point, because most readers want a book to have a positive conclusion.

Giveaway: This blog does not host giveaways. The giveaway is coordinated by another blog. Good Luck!
During the Blog Tour, we are giving away a copy of A Distant Signs by Anne Richter! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.
Giveaway Rules:
– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on November 29th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Paperback giveaway is open internationally.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

Direct Link to the giveaway: https://gleam.io/j4uyi/distant-signs

(Review) Nothing Is Forgotten by Peter Golden

Nothing Is Forgotten

Publisher and Publication Date: Atria Books. April 10, 2018.
Genre: Historical Fiction.
Pages: 352.
Source: Complimentary hardcover copy from Peter Golden and Atria Books for this review. I was not required to leave a positive review.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon

Peter Golden
Author Bio:
Peter Golden is an award-winning journalist, historian, and novelist who has written nine books and interviewed Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Bush (41); Secretaries of State Kissinger, Haig, Shultz, and Eagleburger; Israeli Prime Ministers Rabin, Peres, and Shamir; and Soviet President Gorbachev. His first novel, Comeback Love, was praised by the novelist and reviewer Caroline Leavitt as an “extraordinary debut.” Wherever There Is Light, his second novel, was featured in New York Magazine’s Fall Preview issue, widely reviewed, and selected by the New Jersey Star-Ledger as one of the best books of 2016. His third novel, Nothing Is Forgotten, which explores the connection between the Holocaust and the Cold War, will be published on April 10, 2018.
Facebook
Goodreads

Summary:
Late 1950s. South Orange, New Jersey.
Michael Daniels is a recent graduate from high school. He is the “Mad Russian” for a radio station. His satire and music is popular in New Jersey and across the ocean to USSR. His Russian-Jewish grandmother who runs the family candy store is found murdered. Michael can’t understand how his beloved grandmother could die in this horrific act. A chance to travel to Europe, and in working to solve the mystery of his grandmother, Michael finds out his grandmother had been preserving another life.

My Thoughts:

What I love about this story:
1. Michael’s sharp sarcasm and voice. Reminds me of his age, era, and the place where he lived.
2. Michael is an intelligent fellow. He is not a nerd. He does not come across as a know-it- all. He is fluent in several languages. He is street smart. He is observant of his surroundings and the people.
3. Peter Golden is simply a great storyteller. I think this is a great book to hear on audio.
4. I loved reading about how the family came to America; and later the circumstances not known in the beginning of the book.
5. History is weaved into the book. For example: John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
6. I love the time period. It is just before the Beatles. It is before America became involved in the Vietnam War. It is before Nixon and Watergate. Rock n Roll is in its infant stages. The fear and angst of communism is shown in the time period.
7. Yulianna Kosoy is a character who lives in USSR. I like her. She is a savvy person. She is a remarkable person. At her introduction, I felt she showed a “whatever” attitude towards certain activities. I believe this is apart of her persona of living life on the edge.
8. I love the unique career of Michael. I’ve not read another story where the character is a jockey of a radio station. Actually, he is the lone operator.
9. I love pulling the history of World War II, Holocaust, post war, communism, spying, espionage, romance, family saga, CIA, mystery, travel, art, and early 1960s culture into one book.
10. The story has a solid finish.

 

 

 

 

(Review) Song Of Praise for a Flower: One Woman’s Journey through China’s Tumultuous 20th Century by Fengxian Chu, contributor Charlene Chu

36671782

Publisher and Publication Date: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. November 2017.
Genre: Nonfiction, autobiography.
Pages: 488.
Source: Complementary paperback copy from Charlene Chu and Author Marketing Expert. I was not required to leave a positive review.
Rating: Excellent.

At this time, the book is free through Amazon Kindle Unlimited: Song of Praise for a Flower. 

17370004

Co-author Charlene Chu, Fengxian’s first cousin, grew up in the United States and wrote the English rendering of Song of Praise for a Flower. A financial analyst well-known for her work on China’s economy and financial sector, she is quoted widely in the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Bloomberg, Business Insider and other media outlets. She holds an MBA and MA in International Relations from Yale University. “Song of Praise for a Flower” is her first book. Charlene splits her time between Washington, DC and Hong Kong.

51W+rQIjvVL

Back cover shares the summary of book.

Fengxian Chu is now 92 years old. She was born in the 1920’s and this is the start of the book. She began to write out the story of her life in 1989 and completed it in 1992. The manuscript waited for a reading audience until Charlene Chu, a cousin from America, came to visit Fengxian in hopes of finding historical information about her family. Charlene contributed to the book, making historical corrections or filling in the blank on certain events. The book is equal parts written by Fengxian and Charlene. Fengxian is the voice and topic of the story.

Several reasons led me to give Song of Praise for a Flower an excellent rating.

•A detailed life account of the narrator, in both the logistics of living in China during the 20th century, and her thoughts and feelings.

•A brief history of the Hunan Province, including the geography of the landscape. Later, Guangdong Province is less remarked on by way of a history or geography lesson; instead, it is shown in the daily life of the narrator.

•The society and culture in China is a huge overarching theme in the book. There is a lengthy list of various topics under the heading of society and culture but these are a few: foot binding with women, prejudice between the different provinces in China, communism, family saga, relationships between husbands and wives, relationships between parents and children, family history, education, poverty, gender equality versus feudal, and opium addiction.

•An intriguing aspect of the story is communism. Fengxian Chu has (I think this is the right word) “adapted” to communism. She believes in the Communist Party despite the horrors and abuse of the early years. She feels communism has been good for women. Charlene Chu addresses this issue in brief in the “Afterword” section.

•Over a period of years various reforms took impact in China. The Communist Party pushed agricultural reforms, anti-religious reforms, education reforms, and the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. All of these are explored in the book.

•Another interesting aspect of the story is the beliefs of luck, good fate or bad fate, good is rewarded and evil is punished.

Song of Praise for a Flower shows the remarkable life of Fengxian Chu. She represents Chinese women during this period who survived (and also died) during the horrors of the Japanese threat of 1930s and World War IIthe war between nationalists and communistscommunism, a changing society and culture, and extreme poverty.

“Now, in the final season of my life, I see that each of us is given only one chance at life. We must take advantage of every opportunity that life presents. For when we do not truly live, life loses its meaning.” Fengxian Chu.

pearl river

Pearl River in China

(Review) Choices: The True Story of One Family’s Daring Escape to Freedom by J.E. Laufer

34948814
Publisher and Publication Date: Little Egg Publishing Company. May 15, 2017.
Genre: Nonfiction, memoir, novella.
Pages: 116.
Source: Complimentary paperback copy from Little Egg Publishing Company and Smith Publicity. I was not required to leave a positive review.
Rating: Excellent.

A map of Europe is included for the time period of the 1950s.

Seven family photographs are located at the end of the book.

Choices is a novella, and a story for both adult and young adult readers.

For more information from the publisher about the book: Choices.

Summary:
J.E. Laufer has written a true story of her family’s escape from communist Hungary post World War II and the Hungarian Revolution. She was age two when the family left. She has an older brother named Gyorgy. Their parents names are Adolf and Kati Egett.
The story centers on the love and sacrifice the parents made for their beloved children.

The time period is the mid 1950s. Adolf and Kati Egett are aware of people leaving the communist country of Hungary. Some of the people leaving are known to them. People are afraid to tell anyone they are leaving. Some people leave with only the clothes they wear. Adolf and Kati contemplate leaving. They want a safe and secure future for their children. They hate to leave family, friends, job, and home. The escape itself is difficult and risky.

My Thoughts:
I love big books. I love long stories. I love a well-developed story and characters. Choices is a small book. A small package with 116 pages of written material. Before I began reading, I wondered, will Laufer be able to share this important story in so few of pages? The answer is yes!
I love this story!
I did not know anything about life in Hungary post World War II and after the country became communist. I have been given a glimpse of what the people endured.
Several reason led me to give Choices an excellent rating:
1. The story builds with anticipation as to what Adolf and Kati will do. Will they leave Hungary? How will they escape?
2. The story shows the dramatic events of leaving Hungary. Several questions are answered about their defection:
-how much money do they take and what it is spent on?
-how do they dress for the trip and what belongings do they take?
-who do they trust on the journey and who do they tell before leaving?
-how do they keep their children calm and quiet?
-what will they do until they can work and earn money?
-how will they leave Europe?
3. Kati reflects on the story of her experiences during the Holocaust.
4. A teenage girl is met on their journey. She takes a risk in helping them. They took a risk in trusting her. The relationship is tantamount to their survival.
5. The love expressed between Adolf and Kati. They have commitment and tenderness towards one another. They show patience and self-control. One does not make a decision without the other. I feel they are a beautiful example of a marriage and family.