[Review] The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jenoff

Publisher and Publication Date: Park Row Books. January 29, 2019. 
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 377.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Historical fiction readers especially those who read WWII stories.
Rating: Very good.

Link @ Amazon.

Link @ Barnes and Noble.

Pam Jenoff’s Goodreads/ website/ Facebook/ Twitter/ Instagram.

Summary:

February 1946. New York City, NY.

Grace Healey is late for work and cuts through Grand Central. She trips on an abandoned suitcase sticking out from underneath a bench. Out of curiosity, she opens the suitcase and finds the name of the owner. Inside she finds an envelope of photographs. They are of several women. Some of the women are in military uniforms. They are all young women. Grace begins working to put the puzzle together about all of the women. She must know who they are and what happened to them.

The second story is of the woman who was in charge of the young women. Her name is Eleanor. Her story begins in 1943, England.

The Lost Girls of Paris is the story of heroism and courage. Young women, who from different backgrounds and cultures, are willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of country, duty, and loved ones.

My Thoughts:

Overall, I love this story and enjoyed reading it.

What I love about the story:

1. I don’t feel I will ever tire of reading World War II stories. My dad was a veteran of World War II, D-Day Omaha Beach, and the Battle of the Bulge. He shared many stories with me as a child and adult. I know his stories. I want to know other people’s stories which includes historical fiction.

2. Grace Healey is a perfect example of a grieving widow. I feel Pam Jenoff portrayed an accurate widow who is displaced, wounded, grieving, lonely, and at a loss in how to move forward. This includes not knowing even where to begin. I personally know a woman who lost her husband on the USS Indianapolis. She still grieves. She went on with life. She married and had children. But he was a great love-a great friend-a young love-who is lost to her. Grace and my friend show similar behavior. I feel Grace is an accurate and real character in this story.

3. I love it that romance is not the focus. So often romance is introduced in a story, and it can and often does take over.

4. I love it that Grace realizes she must move forward in life, but it must be “her own story.”

5. This is a minor detail, but I love it that Grace is defined as having “corkscrew hair.” I don’t think this has been described before in a story I’ve read. Grace is given a minor detail, yet it’s a difference compared to how other female characters are described. I love this minor detail.

6. I enjoyed reading about the instructions of operating a wireless.

7. I love the friendship between the women. Some of them upon meeting show a kindred spirit.

8. The dialogue and descriptions are wonderful and engaging. It felt easy to picture the scenes in my mind.

What I feel needs clarification:

At the start of the story, I didn’t quite understand what had happened to Grace. What I mean is Grace has marks on her neck, she had been drinking the night before, she is sluggish, and she is hungover. My first thought is she had been abused. My second thought is she has an alcohol problem. And she blames a person named Mark who I don’t know yet. My point is I feel lost at the start. Later, I put the event all together and understand. I don’t like feeling lost especially at the start of a story.

Final Thoughts:

Eleanor is too cool. Chilly. Icy. However, her personality fits her character.

Mark is grieving too. I feel sorry for him.

This is a story I’d like to read a part 2 so I will know what Grace becomes.

Themes in the story: war, peace, grieving, courage, heroism, resistance, honor, judgment, injustice, justice, dreams, trust, temptation, charity, hope, and acceptance.

[Review] What Did You Do In The War Sister?: Catholic Sisters in the World War II Nazi Resistance by Dennis J. Turner

Publisher and Publication Date: Published by the author, Dennis J. Turner. February 27th 2020.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 320.
Format: Kindle e-book edition.
Source: Kindle Unlimited e-book choice.
Audience: World War II readers. Readers who want to read about Catholic nuns who were apart of the Resistance.
Rating: Very good to excellent.

Link at Amazon

Link at Barnes and Noble

I have been curious about what role the Catholic Church had during World War II. I’ve read articles about their inaction in helping the Jews; but I wanted to read true stories or at least stories based on historical truth about those who did work against the Nazi pogrom during World War II. I am especially referring to priests and nuns. This book, What Did You Do In The War Sister? is a very good choice.
I have another book that I’ve not read: Church of Spies: The Pope’s Secret War Against Hitler by Mark Riebling.

Link at Goodreads

Summary:

The book is dedicated to the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.

The summary of the book at Goodreads doesn’t give much info.

The narrator of the story is a nun, Sister Christina, who is from Ohio. She has a degree and certificate to teach secondary education. She teaches French and German. Despite the building war in Europe, she travels to Belgium to be a nun at a boarding school for girls. The time period is the late 1930s. Through this Sister’s experiences, the daily activities of a Sister and teacher is shown, as well as their work to care for and hide Jews and service men.

Through true letters and diaries of Sisters who wrote about their experiences during World War II, Turner has written a solid historical fiction story.

My Thoughts:

There are things I love about this book and things I dislike:

What I love:
1. I love learning about the Sister’s daily routine duties. Their daily schedule: when they awakened, when they went to bed at night, and everything in-between. The prayer times during the day. Everyone has responsibilities whether it is cooking, laundry, or teaching. And some duties are for all of them.
2. I love the sub-story about a young girl who lives at the school. I wish there had been more individual stories. In sharing their stories, I learn about their lives, their viewpoint about where they reside, and the Sisters who are their teachers and caregivers; plus their circumstances in how they came to live there. Another words, the main voice of the story is from this particular Sister. I’d like to have heard from other voices to fully round out the story. This also makes the story larger-epic.
3. I love the main character, Sister Christina. She is a woman of gusto. She is talented, intelligent, wise, a leader, compassionate, persuasive, adaptable, formidable, and courageous. She is a little too perfect. I am not saying that to be all these positive traits is impossible or wrong. I am saying that as a book character there must be a little imperfectness shown to be believable and approachable. If not, then the character is unapproachable, unknowable, and is seen more as someone who cannot be truly known or even become invested in their outcome.
4. I love the descriptive and graphic accounts of the bombings and its destruction of Belgium. This sets the serious tone of the whole of the story. Nazi Germany is the enemy who has brought war to Belgium. At first the Nazi’s occupy the area. Later, the allied soldiers and the Nazis fight the war in the front yards of the nation.
5. The story has a good pace. It is told in linear-chronological order with the exception of Sister Christina sharing about her background and how she became a Sister.
6. I love the Sister’s ingenuity and tactics in hiding those who the Nazis were looking for. This is an important aspect showing the work they did for those who were in harm’s way.
7. The displacement of the Sisters, children, and community at large are displaced at times because of the war. The Sisters were at risk of homelessness and murder just as all the community was at risk. This is a another strength of the story.
8. I love the tiny historical mentions. For example: the bells from church steeples that were removed by the Germans for war use. The bells had a grade system defined by their age.
9. I love how the story stayed with Sister Christina to show the impact of the war on her health.

A few things I do not like:

1. A few things I noted in the above portion.
2. I don’t like the title. I believe a better title should be short and precise. No question mark.
3. I believe a more enticing summary should be written for Goodreads, etc.
4. I’d like to hear more voices narrating the story. A favorite voice could be from a few of the young girls who lived in the school.

Themes in the story: war, peace, courage, suffering, heroism, honor, death and dying, sacrifice, resistance, trust, hope, grief, bravery, hospitality, survival, and wisdom.

I want to mention my dad was in World War II. He was in Belgium during the winter of 1944-1945. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He share several stories about his memories of that time. One of those stories is he too saw Marlene Dietrich in a show. He remarked it was odd she played a saw. I think he missed the point about her showing off her legs during this act.



(Review) The Last Train to London by Meg Waite Clayton

Publisher and Publication Date: HarperCollins. 2019.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Format: Paperback.
Pages: 480.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Historical fiction readers of World War II and Holocaust.
Rating: Very good.

Link @ Amazon

Summary:
The Last Train to London is the story of a Dutch woman, Truus Wijsmuller, who escorted Jewish children to a safe country away from the Nazis. The rescue operation was called Kindertransport. The children called her Tante Truus.
The Last Train to London is based on the real story of the Vienna Kindertransport operation. The person who led this was Geertruida Wijsmuller-Meijer (1896-1978) of Amsterdam.
Two other characters in the story are Stephan Neuman and Zofie-Helene. They are teenagers from different cultures, but are close friends.
The book is in 3 parts:
1936
1938
1939

My Thoughts:
I watched a documentary on Prime Video about a Kindertransport operation. When I saw this book at Target I had to read it.

My first thought is I am amazed at the courage and tenacity of Truus Wijsmuller. She is skillful at acting a part for the benefit of saving children. She can weave a fictitious story with charm in order to save a life. She has the ingenuity to change a plan in a moments notice. I love her character. I love this story because of her.
Other reasons why this story is important and why I love it.
1. Even though Truus is courageous and brave, I see her weaknesses. I see her fears. I see her vulnerable side.
2. Newspaper clippings are included in the book (every so many pages). I feel this helps the story with a historical realness.
3. The story shows the venom and brutality of the Nazis against the Jews. This makes the story raw and believable. It shows the heightened suspense that children must be helped. It gave the story an edge of my seat feeling.
4. When a person is the caregiver of children the person must be prepared for surprise interruptions that might change plans. Clayton showed several examples in the story.
5. I liked reading about Christians who were living out their beliefs by helping those suffering.
6. I was pleasantly surprised to read Bible verses in the book.
7. I feel the characters are fleshed out in a way that made them breathe with life. This is just one of the reasons why I became apart of the story.

Something I am puzzled about in the book. Some of the chapters are only 1 page long. Why? This is interrupting in the story to have breaks like this. I do not like it.
The 2 other characters are Zofie-Helene and Stephan. If they were not in the story I would not miss them. I’d like the emphasis to be on Truus. She is a huge character. Any other characters paired in a story next to her are pale.

(Review) A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City by Anonymous

Publisher and Publication Date: Picador. 1953. My eBook Kindle copy, 2017.
Genre: Memoir. World War II. Germany. Post World War II. Women and Literature.
Pages: 300.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of World War II memoirs.
Rating: Excellent.

The translator of the diary is Philip Boehm.

Amazon link
The Kindle price is $2.69 today.

Summary:
A Woman in Berlin is a diary (kept in 3 notebooks) by a 34 year old German woman during the final weeks of World War II and the first few weeks of post war Germany.
She had worked as a journalist. She’d traveled in Europe before the war.
The diary began April 20, 1945. The diary ends June 22, 1945.

Two important points:
~This is a diary and not a complete historical record of World War II. It is the personal life and private thoughts of this German woman.
~The memoir is a trigger for people who have been sexually abused.

Warning! The memoir depicts graphic rape scenes.
In other books I’ve read, the rape scenes are not described in detail like this book. This memoir is the before, during, and afterwards of rape. Nothing in this memoir is romantic and beautiful. It is heart-wrenching, sad, and painful.

My Thoughts:
~I am a survivor of sexual abuse. This book triggered my difficulty in sleeping, flashbacks, and an overall uneasiness.
~I saw through her eyes the German soldiers as they retreated. In addition, she provided a surreal and disturbing account of the bombings, basement sheltering, scarcity of food and water, starvation, the violence of the Soviet soldiers, and civilian death and burial.
She acknowledges the harsh bitterness against the Nazi’s who caused this.
She confesses: “We’ve been led by criminals and gamblers, and we’ve let them lead us, like sheep to the slaughter.” Page 129.
~The 100,000 German women who were raped by Soviets were of all ages. The Soviet Army did not always discriminate who they plundered. German women who had babies might be ignored. Girl children might be ignored. Teenage girls were vulnerable because they were thought to be virgins. Elderly women were plunder. Females were considered war plunder with no rights and they were to accept this behavior!

Other Thoughts:
~In Berlin, at the end of the war, there were women, children, and old men.
~Women began to have a different attitude towards men. They were surviving (or not) without the men who had led them astray. They had a bitter attitude towards men. They had a pitiful attitude towards men.
~After the war is over information came to her and others about the Holocaust.

Final Thought:
The diary doesn’t reveal what she knew about the Holocaust before the war ended. I don’t know what she knew or what she thought. When she heard about the crematory in the camps it was one more thing to add to her oppressed soul.

I searched online to find who was the anonymous woman author. Her name was Marta Hillers (1911-2001).

(Review) Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields by Wendy Lower

Publisher and Publication Date: Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2013.
Genre: Nonfiction. World War II history. German history. Nazi Germany.
Pages: 288.
Source: Borrowed eBook, library copy.
Audience: Readers of World War II, Nazi Germany, and the Holocaust. This book is specific to German women involved in the Nazi pogrom.
Rating: Very good.

Amazon link

Ilse Koch
Irma Grese
Female SS German camp guards at Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp

Summary:
Hitler’s Furies is an analysis of German women who were actively involved in the Nazi genocide during the Holocaust.
These women worked in several different areas: nursing, secretary, guards, and teaching. Also, these women were often the wives of Nazi soldiers (especially wives of high ranking officers).
Hitler’s Furies explores several German women who were known perpetrators. Their personal stories are brief. Their atrocities are examined in detail.
One of the last chapters in the book explores why these women committed such horrific crimes?

My Thoughts:
The main reason I was drawn to this book is its subject. I’d not read a book in particular about female German Nazi criminals. Another book came close to this subject: Ravensbruck by Sarah Helm.

In my mind, women are more apt to be maternal, compassionate, settled, and domestic. Most of the women I’ve known have had these traits to some degree. I know of one family where it was the husband/father who has been the primary childcaring parent. Hitler’s Furies has ended my naivete.

In every case, the female perpetrators became monsters. They were vicious, vile, despicable people. It’s difficult to rationalize (wrap my mind around) their behavior. It’s difficult to believe this behavior didn’t continue after the war.

This is a hard read because of the subject. But if you are a reader of World War II and the Holocaust, this book is important.

Some of the women published their stories many years later, but were selective in what they revealed. Their motive was to share what had happened, but they did not want to be faulted and condemned. In Lower’s research, she had to be acutely aware of who to trust in their personal reflections.

~I feel Hitler’s Furies is thorough in its research and text.
~The dryness of the details is offset by illustrations from the perpetrator’s stories.
~I believe it is impossible to read this type of book and not judge. I have a heart and it has been pricked by the evil actions of these women.