(Review) The Historians by Cecelia Ekbäck

Publisher and Publication Date: HarperCollins Publishers. 2021.
Genre: World War II. Historical fiction. Spy. Espionage. Women and literature.
Pages: 464.
Source: I received a complimentary uncorrected eBook copy from NetGalley, I was not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of war/spy/espionage stories.
Rating: Good.

Amazon link
I don’t know the release date for the eBook.
The audiobook releases December 8, 2020.
The paperback releases January 12, 2021.

Summary:
The year is 1943.
World War II.
The Scandinavian countries are Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark. Some lists omit Finland. Some lists add Iceland.
In 1940, Norway became occupied by Germany. Sweden is neutral, but Germany wants Sweden’s rich iron ore located in the north. Finland fought with both Germany and the Soviet Union. Denmark was neutral during the early part of the war.
When Laura Dahlgren found out her best friend Britta Hallberg had died, she began investigating the circumstances of her death despite her father telling her to stop.
At one time, Laura and Britta along with three young men had been college students and close friends. Laura tries to bring together the original group of friends to find out what happened to Britta.
During the investigation, Laura is led to Lapland (northern Finland) where the local people are disappearing.

My Thoughts:
I’ve gone back and forth on whether to give this book a good or very good rating. I’m not usually a half-star reviewer, but technically this book is 3 1/2 stars.
What I love most about the story is the location. I’ve since bought 3 Scandinavian historical fiction books. These books are Gunnar’s Daughter by Sigrid Undset, Kristin Lavrandsdatter by Sigrid Undset (3 books or volumes in this edition), and The Half-Drowned King by Linnea Hartsuyker.
A 2nd reason I love this story is the time period-World War II.
A 3rd reason I love this story is it taught me about a period in history and a country I knew little about.
What tipped the review to 3 and 1/2 stars is I feel it took too long to make it where the book came together in a form I enjoyed reading.
A 2nd point is I don’t understand the heightened affection for Britta. Britta is characterized as beloved (several times) and even idolized by Laura. Is there a background story I missed?
I also noticed the group of 5 friends had overlapping relationships where they became more than just friends. This is another background story that is not developed.
The relationship between Laura and her father is complex. Their conflict and the themes going along with it could make an excellent standalone story.
My last points made the story feel undeveloped and distracting.

(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) Out of No Way: Madam C. J. Walker and A’Lelia Walker, A Poetic Drama by Roje Augustin

Publisher and Publication Date: Boukman Press. May 9, 2020.
Genre: Poetry.
Pages: 106.
Source: I had originally received a complimentary pdf. I could not view the book, so I bought my own copy at Amazon. My review is of a self-purchased eBook Kindle copy. This review is my own opinion. I was not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of poetry. Women aged 18-55, young adults, high school and college students, teachers and professors, cultural institutions like Museum of African American History and Culture, etc.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon link

I am apart of the Poetic Book Tours for this book of poetry.

Author Information:
Rojé Augustin is a native New Yorker who grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Her first novel, The Unraveling of Bebe Jones, on which her drama series pitch BEAU REVE is based, won the 2013 National Indie Excellence Award in African American fiction. She wrote the novel while
living in London and Sydney as a stay-at-home-mom. She established Breaknight Films shortly after her move to Sydney in 2009 to develop and produce projects across a range of formats, including television, web, and audio. Her first Sydney based project was a podcast and visual web
series called The Right Space, which explores the relationship between creatives and their workspace. In 2013, Rojé’s script The Weekly: Women Who Shaped a Nation was selected for the Australian Writer’s Guild Pathways Program. In May 2020, Rojé published a debut poetry
collection titled, Out of No Way Madam C.J. Walker and A’Lelia Walker, A Poetic Drama, which tells the story of Madam Walker’s phenomenal life story. Rojé continues to work as a producer while also writing in her spare time. She is an Australian citizen who currently lives in Sydney with
her Aussie husband and two daughters.

Summary:
A dramatic poetry book that tells the remarkable rags-to-riches story of Madam C.J. Walker and her daughter A’Lelia Walker.
New York, NY, July 2020 — Author, producer and emerging poet Rojé Augustin has written a groundbreaking debut collection of dramatic poems about hair care entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker and her daughter A’Lelia Walker.
Out of No Way: Madam C.J. Walker & A’Lelia Walker, A Poetic Drama tracks Walker’s phenomenal rise from penniless orphan to America’s first self-made female millionaire in dramatic verse.
Born Sarah Breedlove to former Louisiana slaves in 1867, Madam C.J. Walker was orphaned at seven, married at 14, became a mother at 17, and was widowed at 20. After the death of her first husband, Sarah moved to St. Louis with her daughter where she earned $1.50 a day as a washerwoman. When her hair starting falling out she developed a remedy and sold her formula across the country. In the process she became the wealthiest Negro woman in America.
Rojé’s highly original and accomplished poetry is written through the lens of the mother/daughter relationship via different poetic forms — from lyric poems to haikus, blackout poetry to narrative (one poem takes its inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’) — with each chapter
addressing issues relevant to their lives at the time. Written against the backdrop of the Jim Crow era, Out of No Way is ultimately an examination of what W.E.B Du Bois called “conflicting identities.” Sarah was a proud African American on the one hand and a woman seeking America’s
acceptance on the other. She was a pauper who achieved the American Dream while denied the rights and protections of the American Constitution. She was a wife, mother, and business woman who juggled the demands of family with the demands of career. And she was an orphan who had to transcend a brutal childhood in order to be a loving mother to her child. As Du Bois stated at the time, “One ever feels a two-ness. An American, A Negro…Two warring ideals in one dark body.”
Indeed Madam C.J. Walker/Sarah Breedlove was an American and a Negro, as was her daughter, A’Lelia Walker, both of whom likely viewed herself through their own conflicting identities. What did they see?
Out of No Way tells Walker’s remarkable rags-to-riches story by exploring thoughtful questions —
What impact did Sarah’s busy work life have on A’Lelia? What was the bond between a mother orphaned so young and the daughter who might wait days or weeks for her return? Could the death of her parents when she was a child have compromised Sarah’s nurturing instincts? How did A’Lelia feel about their newfound wealth? What, if any, were the drawbacks of that wealth?
Rojé’s collection of dramatic poems joins an exciting line up of works about Madam C.J. Walker and A’Lelia Walker — from a forthcoming book by Walker’s great-great granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles, to Self Made a Netflix original series, this trailblazing woman’s life story serves as an important reminder that race is a barbaric construct to be dismantled and discarded for good.

My Thoughts:
These poems are original and evocative, but the first word that comes to my mind is powerful.

The poems are deeply emotional. My first impression is the love between the mother and daughter. However, there are other emotions explored. For example, the fear and anguish because of the lynchings and murders.

Some examples of the types of poetry is acrostic, alliteration, couplet, dramatic monologue, elegy, epistle, lament, and occasional poem.
I love the creative idea and work of using different types of poetry. I feel this is original and brilliant.

Included is a speech given by Madam C. J. Walker at an Anti-Lynching Conference in June 1918.

My favorites poems:
Lelia, Knoxville College 1902-1904 “Reading”
The Prison of Racism that Hate Built
The Salon that Art Built
The Lost Letters

Included are quotes from: Ancient Proverb, Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, and Susie King Taylor.

(Review) Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Publisher and Publication Date: Harper Perennial Modern Classics. 2013. First published in 1937.
Genre: Fiction. Women and literature. African American literature. Classic literature. Romance. Relationships between men and women.
Pages: The story has 219 pages. An additional 40 pages for the “Foreword”, “Afterword”, 2 bibliographies, “Chronology”, “P.S.” section, and an excerpt of Barracoon.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of women and literature. Readers of classic literature.
Rating: Excellent.

PBS Great American Read Top 100 Pick

Christian Book link
Abe Books link
Amazon link

Zora Neale Hurston, 1891-1960

Summary:
Their Eyes Were Watching God is the story of Janie Crawford. She is a light-skinned African American woman living in a rural area of Florida. The time period is the early 20th century. She is raised by her maternal grandmother. The first part of her life is determined by her grandmother and first husband. Then, like a sudden direction change in the wind, Janie is married to another man who takes control of her life. Later, Janie’s life take a different direction.

My Thoughts:
Janie is independent, rebellious, bold, and resilient. She is a person who ponders. She is a person who makes up her mind about a decision and moves forward with determination.
I enjoyed reading the “Foreword” by Edwidge Danticat. It provided well thought-out questions and answers about the story itself. Also, Janie’s choices versus women of this era’s choices. And, has she been a solid “role model for women” and “is this important?”
Their Eyes Were Watching God is a character driven narrative. Janie is a character that provides through her thoughts, attitude, words, behavior, and actions everything needed to make the story dramatic and memorable.
The narrative structure is chronological. The story begins when Janie is a child and progresses to midlife.
This story is less about “what is going to happen next” and more about how Janie is transforming as a person.
This is a story that is full of things to review. It’s a story heavy with further conversations. It is a book highly worthy of a book club.

Questions I have about the story:
~If Janie had children would she have made the same choices?
~Did Janie (at some point) understand her grandmother’s reasoning?
~Why did she tolerate certain behavior from one husband, but not the other husband?

Further Thoughts:
The dialogue is difficult for some readers. They become bogged down in the southern sayings, dialect, and accent. It’s best to read through the dialogue quickly and don’t stop to try and enunciate each word.
The story has author contributions. For example, the behind the scenes information and wise observations.
The story is filled with beautiful quotes. The opening line is beautiful, poetic, and memorable.

Their Eyes Were Watching God is a story that provokes my mind and heart. The choices I have made. The experiences I have had. And, my response to those.

Their Eyes Were Watching God is now a favorite book of mine. It’s a story I treasure.

(Review) Shirley by Charlotte Bronte

Publisher and Publication Date: Penguin Books. 1974. First published 1849.
Genre: Classic literature.
Pages: 622.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of the Bronte authors. Readers of classic literature.
Rating: Very good.

Amazon link
The book is free on Kindle eBook

Links of interest:
Literary Ladies Guide
The Literature Network

Summary:
Reading the summary of the book at Amazon leaves one lacking in what the story is really about. Goodreads shares more information.
Shirley’s time period is during the Napoleonic Wars, Luddite riots, and economic hardship (1811-1812) in England.
Shirley is the name of one of the female characters: Shirley Keeldar.
The first four chapters show the tension and situation of the small town in Yorkshire where this story takes place.
Mr. Moore is a young man who has a business, a mill. He is unmarried and prefers to stay that way. He is an ambitious man by modernizing his home and business as money allowed. He didn’t consider that by modernizing the mill it put people out of work and without income.
The two female lead characters are Shirley and Caroline.

My Thoughts:
It took a while to become invested in the story. For me, the first few chapters crept along until chapter six.
The second paragraph of the first chapter tells me not to expect a romance. I was told to “calm my expectations.” However, I don’t feel this statement is entirely correct. It is a subdued romance, but there is romance in the story.
I immediately felt compassion for Caroline Helstone. She lives with her uncle who gives the strong impression he is indifferent to her plight as a single young woman. He has negative views on marriage that doesn’t help Caroline. She befriends a young woman named Shirley Keeldar. Shirley has money. She has a governess, Mrs. Pryor, who still lives with her.
Caroline represents women of this era, because she does not have money of her own. She doesn’t have the ability to secure an income and independence. She is dependent on an uncle.
Shirley represents women who have money and thus more freedom.
I wanted to point these things out because they influence the women’s personalities, demeanor, and future.
Themes in the story are love, ambition, romance, honesty, perseverance, and compassion.
A strong plot is the relationships between men and women, love, and marriage. But, it is also Robert’s mill and how he handles his business ambitions and dealings that is against the people in the community. Both of these are conflicts that carry the story.
I learned to love this story, not at first, but a slow love of endearment. What enticed me is the conversations by women about men.

An important note about Shirley is the actual background of the writing of the story. All three of Charlotte’s surviving siblings died when she was writing this book. She didn’t want this information told to her readers even though her publishers wanted it in the preface. She said, “I can shed no tears before the public, nor utter any groan in the public ear….” Page 17.

Branwell died 24 September 1848
Emily died 19 December 1848
Anne died 28 May 1849

Favorite Quote:
“If men could see us as we really are, they would be a little amazed; but the cleverest, the acutest men are often under an illusion about women: they do not read them in a true light: they misapprehend them, both for good and evil: their good woman is a queer thing, half doll, half angel; their bad woman almost always a fiend.”

Charlotte Bronte 1816-1855