Tag Archive for War

Book Review: Billiards at Half-Past Nine by Heinrich Böll

Billiards at Half-Past Nine by Heinrich Böll An intriguing look at one family’s experiences through two world wars in Germany, as seen from different perspectives and points in time. However, the writing can be a rather weighty and takes work to get through, especially with so many perspective changes and so many people to keep track of.

Book Review: Henrietta’s War: News from the Home Front, 1939-1942 by Joyce Dennys

Henrietta's War: News from the Home Front, 1939-1942 by Joyce Dennys I read the first Henrietta’s War book earlier this year, and I liked it well enough. Though it was a sequel, I didn’t feel like I missed a lot, but I did want to read the first book, just in case.

Henrietta’s War: News from the Home Front, 1939-1942 by Joyce Dennys is a series of letters written by Henrietta, a housewife in England, to her childhood friend who is fighting in WWII. Henrietta writes about everyday things, per her friend’s request, and it shows a different side of the war, especially in a smaller town. Rationing and other preparations are becoming common, and Henrietta writes about how the people in town react to this new way of life.

Oddly, I almost didn’t like this volume as much as the second one, and I ended up wondering about characters not mentioned until the latter book. It’s still a nice book though.

Book Review: Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser

Flashman: A Novel by George MacDonald Fraser I heard about the Flashman series by George MacDonald Fraser while watching a British show, in which various TV personalities shared some of the books that had made an impact on them in their lives. I can’t remember who had mentioned Flashman, but it sounded interesting, despite his disclaimer about some of the main character’s behavior.

I started with the first book in the series, presently titled as just Flashman, which introduces you to the character of the same name through papers supposedly found among his belongings after he died. He chronicles part of his childhood and experiences in a private school, and then jumps to the beginning of his military career, starting with training and then in traveling to the British colonies of India and Afghanistan.

You soon realize that Flashman is not as great a hero as others have found him to be. He is rather cowardly and is only interested in his own well-being, even causing another man’s death by running away from danger instead of fighting. He also does some pretty awful things, like raping a woman he meets while traveling; some people may have considered this acceptable at the time, but it’s hard to read about it in today’s times, even with that context.

Initially, I thought this book was interesting, but as Flashman’s true character became revealed, I had a harder time reading on. I tried to take him for what he was and read with that in mind, but eventually, I just had to skim to finish, and decided not to read further books in the series. The books aren’t badly written, but without anyone to cheer for, I just didn’t enjoy reading about Flashman.

Book Review: Displaced Persons by Ghita Schwarz

Displaced Persons by Ghita Schwarz I was browsing the shelf of new fiction books at my local library, when I came across Displaced Persons by Ghita Schwarz. I think I’d heard about it somewhere before, but it sounded interesting from the cover description, so I checked it out.

The book starts just as World War II has ended, following several people who have survived the concentration camp at Belsen. Despite the horrific things they have experienced, they are still alive and initially are being supported by the Allied forces, collecting rations and trying to get by.

As the main characters regain their strength and try to move on, they work hard to start new lives, and the book follows them over the years, as the various people leave Europe for Israel and the US. Although they leave Europe behind, their memories and experiences still follow them as they grow older and start their own families.

Initially, I was really struck by the writing style of the book, for how clean and concise it was. It also has a steady measure to it that forces you to slow down a bit and notice the smaller things, without getting too caught up in flourishes and details. However, the plot was not as strong, and sort of waned later on.

The first half of the book was fairly strong, and really kept my interest. I wanted to see and understand what the characters were going through, and how they coped and tried to return to a more normal life. But, after awhile, the plot wasn’t as strong, perhaps because there seemed to be less conflict, less drama in some ways.

I think I can understand what Schwarz was trying to do, to follow a group of people — who seemed almost impossibly interconnected — who had experienced something so horrific, were able to build their own lives, and yet were still affected by their experiences. I just don’t know that the latter half of the book was quite as interesting to read, and I had to push on at a few points, just to finish the book.