Tag Archive for Europe

Book Review: The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw

The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw

I saw The Young Lions mentioned on a list of great WWII books, and it definitely lives up to that label. It’s hard to summarize the book in a short review, especially since so much goes on in the book, but it is really quite good. The writing style makes everything quite vivid, and I had a hard time putting the book down, wanting to see what would happen to the several main characters as it went along. It intersperses three different men’s experiences during this time, showing the grim reality of war from the soldier’s point-of-view, and not just from one side or the other.

A movie version was made 10 years after the book came out, but it isn’t quite as grim as the book, and I’m not sure they got the casting right. I’ve only seen bits of it though, but the author didn’t like it, so that says a lot.

Book Review: The Tin Drum by Günter Grass

The Tin Drum by Günter Grass I read at least part of this book in college — in the original German — but I’d forgotten just how strange and twisted of a book it is. It’s rather intense overall, especially with the style it’s written in. It’s quite detailed and rather heavy at times, but it’s well-written almost throughout. There were only a few parts, especially towards the end, where I didn’t feel as captivated, usually when there was repetition of certain events.

As for the story itself, it’s quite difficult in many ways, and quite often. Disturbing, emotional, twisted, tragic, and lots of other “fun” stuff. Not surprising given our narrator, who seems to be precocious and talented, but also wicked and a bit insane as well. The other characters are all quite intriguing in their own ways, but you end up questioning how much you can trust the narrator in all of this, especially given the things he does to the others.

I think I’m glad I read (or re-read) this book, but I don’t know that I will be re-reading this in future. It’s such an intense book, and I can appreciate it for what it is, but I think I’ve had my fill, for now at least.

Book Review: The Collected Stories by Heinrich Böll

The Collected Stories by Heinrich Böll A great collection of Heinrich Böll’s work, though with so many stories and novellas, it’s hard to comment on them here. His writing style is appealing, mostly clear and to the point, but with enough detail to paint a scene. The stories focusing on the war and just after seemed best to me; those touching upon religion and/or philosophy did not feel as compelling.

Book Review: Selected Stories from Sholom Aleichem

Selected Stories from Sholom Aleichem I liked the writing style of these stories, and they were interesting in terms of where and who they focused on. But a lot of the stories didn’t really go anywhere and felt incomplete. Some were more like portraits of individual characters, but without a story. Others seemed to be heading to a climax, but then abruptly ended without any resolution. A bit of a mixed bag, really.

Book Review: Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula by Bram Stoker I’m pretty sure I read this back in high school, but as I started to read it just before Halloween, I realized I had completely forgotten everything about it. It has a good dose of creepy and thrilling elements, though it’s a bit plodding in parts, what with all the journal entries and exclamations of “oh, what brave men!” Some of the characters’ actions were a bit baffling, and they felt like they were written that way to fit in later plot points. (Why on earth would they keep Mina out of things, right after saying how great and smart she was, with her “man’s brain?” And then see what happened as a result!) That said, it’s still a good book, and a classic, at that.

Book Review: Simplicissimus by Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen

Simplicissimus by Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen Where to begin?…

In this book, we follow Simplicissimus, a rather simple man, as he travels throughout various parts of Europe (and other parts of the world), though not always by his own choice. Ongoing wars in Germany affect him in both good and bad ways throughout the book, as he alternates between fighting and avoiding fighting in various battles (and armies!).

The book isn’t entirely about war though, and you get a glimpse at what life in 1600s Europe was like for all sorts of people there. There’s also a fair dose of religion in the book, as SImplicissimus struggles with others’ sins as well as his own. Occasionally there are historical and biblical references, as well as a tiny sprinkling of fantasy mixed in.

Simplcissimus reminded me of another simple character from a later Czech novel: The Good Soldier Svejk (which I really should read the rest of!). The only difference is that Simplicissimus seems to overcome his simpleness, though not necessarily for good reasons or with good consequences.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book, and I would definitely recommend it. The only negatives for me — besides the poorly edited edition I read — were the heavy religious content, the frequent rambling lists of things, and the strange second half of the last book and ending (that excerpt is a bit of a downer!).

Book Review: The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan

The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan I’d heard the title of this book (and accompanying movie) many times before, but didn’t realize it was a spy thriller (I thought it was horror instead, perhaps due to the Alfred Hitchock movie connection?). It’s definitely a fairly thrilling read for the most part — the descriptions of the Scottish landscape were a bit hard to follow — and is a pretty enjoyable read.

Book Review: Black Venus by James MacManus

Black Venus by James MacManus Boring and poorly written. So many predictable cliches, vague descriptions that beat around the bush, strange bits of innuendo, repetitive details about the characters, and what was with all the dull clothing descriptions? It felt like the author was playing with dolls, and the characters seemed just as real.

Book Review: The Crooked Maid by Dan Vyleta

The Crooked Maid by Dan Vyleta I just couldn’t get into it.

Book Review: Life Goes On by Hans Keilson

Life Goes On by Hans Keilson Not quite what I expected after reading the summaries, but it was all right. It gets a bit heavy in parts, both in terms of writing and mood. It reminded me of some of Hans Fallada’s books, written around the same time.