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.
The premise seemed interesting, but I didn’t feel as enthused once I got a few chapters in. I wasn’t always convinced of the time period, partly due to the language, and it felt like a lot of heavy-handed telling rather than showing right off the bat. After several tedious conversations, some clunky turns of phrase (“a tiara of sweat?” really?), and a liberal sprinkling of ten-dollar words throughout, I had to bail.
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.
I wanted to like this book, but it just didn’t do it for me. I felt like I was just swimming through a tangle of words, trying to figure out what was going on. This felt like writing for writing’s sake, like showing off you know about words, rather than to properly tell an interesting story.
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.
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!).
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.
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.
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.