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.
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.
I just couldn’t get into it.
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.
An interesting premise, but the writing just wasn’t that good. It felt very flat and forced, and the people didn’t seem real at all, especially the conversation.
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.
I was playing around with my library’s online catalog, browsing through the subject listings for fiction books, and I ended up finding A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka while looking at novels that take place in Poland. The summary sounded interesting enough, so I picked this up the next time I went to the library, and I’m glad I did.
The book follows several generations of families from a Polish village, switching between the time around WWII and the mid-90s, after the end of communism. Sometimes this sort of construction can be confusing, but I think it was really nicely done, and you end up piecing together the family and their stories as you read along.
Another element I liked was that Polish words are interspersed with the English. I knew a few already (my mother’s side of the family is originally from Poland), but most are easily figured out from context, though you might want to look at the pronunciation guide on the author’s web site.
It’s hard to put my finger on what made this book so enjoyable to me, though I did feel a bit of connection to the author, whose family is Polish and settled in Illinois as well. Even so, I think it was a really nice book, and I would highly recommend it.