I can’t believe it is June already. How time is flying, huh? One second it was March, and then all of a sudden: 86 days in lockdown have passed and my bank account has taken a huge hit. I just can’t stop ordering new books. Someone delete my Amazon account.
Anyway, I thought I’d start sharing some of the books I’ve been delving into *read: clinging to for dear life as to not lose my sanity* during this lockdown period. And so, we’ve got 5 books to get through! Yep, May was a pretty heavy month. We’ve got a lot of fiction and some fiction-based on true events. But let’s get stuck in.
The Librarian of Auschwitz – Antonio Iturbe
Synopsis: Fourteen-year-old Dita is one of the many imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz-Birkenau. But Dita becomes the secret librarian of the camp, tasked with taking charge of the small collection of precious books the prisoners have managed to smuggle past the guards. But books are extremely dangerous. They make people think. And nowhere are they more dangerous than in Block 31 of Auschwitz, where the slightest transgression can result in execution, no matter how young the transgressor…
This story is incredible. I think it should be a must-read. Antonio Iturbe gives you insight into Auschwitz from a completely different perspective – that of the children and teachers in the family camp of Block 31. It’s a truly gripping story based on the real life of Dita Kraus. The writing is so vivid and there were truly harrowing moments that I needed to put the book down. 4/5.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman
Synopsis: Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend. Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled existence. Except, sometimes, everything…
Honestly? I wasn’t impressed with this book. Initially, I think the story starts off incredibly slow, and whilst the narrative hints at a haunting secret from Eleanor’s past – it doesn’t give much away, nor does it help you build any rapport with her character. It was only after two-thirds of the book that I actually started to enjoy reading it and became invested in her story. There are themes of loneliness, PTSD, and mental health which are dealt with in a very poignant way. I just wish that Honeyman had built up Eleanor’s character more in the first few chapters so that I could feel some compassion towards her throughout, as opposed to just at the end. 2/5.
Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens
Synopsis: For years, rumours of the ‘Marsh Girl’ have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life – until the unthinkable happens.
Now, I read this in two days and it HAS to be my favourite read of 2020 so far. Perhaps, even ever. I truly loved this. The writing is absolutely flawless, so descriptive and detailed you feel as though you’re living in the marshes alongside Kya. It’s a story of romance, loneliness, survival, and at the helm of it, strength. After being abandoned by both her family and society, Kya defies all odds and grows into a resilient, beautiful woman calling on Mother Nature to lead her through life. There are no words to describe this story other than: utterly breathtaking. 5/5.
The Children’s Block: Otto B Kraus
Synopsis: Alex Ehren is a poet, a prisoner, and a teacher in Block 31 in Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Children’s Block. He spends his days trying to survive while illegally giving lessons to his young charges, shielding them as best he can from the horrors of the camp. But trying to teach the children is not the only illicit activity that Alex is involved in…
After reading The Librarian of Auschwitz and learning more about Dita Kraus’ life, I discovered she married someone she met in the camp and that he had also written a novel. Whilst I enjoyed this book and his perspective, my only critique would be that after reading the first book based on a true story – this one felt far too removed from actual events. Kraus uses completely made-up characters to tell this fictional story and once you fully get invested in them, the story comes to an abrupt end which I felt didn’t do it justice. 3/5.
American Dirt – Jeanine Cummins
Synopsis: Yesterday, Lydia had a bookshop. Yesterday, Lydia was married to a journalist. Yesterday, she was with everyone she loved most in the world. Today, her eight-year-old son Luca is all she has left. For him, she will carry a machete to her leg. For him, she will leap onto the roof of a high-speed train. For him, she will find the strength to keep running.
I thought this story was incredible. There is a lot of controversy surrounding this book. A lot of it from the Mexican community because it was written by a white woman, but also some people are calling it trauma porn. Whilst I think there are some faults with the book, having conversations that switch from English to Spanish words so flippantly to the insensitive amounts of horror and gore, it was truly a thrilling read. There is a lot we can never completely understand about the true difficulties and struggles that face immigrants anywhere, and particularly for this book, in Mexico, but what I do know is that this story touches on notions we can all relate to: fear, loss, death, love and family. The narrative is truly gripping and beautifully tells the story of a mother’s love for her child as they try to find safety after losing everything. I couldn’t put this book down and spent all day reading it and then I woke up the next day still thinking about the characters and what their lives would be like next. 4/5.
What have you been reading recently? Have you read any of these books?