On a cold winter day in 1910, Ursula is born. Again. And again. And again. Every time Ursula dies, she is born again, and given the chance to live her life anew. But Ursula has no way of knowing this, only a vague recollection of events that have previously happened and a dread of what she did or didn’t do in previous lives. As she lives her life over and over, experiencing the lead-up to World War II and a whole range of different outcomes to her life, we start to wonder: can Ursula change history?
I really enjoyed this book. I am a huge fan of so-called “quiet” books and though some of the events in this one are more explosive, this is at its heart a book about chances. The smallest actions of Ursula’s change the entire trajectory of her life. As we go back to that February day in 1910, we start to see the entire picture of what was happening that day, for instance; while some readers might get bored by the fact that we go through that day each and every time Ursula dies, I loved how it let Kate Atkinson build up the entire scene, through all the supporting characters, and finally leave us with something still to think about at the end of the book.
It also has the advantage of being set in a fascinating period of British history, spanning both World Wars over the course of its length. While it’s tethered to the world we know, the reincarnation aspect allows Atkinson to explore what might have happened if – and this is at the heart of the book. What happens when Ursula stands up for herself is completely different to what happens when Ursula is simply unable to do that. One of the most heartbreaking episodes in the book, when Ursula’s life turns out to be devastating, is through something that is not her fault in the slightest but completely destroys her self-worth and confidence. And, of course, she blames herself, and the guilt and blame imposed by that sole event change the course of her life. It’s also one of the most problematic, because she manages to subvert and avoid that very event next time, but as ordinary women without her sense of foreboding, we can’t hope for the same.
I also loved the World War II sections; I think many readers will agree that there’s just something about the London blitz which, horrifying as it was, is almost guaranteed fascinating reading. In Ursula’s situation there are simply so many different outcomes and the book’s structure allows Atkinson to explore each and every one. Regardless if Ursula dies or Ursula lives, anything could happen to anyone she loves. It’s not a wonderful situation, but it made for wonderful reading, and Atkinson pulls off the reincarnation trick over and over.
When I purchased this book, I read it almost immediately; I’d heard a lot of hype and I simply wanted to read it for myself. After doing so, I’m pleased that it lived up to all of that and more. I’d happily recommend – and will be recommending – this book, and I’ll certainly be going straight for the rest of the Kate Atkinson on my TBR pile.
Because my birthday and Christmas are so close together, I’ve always had a glorious few weeks where my to be read pile explodes and I find myself possessing books I’ve craved all year long. Most people I know well enough to exchange gifts with understand that pretty much all I want is books, so I’m lucky enough to receive books as gifts; this year I also … um … bought myself several as a birthday present. Kind of a celebration on lifting the TBR ban.
On top of this wonderful yearly addition to the physical TBR pile, Amazon also tend to put Kindle ebooks on sale around the New Year. This naturally means that I jump on the opportunity to possess wishlisted books at the ridiculously small price of 99p or £1.99; since Christmas I’ve acquired over 20 ebooks.
First, though, the physical books:
I’m particularly excited about Dangerous Women, although I think it will take me a while to read as it’s much too big to take with me on the train. But I’m actually looking forward to all these books, including the out-of-print Dreamsnake, one of the few remaining Hugo and Nebula award winners written by a woman that I haven’t read yet (the other one is Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold which I have somewhere). The Raven Boys comes as a recommendation from Ana and Jodie. I think I also read about Biting the Sun on a blog but can’t actually remember where.
Then, there were the ebooks. I can’t take a picture of these, but I can list them:
- The Grass is Singing, Doris Lessing
- The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
- The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt
- The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri
- First Grave on the Right, Charley Davidson
- Cinder, Marissa Meyer
- Heart of Steel, Meljean Brook
- The Countess Conspiracy, Courtney Milan
- Across the Universe, Beth Revis
- The Valley of Amazement, Amy Tan
- One Summer: America 1927, Bill Bryson
- The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman
- Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki
- We Need New Names, NoViolet Bulawayo
- Harvest, Jim Crace
- Life after Life, Kate Atkinson
- The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton
- Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War 1914, Max Hastings
- Instructions for a Heatwave, Maggie O’Farrell
- Goddess with a Blade, Lauren Dane
I’ve actually read three of these already - We Need New Names (fulfilling one of my monthly goals) and Life after Life, both of which I loved. The third was A Countess Conspiracy and above I’ve linked to my mini review post in which I discuss it.
Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, the pace of book acquisition has slowed down since then – otherwise I think I’d never catch up! Which of these do you think I should read next?
So far I’ve managed to read 6 books in 2014, greatly aided by the fact that I was off work until the 6th (how I wish I could have another break just like that one now …). I really want to at least record a few thoughts for what I’m reading this year and draw a line under most of last year’s reads, except for a couple of review books, so here goes.
Ironskin, Tina Connolly
This is a fantastical re-telling of Jane Eyre, one of my favourite books, and while I wanted to read it, I put it off for a little while because I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the fact that it is blatantly the same story. I’ve avoided a lot of joke re-tellings and sequels to classics because I love the originals too much to want those worlds changed. But this – this is a serious effort at creating something that pays homage to a classic but doesn’t take away from the original. I needn’t have worried. Connolly’s story can stand on its own two feet. While it’s clear that the basic story is the same, and many of the characters’ personalities match, Connolly’s magic usage, and the very real symbolism of the iron skin / iron mask Jane wears, adds something else to the story. I really liked the fantasy element and the way that the iron’s usage develops and I’m intrigued particularly to see where Connolly goes next in the sequel, now that she no longer has Charlotte Bronte’s brilliance to guide her.
Demon Angel, Meljean Brook
As I mentioned in my Long-Awaited Reads post, I’ve had this book for ages and had no real reason for *not* reading it. I didn’t love the only other book I read by Meljean Brook, so I think I was worried I wouldn’t like it. I’m pleased to say that I finally did get to it and I even liked it. A lot.
I wasn’t really that enthused by it at the beginning. The book takes us throughout centuries of history, in which the two characters get to know each other and we learn more about the background of the world, but once the story got to modern-day California everything changed. We moved into the permanent part of the story rather than the bit that felt like background. I think the book definitely suffers from first-book-in-a-series syndrome; there is almost too much world-building and not enough characters at the start. By the time the story kicks off, though, I began to actually feel for these two characters and the way they felt about each other. It’s longer than a typical paranormal romance (or any romance for that matter) but after that slightly rough start, I never felt like it was too long. Instead I felt anxious for Hugh and Lilith because I so badly wanted them to be together but wasn’t quite sure how it would happen.
I am definitely going to continue with this series.
Clean Sweep, Ilona Andrews
I think I’m destined to love literally everything by this husband-wife writing team. This little novel was no exception at all. I didn’t read Clean Sweep in free installments, as it was initially promoted on the website. I decided to wait until it was all available as an ebook, because I’m essentially impatient and didn’t mind paying the small amount for the privilege of reading convenience. I was immediately drawn to Dina the Innkeeper’s story and the bizarre way that Andrews set up the world. It’s short, so it’s easy to read quickly, and it’s a great example of the writing style these two produce. They’re also fantastic at building relationships between characters – and characterization in general I suppose – even within the confines of a short novel. Highly recommended, as usual, and I’m looking forward to further installments.
The Countess Conspiracy, Courtney Milan
Courtney Milan knows how to pull *all* the heartstrings. In this, her latest novel in the Brothers Sinister series, Violet, Countess of Cambury, is a female scientist in a nineteenth-century England without female scientists. But, rather than keep her work quiet, she enlists her long-time best friend Sebastian Malheur as scientist. He becomes her public face. But after years of living a lie, he can’t take it any more – and slowly, gradually, neither can she.
I love romances where the main characters have known each other for ages. I don’t know why, they just work really well for me. This worked really well, too. I don’t think I loved it as hard as I loved some of her earlier romances, maybe because it’s not as different as the others, but I got really wrapped up in this story and I adored Sebastian and Violet. The main characters from the other books in the series appear, too, a little bonus for those of us who have read them all. Courtney Milan will continue to be an auto-buy author for me.
I’ve read a couple of other books this year - Life after Life by Kate Atkinson and Edward III and the Triumph of England by Richard Barber – but I’d like to try and actually give them full reviews. We’ll see how that goes!
Has your 2014 started well on the reading front?
Guy Gavriel Kay has been one of my very favorite fantasy authors for years. When I first started reading his books, they seemed to fly under the radar for most other fantasy fans, and a new book by him was always a treasure. They’re never very heavy on the fantasy, but usually have a huge amount of historical influence with just a touch of mysticism. I really love this mix, because the historical backgrounds are immensely appealing to me while Kay’s ventures into fantasy allow him to create stories that resonate and have meaning. Though River of Stars is one such book, it won’t sit amongst my favorites of his works.
Set hundreds of years after Under Heaven, River of Stars is based loosely on the period of wars that separated the Northern Song dynasty from the Southern (thank you Wikipedia as this period was completely new to me). We follow two main characters through the outcome of the wars; Lin Shan, a female poet who stands out against her contemporaries, and Ren Daiyan, a general who rises to greatness.
This book is truly a book about myth-making and how ordinary people who commit a few great deeds, or who aren’t afraid to stand up for what they think is best, pass into legend. There is a story, of course, and it’s a good one, but Kay’s writing is incredibly introspective and he spends a considerable amount of time examining what’s happened to events in their retelling. This is so extensive that the ending of the book itself isn’t concrete, letting readers make what they choose of the myths (or not). The downside of this is that he frequently foreshadows, blatantly, what’s going to happen next – the text is so self-referential that there isn’t space for surprises or suspense.
Kay’s writing is always beautiful but in this far more than any of his other books I noticed how very slow it is. Characters spend small eternities thinking and considering what has happened to them and what they might choose to do next – how their seemingly small decisions can have major impacts. It takes a very long time for the two protagonists to meet, even longer for what seems inevitable to actually occur. It’s been a long while since I read The Lions of al-Rassan or Tigana but I definitely don’t remember feeling bogged down in the same way. Every word is well-placed, but I never felt called back to this book.
Would I still recommend River of Stars? Probably. It’s a beautifully written book, very evocative of this period in China despite its slight separation as a fantasy, and very thoughtful. It’s just worth preparing for it to be a slower read.
All external book links are affiliate links. I received this book for free for review.
Last year I really enjoyed taking advantage of Long-Awaited Reads Month and I’m so happy that Ana and Iris have chosen to continue hosting this great event in 2014. The idea is that, throughout January, we manage to get to some of those books that have been waiting far too long, either on the shelf or not yet in our hands. I love doing this because – surprise surprise – I have a lot of these floating around on my shelves. I’m far too easily distracted by new books sometimes and I also have a tendency to choose shorter books because I can read them faster. This month gives me an excellent opportunity to change things around and try and get to some older books that I’m still really excited about.
Last year I selected four books and, while I didn’t get to them all in January, I did actually manage to read them before the end of 2013, so the tactic worked.
Ideally I’d spend the whole month reading books like these, and I still might, but here’s what I’ve pulled out:
- Demon Angel by Meljean Brook - I’ve had Demon Angel since 2010 and, while it isn’t chunky, I’m just not quite sure why I haven’t read it yet. I mainly bought it because I wanted to read some of the later books in Meljean Brook’s Guardian series and, even though this isn’t the best of the series, I always like to start from the beginning.
- The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon - I think I haven’t read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay yet because it’s long and the type is ridiculously tiny. But, it’s time to give it a shot, as I’ve not managed to read any of Michael Chabon’s books and I think I have three of them, all of which I’ve wanted to read for over a year.
- Empress by Shan Sa – This is a rather slim volume that I’ve pulled out before to read in two different read-a-thons. I didn’t get to it in either of them and I’ve had it since 2008. I’ve been really interested in Chinese history and historical fiction for a few years now, so I’m hoping this is a great read.
- Lastly, I’m cheating a little bit with Edward III and the Triumph of England, because it was a Christmas present, and I haven’t even been craving it for nearly as long as I’ve actually owned the other three. But I’ve wanted to read it very badly since I first heard about it, so I’m going to count that as a long-awaited read anyway. I hope I’m not breaking the rules too much.
Are you participating in Long-Awaited Reads month? What do you have waiting?
A little late in deciding these is better than never, right?
I’m not that good at goals. I go into January certain I’m going to accomplish everything ever and then slowly the year wears me down with minutiae and I lose what I want to accomplish. But, it’s still worth making some goals, and trying to stick to them. Here are mine:
- Either start, or at least sign up and pay for in 2015, a real class again at the university. A language or a creative writing class, or perhaps photography.
- Get better at taking pictures! Take more pictures with what I currently have and learn a little bit more about how to take good ones. Take at least a picture a week.
- Cook real food more often, rather than ready meals / takeaway / going out. I actually tried really hard at this for most of the latter half of 2013 and then totally fell off the wagon in November and December. I want to cook from scratch more often because it’s both healthier and more satisfying, not to mention cheaper. Goal here is to make lunch for work and cook from scratch 4 days a week (doesn’t have to be the same days).
- Exercise. The perpetual goal, and again, totally gave up in November and December. Christmas didn’t count, but the previous month and a half sure did. I’d like to exercise 3 times a week at minimum. I don’t need to lose weight (very thankfully) but I do get creaky and sore and out of shape when I don’t make the effort.
With reading goals, I’m actually relatively happy with my reading this year. I still think it’s worth setting some goals:
- Read 150 books. I’m going to stick with this. I think it’s a reasonably healthy, realistic amount for my own personal reading speed and with everything else above going on.
- Read more non-fiction. I set this goal last year with a specific number – more than 18. Instead I only read 17, probably because I wasn’t really keeping track. But I tend to really, really enjoy the non-fiction, especially history, that I do read, and it’s crazy that these are just a small fraction of my total number of books read. I’ll go for more than 17, this year.
- Read more books that have been on the TBR for longer. Again, the same goal as last year, although amazingly when I do pull books out and decide to read them I seem to manage. It took me most of the year, but I did read all of last year’s Long-Awaited Reads. I’m really hoping that magic works again this year. Last year’s goal was to read one book a month acquired pre-2011. I only read 6, so I got halfway there (I managed 37 books I’d acquired before 2013, which still isn’t a great amount). This year I’ll just say books acquired 2012 and earlier, one per month.
- Start making a genuine effort to diversify my reading. I’d like to read more books by people of color and either set or written outside the UK / US. I need to grow my awareness of this a lot because I currently don’t pay that much attention except for special events, and I should, because I know the world is big and if I don’t encourage diversity in my reading it isn’t very likely to happen naturally. It’s not much but again I’m going to aim for one book per month on each here.
What are your goals for 2014?
2013 was a mixed year. I think I’ll always remember it as the year I lost my grandma, so it probably won’t go down in memory very well. But that’s the only bad thing that happened; I started a job that I actually might like back in March and just got promoted in December, we finally sold the flat which had been preventing us from gaining substantial savings after over 3 years of trying, and everything in a relationship and friend direction has been positive.
My reading year went well. I set myself a goal of 150 books, as I’d read 138 books in 2012 and wanted to do slightly better than that. I ended up finished 160 books, which is great; I found reading much easier to fit in when I started commuting as I’d read a guaranteed 50-100 pages per day just sitting on a train. Commuting itself is not that pleasant, but I like the reading benefit.
And I read some great books this year. Now that the year is finally over, I can finally sum up my favorites. So, without further rambling, my top ten of 2013 (not in any particular order, or in any particular genre or type of book):
- Vanished Kingdoms, Norman Davies – This book stands out so strongly in my memory, because it filled in so many gaps in what I already knew and spurred me on to learn more, the perfect combination for a book about history. I’m now just waiting for Davies to pick up his pen and write about vanished kingdoms in the rest of the world!
- The Spirit Keeper, K.B. Laugheed – For some reason, I fell in love with this book – the historical setting, the romance between two unlikely characters, and just the surprise that I enjoyed a book in this setting so much. It still lingers in my mind. I think I might need to buy a paper copy.
- The Truth of Valor, Tanya Huff (and the rest of the series, all of which I read this year) – I loved these books. I’m sorry that I didn’t rave about them individually, but I loved so much about them. Strong yet imperfect Torin was the star of the show for me, but all the books also had that epic, no-holds-barred feel about them that I adore.
- Daughter of the Sword, Steve Bein – This was my favorite new urban fantasy of the year. I think I’ll be getting myself the next for a birthday present this month. I loved the way this book intertwined history with a modern fantasy; either storyline could have stood on its own.
- Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie – I didn’t manage to even review this book – plenty of stellar reviews out there already, anyway – but I loved the way it subverted gender expectations, made me feel sympathy for a ship, and ultimately confused me until suddenly everything popped into place. So much good about this book – if you haven’t read it already, you should make it a 2014 priority.
- Eleanor and Park, Rainbow Rowell – I didn’t review this one, either, but I never caught up with November’s reviews. I loved the way that Rowell created two imperfect characters whose love for each other shone through the pages. She perfectly captures what it’s like to be a teenager but still made me fall in love with these two. There will be more books by Rainbow Rowell in my future.
- Carter Beats the Devil, Glen David Gold – This was one of 2013′s long-awaited reads and it was definitely a book I should have read sooner. Fantastic characters, a whirlwind story, a perfect conclusion, with an unusual historical setting and magical focus that helped it stand out.
- Proust and the Squid, Maryanne Wolf – I loved this in depth look at the reading brain and how complex it is, plus an overview of the history of reading and alphabets. Not to be missed.
- The Wild Girl, Kate Forsyth – Another historical novel that I adored this year. I can’t believe I hadn’t discovered Forsyth earlier; this is something I’m going to look to remedy in 2014.
- Cooked, Michael Pollan – Taking a look at each type of cooking, Pollan goes on another journey through food that inspired me to think about what I could create. A lot of things have contributed to me becoming more conscious of what we’re eating and cooking from scratch more often, but this book is definitely up there.
I should also mention Chasing Magic by Stacia Kane, Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews, and Chimes at Midnight by Seanan McGuire for continuing series that I love with solid, wonderful books. I can only hope for the same this year.
Here’s to a happy and healthy 2014, everyone!
Gina Attaviano is a fourteen-year-old Italian immigrant girl living her father’s dream when she and her mother and brother arrive in Boston. Their father Alessandro has passed away, but the rest of the family arrive to stay with a cousin and aunt in Lawrence, Massachusetts. They arrive in Boston Harbor and meet two surprisingly helpful locals, Ben Shaw and Harry Barrington, who lend them an apartment for the night. Both are from prominent families, but that doesn’t stop them getting involved with the Attaviano family; Ben immediately becomes infatuated with fourteen-year-old Gina, while Gina herself develops a massive crush on Harry, who remains aloof. Over the course of the novel, determined Gina decides to find a way to fit herself in Boston society, having discovered what she truly longs to have.
I’ve never read any of Paullina Simons’s books before and I have a feeling that I chose the wrong place to start. I was deeply underwhelmed by this book, having heard many good things about the author’s Bronze Horseman trilogy, and I’m now not sure I’m curious enough about what happens next to actually delve into that trilogy. I read this first as I got it for review and a prequel is generally not a bad place to start reading a series, but I think I should have started with Simons’s other books.
Let me explain why. First of all, the characters were simply not people I wanted to spend time with. Gina decides to go off and do her own thing, lying to everyone who loves her, from the minute she steps foot on American soil. She refuses to listen to any sort of logic and, in short, behaves like a reckless teenager. That’s fine – that’s what she is for most of the book anyway. But she also turns out to be a character who is impossibly perfect; she excels at school when she decides she should, she earns all sorts of mysterious extra money with her cleverness and makes herself beautiful clothes, she begs a loan to start her family’s restaurants, and every man who sees her falls at her feet, except of course Harry (until he finally does). She even somehow speaks perfect English, even though she admits in the beginning of the book that she hadn’t paid as much attention to her father’s lessons as she should have.
Harry, on the other hand, is an adult, but seems like he could have happily remained a child or student forever. He ignores all sense of responsibility and lets his life happen to him, rather than doing anything at all to influence it himself. He’s content enough, it seems, to be in a relationship with a well-bred girl he doesn’t love, to flounder about wondering what he’s supposed to be doing while continuing to study (and getting nowhere doing it), and living off his father’s money well into his twenties. Ben, his best friend, was far more interesting because he actually had a spine and went off and did things himself. When Harry finally makes a decision about his life, he hides it from everyone and creates a disaster. Twice.
Second, the book has little plot. Gina decides she’s in love with Harry and the rest of the book is spent on various conversations, political talks and meetings, and her often fruitless efforts to entice him. I felt zero spark between them, even when Harry finally wakes up and realizes that a gorgeous Italian woman has him firmly on a leash. The romance part of the book felt dreamlike and I had no real sense of why these two people had chosen to be together. It’s one of those attraction-and-nothing-else storylines which get on my nerves.
Lastly, much of the book is spent on little happening but talking. I’m normally fine with this and tend to even enjoy “quiet” books, generally because they have some sort of meaning. But here? Gina’s entire existence is focused around Harry; everything she’s done, everything she’s learned, has simply been to attract a man. So her ideals seem faked, while Harry hides from his life and ignores responsibility, spouting nonsense about what he believes in and failing to act on any of it. I just got fed up with them and with the book – after writing this review I’m actually surprised that I finished it.
The Bronze Horseman might be worth reading, but I’m not sure Children of Liberty is. If you’re interested, I’d recommend visiting your library first. That’s where I’ll be getting the rest of the trilogy from, if I decide to continue.
I received this book for free for review.
I originally bought Huntress for A More Diverse Universe before I decided not to blog in November. I also didn’t manage to read it in November. But I loved Ash and I still wanted to support the initiative, even a full month late, so I recently picked it up and found myself devouring it in just a couple of days.
Set centuries before Ash but in the same world, two girls and a prince are tasked with making a journey to the Fairy Queen, across deadly lands with no maps, to find out why the kingdom exists in a permanent state of gray. The girls are students: Kaede, the Chancellor’s daughter who rejects her life as a proper lady, political marriage and all, and Taisin, a gifted future sage whose dreams are true visions. With them go the heir to the kingdom and three guards to the first summons to the Fay in a generation.
This book opens with a vision; Taisin sees an element of the future, but she doesn’t understand it or how she will get there. As the book unfolds, the mystery of that vision unwinds, and it’s only towards the end of the book that she, and we, understand exactly what she saw and how she needs to use it to ensure that she and those she love survive.
In Huntress, women (and girls) take on all the primary roles; Kaede and Taisin are the main characters, who go to visit a Fairy Queen, while their enemy similarly turns out to be a woman. As in Ash, the love story is between women, in a world where all love is freely accepted (although it seems political marriages still need to be between men and women in order to produce children). The change is perspective is not radical, it’s just enough to subvert expectations slightly and produces a much richer book for it.
The core of the story is an adventure into unknown lands, where mysterious perils await and some of the small band may not survive. As with all such stories, this makes it easier for us to get involved in the world as we discover new elements of the universe right along with the characters. And two diverse main characters make it easier; Taisin is destined to be a nun, or so she thinks, and acts accordingly, while Kaede wants nothing more than to live an unconventional life. Yet these two very different girls bond truly, through shared experiences and deep emotion, and their journey is one that is worth following and loving.
A quick and engaging read, Huntress is definitely recommended for other fantasy readers.
I purchased this book. All external book links are affiliate links.
The histories of England and Germany have been intertwined for centuries. Among other things, the tie is in the very root of the words we speak, as the English language is based on a Germanic language, albeit with plenty of other languages thrown in for good measure. Miranda Seymour picks up the story of these two countries in the seventeenth century with the marriage of an English Stuart princess to the Elector Palatine, the son of a very different German landscape. From those nuptials to the end of World War II, Seymour picks up the story of these two countries primarily through people that loved and lived in both of them.
I had an interesting time with Noble Endeavours. I couldn’t say that I loved it unreservedly, because it had faults. As it’s set over a wide span of time, there were very many historical personalities introduced, and I for one found it surprisingly difficult to keep track of who everyone was over the centuries. I could have used some sort of guide to who was who in the front or back of the book, especially when some of those mentioned got married and their names changed. In places it felt scattered as we jumped from one person to another (who I invariably didn’t remember). This may have been partly my fault as I didn’t read the whole thing in one go, preferring to jump in and out over the course of a couple of weeks, normally how I handle non-fiction these days.
When the book was great, though, it was really great, and at times I could feel how some of these people were genuinely pulled between two countries. The best part was towards the end where we got to the World Wars – not “best” because of the circumstances, but because it gave me the opportunity to view the huge historical turning point from a new angle. And, because of the focus on specific people, we get a much more intimate view of the heartbreak caused by these divisions. Both World Wars were devastating events and this book brought more of that into focus through individual affected people from all sectors of society rather than a big picture view.
The part that I found most horrifying, actually, was how wilfully Hitler was ignored and even praised by Brits for revitalizing Germany when they had plenty of evidence of what his actual plans were. Part of that was due to the way the two countries had interacted for several hundred years, part of it was because those plans were well hidden on both sides, but it’s scary how many lives may have been lost because intelligence reports were ignored and insider knowledge was dismissed. And the price is still paid to this day.
Not a perfect book, but a fascinating one. I’d recommend Noble Endeavours for anyone interested in English or German history.
All external links are associate links. I received this book for free for review.