My COVID Lockdown Booklist

As a new year begins, the hopes of a new beginning away from COVID is slowly diminishing. In Switzerland, where I live, we enter into our 3rd week in lockdown, with three more weeks to go. One way I plan on passing the time is by reading some of the unopened books I still have on my shelf. I decided to make a list of all the books I want to read during this time. I’m hoping it will give me something to look forward to each week and help get me through this lockdown!

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by: Christy Lefteri

This book caught my attention because of its connection to current events, specifically the refugee crisis in the Middle East and Europe. Over the last couple of years, we have been watching heartbreaking scenes of refugees fleeing war-torn Syria for Europe. This book tries to put a face to this crisis by writing about a fictional Syrian family and their refugee story. The family decides to leave Syria after the war has already begun; they embark on a dangerous journey to freedom, trekking through many of the same escape routes Syrian families are all too familiar with. I’m sure this will be a very captivating story and shed light on the struggles refugees worldwide experience.

What Alice Forgot by: Liane Moriarty

Many friends and family have continuously recommended this book, so I have finally decided to add it to my list. This story is about the effects of memory loss and piecing together a life that is unrecognizable. It is slightly different from the type of books I usually read, but lockdown is a great time to explore some new genres!

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by: Heather Morris

This book has been on my book list for many years, but every time I think about opening it, I wonder if I am truly ready for the emotional roller coaster I know this book will embark on. However, recently I read another book by Heather Morris, called Cilka’s Journey, and I loved it. It was definitely emotionally tormenting but, I am very glad I read it. So I decided I needed to give The Tattooist of Auschwitz a read.

A Promised Land by: Barack Obama

I haven’t read a biography in a long time, and I find myself craving to read one. Since American politics has been a focal point in world news recently, I found it only fitting to add A Promised Land by Barack Obama to my book list. Whether you agree with his politics or not, you cannot argue his presidency’s historical significance and wonder how he got there.

What does your lockdown booklist look like?

The Age of Light – Book Review

This book is an interesting work of fiction because its main characters are based on real people. Parts of their lives have been put together by the author, Whitney Scharer’s, imagination. I didn’t know this until I had completed the book and began to do some research into the author. I’m not sure how I feel about the idea of reimagining peoples lives but, many of Scharer’s readers seemed to like it.

A little bit about the book…

The book begins in 1966 in England with the main character, Lee Miller and her husband Roland, living in the countryside. At the time, Miller is writing cooking pieces for Vogue. She writes about her cooking methods and photographs each step of her cooking process. This is where it becomes evident that Lee Miller is a skilled photographer. Miller is very unhappy in her current life, and you even begin to wonder, because of her attitude and drinking, if she has always been unhappy?

As the first part of the book continues, we are introduced to many new characters, including her editor at Vogue, Audrey Withers. Withers asks Miller to write a new piece focusing on her time in Paris working with the famous photographer, Man Ray. Immediately Miller refuses but quickly realizes that she doesn’t have much choice if she wants to continue working for Vogue. Miller lists some stipulations for the piece and then accepts.

It is at this point that Miller began her story, beginning in Paris 1929. She moves to Paris to begin her photography career and eventually meets and falls in love with Man Ray. This romance is a whirlwind from the very beginning. Man Ray was much older than Lee Miller, which isn’t surprising once you understand the relationship Miller has with her father. She begins her career as Man Ray’s assistant, learning from his photography skills to help her own future career. However, as their romance begins and while she continues to be Man Ray’s assistant, she begins to fear her own photography career is becoming secondary to Man Ray. It also becomes clear that their relationship was turning destructive. As the relationship grew, Ray became much more controlling, and his obsession with Miller becomes very concerning. For these reasons and many others, the love story in the book didn’t captivate me.

Scharer also includes short stories about Miller’s childhood. Miller experienced a very traumatic sexual assault when she was very young, by a trusted family member. This event, plus her parents’ reactions to the event, I believe, impacts the way Miller views most of her sexual encounters. I also felt like this experience influenced her relationship with Man Ray. Showing how these traumatic events hurt the victims for almost their entire lives.

Would I recommend the book?

Unfortunately, I didn’t really enjoy this book. I didn’t find myself connecting with the main character Lee Miller. I also felt there was no closure with this book’s ending, and I found myself wondering what the book was really about? Scharer also included information about Miller’s life during World War II and those events were never really connected to her current life or to her life in Paris. In the end, I wasn’t sure why they were even included. The ending provided no closure to Miller’s current life and her obvious unhappiness.

Overall I don’t think I would recommend this book to my peers but, if you disagree or have additional comments to my review comment below!

The Nightingale- Book Review

By: Kristin Hannah

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is one of my most favourite books. It is centered around two sisters living in France during World War II. The were so many emotions that were felt throughout this book from love and joy to utter sadness and despair. From the very first page of this book, I was hooked!

I first came across The Nightingale when it was my turn to select a book for my book club. I knew I wanted to choose a something historical, as this was my favourite genre, and many of the book club participants had never read a historical fiction book. I was convinced I could convert them with the right book. The Nightingale continuously appeared at the top of all my searches and the reviews were amazing. Therefore, I selected it for my book club and luckily, it was a huge success! Everyone loved it, and it sparked so many great conversations. In fact, many of the people in my book club continued to ask for more recommendations on other historical fiction novels.

The theme of this book…

The Nightingale is about two sisters and the very different paths their lives take during World War II in France. The sisters think they are nothing alike as they pursue very different lives but, as the story continues, you begin to see the similar characteristics these two sisters share. Each sister is fighting for survival in their own way, showing courage and resiliency in each of their struggles. The author, Kristin Hannah, brings the characters’ thoughts and emotions to life so clearly and vividly you begin to feel those emotions yourself.

Hannah also details the difficulties faced by the French people, mostly women, who lived under Nazi occupation. The reader gains an understanding as to how the French women were helping in the war effort, from their homes. The women wanted to do whatever they could to help defeat the Nazis. This book was not about war battles and soldiers; it was about the struggle of occupation, the push to survive, and the fight to gain freedom. Truly a remarkable story about a challenging time in France’s history.

What I learned from this book…

The Nightingale is an inspirational story about women’s fight for survival and their constant determination to protect their family and those around them. The ordeal that these two sisters experience is beyond my imagination; it seems impossible to overcome such horrible obstacles in life. This story also emphasized the importance of fighting for what you believe.

I also learned so much more about the difficulties faced by the women living under Nazi occupation, something I think history books do not focus enough time on. It opened a new door to the different experiences of World War II.

Other books written by this author… 

Kristin Hannah has written many books, so I have listed some of her better-known books below:

*The Four Winds (newest book)
*The Great Alone
*Home Front
*Night Road
*Winter Garden

Lilac Girls- Book Review

By: Martha Hall Kelly

This book is a bit of a twist on the typical historical fiction novel. Kelly included some fictional characters but also real historical figures. I didn’t realize this until I had completed the book and did some research. This was an intriguing discovery that made the book a bit more appealing.

This story is centered around three women, each effected differently by World War II. Each of their stories shows a different perspective of this war. It is a social history perspective that is rarely explored in textbooks. The way these three women were connected in the end was the most captivating part of this story.

I enjoyed reading this book and going through the emotions of each of the characters but, I didn’t find I was fully captivated by this story. I’m not exactly sure what was missing but, the characters did not draw me in or excite me to keep reading. I think if there was a bit more character build up I would have felt more connected to these characters and then maybe more glued to the book. Part of me also wonders if I have been reading too many similar books lately and maybe that is why I felt a bit bored by this book.

Some main topics explored by Lilac Girls:
*Polish prisoners in concentration camps
*A doctors struggle between the Hippocratic oath and the orders from Nazi superiors
*Soviet ‘liberation’ of concentration camps
*The human experiences of trying to escape Europe during World War II