It’s with a sense of melancholy that I write this post on the last weekend before I go back to work for the new school year. I’m both excited about the coming of my favourite season and saddened by the end of the weeks of free, unstructured time I’ve been enjoying since the beginning of July. Thankfully I have a cup of chai tea and a slice of freshly baked Date Bread to cheer me up!
I read two books this week. The first is an adult fiction title, The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. I don’t know how I heard about this book; I must have read a review and the description appealed. The novel opens with four siblings, Varya (13), Daniel (11), Klara (9) and Simon (7) going off to find a woman who can supposedly predict the date someone will die. What possessed these children to seek such information remains a mystery, but they find her (“the woman on Hester Street”) and each is given a date of their death. We the readers do not find out everyone’s date right away, so there is some mystery for us, too. But the novel asks us to consider this: If you knew the date of your death, would that affect the way you lived your life, and if so, how? The rest of the novel is divided into sections, one for each sibling, highlighting a period in their lives and ending in their death. Each section takes up where the last one left off. It was definitely an interesting read, and I found myself wondering if these individuals would have lived differently if they had never gone to see the woman on Hester Street, or if they had discounted her predictions. Although I don’t usually enjoy novels that rely on magic realism to move the plot forward, this one certainly held my interest and kept me looking for extra reading opportunities to get me to the last page. It was a really good read, not perfect but definitely one I would recommend to anyone who enjoys domestic fiction and family sagas.
And I read a book from my school library by Alan Gratz, Projekt 1065, set in 1943 Berlin. This novel is told from the point of view of Michael O’Shaughnessy, 13 year old son of the Irish Ambassador to Germany. Michael is a member of the Hitler Youth, and although Ireland maintains a position of neutrality, he and his parents are secretly spies, collecting information about the Nazis for the Allies. After the tremendous losses in Stalingrad, Hitler began using the Hitler Youth for more and more dangerous tasks, sending boys as young as fifteen into battle and employing children as young as eight to man antiaircraft weapons. In this position, then, Michael could gather significant information and influence the actions of these Youth members in ways that could make a real difference to the outcome of the war. But when he’s faced with one challenge after another, how can he be sure to always make the right decisions? Gratz has written many juvenile novels about WWII, and this is one of his latest that I bought with proceeds from our book fair. It was fast-paced, interesting and engaging, and I couldn’t put it down. I learned alot about the German language, facts about the war and about the German experience, and about what it would have been like to be in the Hitler Youth at that time, how many of those children didn’t know anything other than Hitler’s rule and so were easily carried away by the charisma of the Nazi party. I even read the Afterward, which was also interesting and informative, and I've passed the book on to my husband to read as well. I will definitely do a book talk on this for the grade six students (I think there’s too much death for anyone younger) and recommend it to them.
That’s all for today. Stay cool and keep reading!Bye for now…