Sunday 15 November 2020

Books and tea on a rainy autumn morning...

The stretch of mild sunny weather last week seems to be mostly at an end, and I have to say that I’m very happy about this.  I love crisp November days, seeing the stark bare branches of the trees silhouetted against the grey sky, and feeling the chill in the air that makes you want to take a long brisk walk, a gentle nudge towards the winter weather to come. But enough about my ideal fall weather...  I have a book and an audiobook to tell you about today as I sip my steaming cup of chai and enjoy a slice of freshly baked Extra Banana-y Banana Bread and a delicious Date Bar.

Last week I read The Good German by Canadian author Dennis Bock, which was both not what I expected and also exactly what I expected.  In November 1939, German anti-fascist Georg Elser attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler and other high-ranking Nazi officials in Munich by planting a bomb at a beer hall where they were holding a Nazi rally.  The explosion did not kill Hitler, who left early that day, but it did kill a number of other Nazi officials and wounded many others.  He was imprisoned and finally sent to Dachau, where he died in 1945.  Imagine if that assassination attempt was successful.  We assume that this would stop the war, but Bock proposes another, much more sinister scenario.  What if, rather than stopping the Nazi movement, it only strengthened their efforts after Hermann Göring assumed the Chancellery?  In Bock’s novel, Göring signs a non-aggression treaty with American president Joseph Kennedy to keep the US out of the war.  What follows is a look at what this alternate history might look like if Elser's attempt had been successful.  From the summary on the book jacket and from reviews, I expected this to be more of a political novel, a bit of speculative fiction, as Margaret Atwood calls it.  I didn’t think this was what Bock usually writes, so I was intrigued to see how he would manage it.  What I got instead was a novel exploring the effects of war on those left behind, a coming-of-age story set in a small Canadian town under Soviet rule.  This is exactly what he usually writes about, so I was somewhat disappointed that he wasn’t writing outside his “comfort zone” but not overly so, as I just changed my expectation and got on with the reading.  It was an interesting novel, exactly as interesting and compelling for me as The Ash Garden, also by Bock.

I was going to write about the audiobook I finished listening to last week as well, but time seems to be moving very quickly this morning and I have lots of other things I still need to do, so I’ll just mention it briefly.  I listened to Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, which was very interesting, and the narrator, Cathleen McCarron, did a fabulous job of bringing the story and characters to life.  This story centres on Eleanor Oliphant, a 30-year-old woman working as an accounting clerk in a small graphic design company in Glasgow.  She is lonely, socially awkward, and clearly has endured some major traumatic events in her past.  When she inadvertently becomes involved in a situation with a colleague, she slowly finds the healing power of connection and friendship.  That’s all I’ll say about it, except that I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys books about social misfits, loneliness, and the redemptive power of connection (think A Man Called Ove).  

That’s all for today.  Grab a good book and curl up for the afternoon.

Bye for now…

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