Friday 20 August 2021

Three books, one post...

It’s Friday afternoon and I’m quite tired out.  Not only did I have a fair bit of running around to do this morning, it’s also warm and muggy, which I find draining.  But I’ve got a tall, cool glass of water and a bowl of fresh local fruit to re-energize me as I write this rather brief post.

Since my last post, I read a book that was recommended to me by my super-reader friend.  The Villa, the Lake, the Meeting:  Wannsee and the Final Solution by Mark Roseman details the evolution of the treatment of Jews by Hitler and the Nazis before and during WWII, with a focus on the activities that led up to the meeting at Wannsee in January 1942.  This meeting, held in a posh Berlin suburb, was chaired by Reinhard Heydrich and was attended by representatives from all the major Nazi agencies, where together they hashed out the details of what would become known as “the Final Solution”.  Prior to this meeting, there were mass shootings of prisoners and random killings of citizens for no apparent reason, but until this meeting, which, by the way, was not attended by Hilter, there were no actual plans to systematically round Jews up and transport them to concentration camps for extermination. This was very interesting, and it was also, thankfully, brief.  After The Zookeeper’s Wife, this was almost "SS overload".  I had to get this from the library as an inter-library loan, so it might be difficult to access if you are interested in reading it.  Not being a fan of non-fiction, it says something about the quality of the information and the writing that I stuck with it and read it in about five days, so if you are interested in reading more about this subject, this would be a good choice.

Then I read Matters of Hart by Montreal author Marianne Ackerman.  I don’t know how this novel came to be sitting on my personal bookshelves, but I was going through some books that I thought I could give away and this one was in the pile. When I opened it up, I was drawn in immediately and had to keep reading.  Hart Granger is celebrating his fiftieth birthday at a surprise party planned by his ex-wife Sandrine.  She has invited fifty guests from various points in Hart’s life, so not everyone knows everyone else, leading to some awkwardness.  But his sister Amanda is there, along with his mother, Kitty, so things are rolling along fairly well until there is a knock at the door and in walks Neil, the half-brother who was given up for adoption as a baby.  This throws a wrench in the plans and things, for Hart anyway, begin to spiral downward at an increasingly rapid rate.  What follows is a display of adult sibling rivalry taken to the extreme.  At times hilarious, at others heart-wrenching, this novel was what I would call an “undiscovered gem” hidden away on my shelves.  I’m so glad I didn’t just give it away sight unseen, or I would never have discovered this amazing writer.  I’ll definitely check out other books by Ackerman.

And I read a Young Adult book from my school library collection, Monster by Walter Dean Myers.  This novel, told almost exclusively in the form of a screenplay, interspersed with jottings in a notebook, is a courtroom drama that follows the trial of Steve Harmon, a sixteen-year-old African American boy charged with participating in the plan to rob a neighbourhood drugstore, a robbery which resulted in the shooting death of the owner.  Since Steve is writing the screenplay in his own head, a mechanism he is using to cope with his incarceration, readers are treated to his own thoughts and feelings, his perspective on the trial as well as the words and actions of the others in the courtroom.  This was a book that sucked me right in, one I finished in just two days.  It was powerful and thought-provoking, not obviously tackling the theme of racism in the way that The Hate U Give did, yet that theme is always there, lying just below the surface.  It was a very interesting read, one I will recommend to my Grade Eight teacher as a possible read-aloud.  

That’s all for today.  Stay cool, keep reading and enjoy the last days of August!  

Bye for now…

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