Monday, 17 September 2018

Briley, John "Cry Freedom"

Briley, John "Cry Freedom: The Legendary True Story of Steve Biko and the Friendship that Defied Apartheid" - 1987

I have never seen the movie "Cry Freedom" but it has been on my wishlist for ages. Now, I put it right on top. This is a book that was written after the film - quite a rarity. And interesting story about a man who tried to claim freedom for his people, equal treatment, no matter the colour of your skin, the end of apartheid. He wanted all that peacefully and paid the ultimate price. I don't think this is a spoiler because Steve Biko has been dead for over forty years.

But it is also the story of another man, one born into privilege in a country where it makes a huge difference who your ancestors are, born with that kind of attitude that makes them think they deserve this privilege for whatever weird reason. When Donald Woods meets Steve Biko, a friendship develops. John Briley, the author, describes this in a very subtle way, you can just imagine how the friendship evolved slowly but surely.

The life of Donald Woods is probably just as interesting as Steve Biko's. The story about their friendship describes the story of South Africa, the story of Apartheid. I have read quite a few books about the people from this country and it shocks me again and again how something like this could even happen, how people could accept this. I doubt that I will ever understand but I urge everyone to read about it and make sure this doesn't happen again, in your own country or elsewhere.

Brilliant story.

From the back cover:

"They said Steve Biko was a man of violence; then why did he talk of peace? They said he wanted revolution; so why did he talk of friendship? They said he died of hunger; why was his body broken and bruised? This is the story of a man's fight with the government of South Africa. It is the story of all people who prefer truth to lies. It is the story of all people who cry 'Freedom', and who are not afraid to die."

Friday, 14 September 2018

Book Quotes of the Week

"Reading is an exercise in empathy; an exercise in walking in someone else’s shoes for a while." Malorie Blackman

"You will always have friends. Real life doesn't always hand you the right people. But a book is the perfect place to find your people whenever you need them." Gillian

"Reading is departure and arrival." Terri Guillemets

"You are a reader, and therefore a thinker, an observer, a living soul who wants more out of this human experience." Salil Jha

Find more book quotes here.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Chekhov, Anton "Summer Holidays"

Chekhov, Anton/Tschechow, Anton/Чехов, Антон Павлович/Anton Pavlovič Čechov "In der Sommerfrische: Meistererzählungen" (Russian: Дачники) [Summer Holidays] - 1880/87

Anton Chekhov was born about a century before me (1860-1904), so it is interesting to see how people lived back then. I always wanted to read one of his novels but when I happened to come upon this collection of short stories, I thought that might be a nice beginning.

It definitely was. I love Russian authors and have not been disappointed by any of them so far. They just have a great way of telling stories, each one of them is unique and interesting.

As with other Russian authors, we hear a lot about the misery of Russian life, the stories are all quite short, and I don't normally like short, in fact, I would have preferred some larger stories in between, but Chekhov manages to come to the point within just a couple of pages and tell you the whole life story of a character, and his whole surroundings, as well.

As there are different kinds of collections and none of them is the same as the others, here is the list of all the stories that are there. Some might not have been translated into English but I'm sure the majority has.

1886: Eine Bagatelle (Kleiner Zwischenfall; russ. Житейская мелочь) - A Trifling Occurrence
1886: Grischa (russ. Гриша) - Grisha
1887: Zu Hause (russ. Дома) - At Home
1887: Die Jungens (russ. Мальчики) - Boys
In der Sommerfrische (russ. Дачники) [Summer Holidays]
1886: Der Redner (russ. Оратор) - The Orator
1886: Ein Glücklicher (russ. Счастливчик) - The Major Plays
1884: Eine schreckliche Nacht (russ. Страшная ночь) [A Terrible Night]
1885: Der Gast (russ. Гость) [The Guest]
1883: Der Dicke und der Dünne (russ. Толстый и тонкий) - Fat and Thin
Aus dem Regen in die Traufe [From Bad to Worse]
1884: Das Drama auf der Jagd (russ. Драма на охоте) - The Shooting Party
Mnemotechnik [Mnemonics]
1899: Die Dame mit dem Hündchen (russ. Дама с собачкой) - The Lady with the Little Dog
1886: Agafja (russ. Агафья) - Agafya
1887: Ohne Auslagen (russ. Хороший конец) [Without Expenses]
Was Fräulein N.N. erzählt [What Miss N.N. Tells]
1886: Die Plappertasche (russ. Длинный язык) [The Chatterbox]
1886: Ein bekannter Herr (Ihr Bekannter, russ. Знакомый мужчина) [A Well-Known Gentleman]
Der Dramatiker [The Dramatist]
1885: Die letzte Mohikanerin (russ. Последняя могиканша) [The Last Female Mohican]
Eine Schutzlose (russ. Беззащитное существо) [A Defenseless Woman]
1887: Wolodja (russ. Володя) - Volodya
1887: Typhus (russ. Тиф) [Typhus]
1886: Gram (russ. Тоска) - Misery
1883: Die Verleumdung (russ. Клевета) [The Slander]
In den Chambregarnies (russ. В номерах) [In the Furnished Rooms]
Der böse Knabe (russ. Злой мальчик) - A Naughty Boy
1884: Ein Chamäleon (russ. Хамелеон) - The Chameleon
1884: Der Orden (russ. Орден) [The Medal]
1884: Die Rache einer Frau (russ. Месть женщины) [The Revenge of a Woman]
Misslungen [Failed]

[Titles in Brackets have been translated by me because I couldn't find the English title anywhere. They might have been translated, though.]

Monday, 10 September 2018

Sansom, C.J. "Dominion"

Sansom, C.J. (Christopher John) "Dominion" - 2011

"The Children's War" by J.N. Stroyar is probably my favourite book ever. Therefore, I was quite pleased to find this book that tells another story about what would or could have happened, had the Nazis won the war. I have always said I am glad they didn't, even though some of my foreign friends might think I shouldn't be thankful Germany lost the war. But that is wrong. Germany didn't lose the war, the Nazis did and that was for the good of everyone, not just the foreigners. My parents who were still quite little when they were elected have been telling me stories that go hand in hand with these kinds of books.

Therefore, well done, Christopher John Sansom. In this novel, we assume that there wasn't a WWII, just a short war in 1939 and that the Nazis won and carried on ruling the world. And what an awful world that was. Just as bad as living in Germany during those years when you weren't a Nazi. You had to hide your feelings from everyone around you, just in case they disagreed with you and reported you. My grandfather made the mistake to warn everyone before the elections and was given quite a hard time afterwards. Luckily, they lived quite remote and he could hide in the nearby bogs.

Back to the book, we follow different kinds of people in Nazi ruled Britain, the followers, the resistance, the Jews, and even some German military guys who come to "help out". We get to know them quite well and follow their stories, their hopes and their dreams.

It was extremely interesting for me to read all this, imagining my grandparents in a time like that. Maybe someday I will come upon a great book about the German resistance in those hard times.

Best quote:
"Whenever a party tells you national identity matters more than anything else in politics, that nationalism can sort out all the other problems, then watch out, because you’re on a road that can end with fascism."

From the back cover:

"1952. Twelve years have passed since Churchill lost to the appeasers, and Britain surrendered to Nazi Germany after Dunkirk. As the long German war against Russia rages on in the east, the British people find themselves under dark authoritarian rule: the press, radio and television are controlled; the streets patrolled by violent auxiliary police and British Jews face ever greater constraints. There are terrible rumours too about what is happening in the basement of the German Embassy at Senate House. Defiance, though, is growing.

In Britain, Winston Churchill's Resistance organisation is increasingly a thorn in the government's side. And in a Birmingham mental hospital an incarcerated scientist, Frank Muncaster, may hold a secret that could change the balance of the world struggle forever. Civil Servant David Fitzgerald, secretly acting as a spy for the Resistance, is given by them the mission to rescue his old friend Frank and get him out of the country. Before long he, together with a disparate group of Resistance activists, will find themselves fugitives in the midst of London’s Great Smog; as David’s wife Sarah finds herself drawn into a world more terrifying than she ever could have imagined. And hard on their heels is Gestapo Sturmbannfuhrer Gunther Hoth, brilliant, implacable hunter of men . . .

At once a vivid, haunting re-imagining of 1950s Britain, a gripping, humane spy thriller and a poignant love story - with Dominion, C.J. Sansom once again asserts himself as the master of the historical novel."

Friday, 7 September 2018

Book Quotes of the Week

"The more you read, the more you learn, the more you learn, the smarter you are." Dr T.P. Chia

"Libraries are the thin red line between civilisation and barbarism." Neil Gaiman

"Collect books, even if you don't plan on reading them right away. Nothing is more imprtnat than an unread library." Austin Kleon 

"Reading is an adventure that never ends." Charles M. Schulz 

Find more book quotes here.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Weir, Alison "Six Tudor Queens. Anne Boleyn"

Weir, Alison "Six Tudor Queens. Anne Boleyn. A King's Obsession" - 2017

After having read "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" and "Six Tudor Queens. Katherine of Aragon. The True Queen", I had to read the story of the next queen, probably the most well-known and disputed one of King Henry's wives, Anne Boleyn. A wonderful portrayal of a young woman who seemed to have it all, at least for a while.

Just as the story about Katherine of Aragon, this one is told from the point of view of the new queen, Anne Boleyn. We hear about so many other facts about her life and can understand her a little better, I believe. Was she really the woman who wanted to break up a marriage for the sake of her own advantage, to become queen, and was she thereby responsible for the creation of the Church of England? Or was she simply just another playball in men's politics, a way for her father advance into higher royal circles and thereby getting richer and more important, a new toy for the king to play with?

We may never know the real truth behind her but Alison Weir gave us the chance to have a look at her from a different side, to try to get to know the real Anne Boleyn. The author has a great knowledge about the Tudors and therefore is able to bring them closer to us.

When I was younger, I always wondered how this despotic king managed to find six women who were willing to marry him but I have since learned that getting married back then wasn't the same as it is today, certainly not in the royal and aristocratic circles. I am really looking forward to reading about the other four wives in the next books.

A wonderful novel.

From the back cover:

"The young woman who changed the course of history.

Fresh from the palaces of Burgundy and France, Anne draws attention at the English court, embracing the play of courtly love.

But when the King commands, nothing is ever a game.

Anne has a spirit worthy of a crown - and the crown is what she seeks. At any price.

ANNE BOLEYN. The second of Henry's Queens. Her story.

History tells us why she died. This powerful novel shows her as she lived.

Monday, 3 September 2018

Kästner, Erich "When I was a little boy"

Kästner, Erich "When I was a little boy" (German: Als ich ein kleiner Junge war) - 1957

Erich Kästner is a famous German author, even outside of Germany. He has mainly written children's books that were translated and read all over the world and they were also made into many films. He is the author of "Emil and the Detectives" as well as "The Parent Trap", "The Flying Classroom", "The Animal Congress" and "Three Men in the Snow" (to name but a few) and was nominated for the Nobel Prize several times, though never received it. All of his stories are lovely, always with a hint of sarcasm and criticism of our society.

But in this book, he describes his own life. His life as a little boy. Emil Erich Kästner was born in 1899 and his childhood lasted for fourteen years when it was ended by the beginning of the Great War.

Erich Kästner describes his life as a little boy just after the turn of the last century. We see him growing up in Dresden as the only child of a saddle maker and a hairstylist.  They were poor but they were happy.

We see little Erich play with his friends, learn at school, help his mother with her work, we see how families lived a hundred years ago.

Erich Kästner has the gift to describe all the details, even after many years. He wrote this book in 1957, such a long time ago. He mentions that you can't visit his home town Dresden anymore because it was destroyed. He would have been happy to see that they rebuilt a lot of it after the fall of The Wall. It's a lovely city now, I've been and I hope to go again. And the next time I will think about Erich Kästner and all his wonderful novels.

From the back cover:

"Autobiography by the author of 'Emil', detailing his childhood in Dresden and giving behind the scenes insight as to how some of the most famous children's books came to be written.

'When I Was a Little Boy' begins with a lament for Dresden: 'I was born in the most beautiful city in the world. Even if your father, child, was the richest man in the world, he could not take you to see it, because it does not exist anymore. (...) In a thousand years was her beauty built, in one night was it utterly destroyed.'"