The Munich Girl by Phyllis Edgerly Ring

The Munich Girl
The Munich Girl

by
Phyllis Edgerly Ring

Rating:

People choose their life paths for many reasons and their decisions are sometimes hard to figure.  During wartime, many ordinary people become trapped on these paths, in situations that are bigger than themselves.  Perhaps that is a good way to describe Eva Braun’s relationship with Adolf Hitler, a man who set his own path and destroyed nearly six million Jews and others who did not fit his Aryan profile.  Phyllis Edgerly Ring’s The Munich Girl is the story of Eva Braun and her friendship with Peggy, a German girl she meets on a train outside Austria.  In this historical fiction, Ring suggests how one might understand and even sympathize with Eva, who met Hitler when she was seventeen and waited sixteen years for him to publicly acknowledge their relationship.  Facing wartime defeat, Hitler finally married her and, less than two days later, they committed suicide.

The Munich Girl begins in a New Hampshire college town, as Peggy’s daughter, Anna is hired by Hannes Ritter, the new editor of a military history magazine owned by Anna’s husband, Lowell.  Anna’s first assignment is to write an article about Eva.  As Hannes describes his native Germany, Anna is instantly drawn to him for reasons she does not fully understand.  Long silenced by her controlling husband, it’s the first time Anna’s opinions matter.

Anna is already facing change as she grieves her mother’s recent death.  As she sorts through Peggy’s belongings, Anna discovers a number of items that suggest her mother’s life in Germany was far different from the one Anna knew.  At the center of this curiosity is a portrait of Eva, a post-war prize acquired by her father that has been hanging on their wall for as long as Anna can remember.

In the midst of her research, a sudden turn forces Anna to face her life in a new way.  Her discoveries about Peggy and Eva set her on a journey towards renewed strength and self-worth and show her the true meaning of family, love and going home.

Ring successfully tackles a tricky subject by suggesting a sympathetic understanding of Eva, who is often portrayed in history books as selfish and uncaring.  By drawing parallels between the three women, their shared feelings of loneliness and despair, the author offers a possible explanation for Eva’s choice to love one of the most despised men in history.  As Peggy tells her good friend Eva, “I may never understand your being with him.  But I can well understand why someone would want you near.”

In addition to these parallels, Ring shows how German citizens were forced to endure Hitler’s reign.  Many bravely joined the Resistance and others risked their lives by protecting the resisters.  Her story shows the human element that exists on all sides during wartime and the hardships all people must endure.

The Munich Girl is an excellent story with unique ideas, layers and themes.  And while Anna’s journey reaches a satisfying finish, Ring leaves the reader with much to consider.

Click here to read “Some historical background and a preview of The Munich Girl by Phyllis Edgerly Ring”

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Who’s That Indie Author? Phyllis Edgerly Ring

Who's That Indie Author pic

Phyllis Ring

Author name: Phyllis Edgerly Ring

Genre: Historical fiction, romantic suspense, inspirational nonfiction.

Book: Newest release is The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies that Outlast War.

The Munich Girl

Bio: My palm’s lifeline accurately predicted a lot of different facets to my work life. I’ve experienced them with people of all ages in Asia, Europe, and the U.S., but through it all, I’ve also always been a writer. For years I did the writing that others needed or wanted done. I’m grateful to have lasted long enough to finally do what my heart wants: get lost with a few mysterious questions in the shaping of book-length fiction.

Favorite thing about being a writer: Believe it or not, revision. I love to ride the successive waves of it until it’s shown me what I’m meant to discover and then things come whole at last. These things I like about writing are, more or less, what I like about living, too.

Biggest challenge as an indie author: Finding creative ways to make a book discoverable without alienating loved ones or annoying anyone. J After being published by trade publishers, then going it alone, I’ve learned that it is appreciative readers, more than any other factor, that can best help potential readers find a book, and understand why they’d want to read it.

Favorite book: Currently it’s Liz Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. The book’s premise is, and has long been, my personal operating system in life.

Contact Information: You can find Phyllis at her website, Leaf of the Tree, on Twitter: @phyllisring, on her Amazon Author Page, and on her Goodreads Author Page.


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What’s up next? A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

A God in Ruins cover

I have been on the waitlist to borrow A God in Ruins from the library for months and yesterday, my name came up! I can’t wait to get started!

A God in Ruins is a companion book to Life After Life, a great story in which Atkinson explores the “what if” possibilities of her characters’ lives.

Here’s what I had to say about Life After Life in my December 2, 2013 review:

This is one of the best books I’ve ever read.  It is a complicated story that begins with both the birth and death of Ursula Todd and moves in different directions as Ursula’s life is saved or rewritten, leaving the reader to wonder whether we are seeing how fate could have taken different turns or if Ursula herself is somehow able to rewind tragedies and try to get them right the next time.

Set in England and beginning in 1910, this story spans both World Wars, but focuses on the period during World War II and the heavy toll it took on Europe. Ursula’s different life paths place her at the center of the German bombings in London for much of the book.  In a separate turn of life, she spends time in Germany and twice almost manages to rewrite Adolf Hitler’s fate.

To say I loved Life After Life can never fully express how I feel about that book. You can read my full review of it here.

Here is Amazon’s description of A God in Ruins:

A God in Ruins tells the dramatic story of the 20th Century through Ursula’s beloved younger brother Teddy–would-be poet, heroic pilot, husband, father, and grandfather-as he navigates the perils and progress of a rapidly changing world. After all that Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge is living in a future he never expected to have.

An ingenious and moving exploration of one ordinary man’s path through extraordinary times, A GOD IN RUINS proves once again that Kate Atkinson is one of the finest novelists of our age.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Have you read Life After Life? What about A God in Ruins? Leave a comment and tell me what you think!

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All the Light We Cannot See – favorite parts

all the light we cannot see

I’m still thinking about All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr! That’s always a sign of a great book. Here are some of my favorite things, with only small spoilers:

First of all, can’t you just imagine a story taking place in this ancient walled city?

stmalo1

GREAT IMAGERY

There are so many examples. Here are just a few:

  • Doerr uses great imagery to make you understand how the characters feel about the war and the German occupation of France. Early on, Marie-Laure thinks she can smell gasoline under the wind, “As if a great river of machinery is steaming slowly, irrevocably, toward her.” (p. 61)
  • And Doerr compares the machinery in the distance to Hitler, as Frau Elena sits in the orphanage parlor and worries, “Coal cars grind past in the wet dark. Machinery hums in the distance, pistols throbbing, belts turning. Smoothly. Madly.” (p. 65)
  • Marie-Laure thinks about the bombing of Saint-Malo as if a big tree is being uprooted: “The notion occurs to her that the ground beneath Saint-Malo has been knitted together all along by the root structure of an immense tree, located at the center of the city, in a square no one ever walked her to, and the massive tree has been uprooted by the hand of God and the granite is coming with it, heaps and clumps and clods of stones pulling away as the trunk comes up, followed by the fat tendrils of roots – the root structure like another tree turned upside down and shoved into the soil..” (pp. 95-6)

GREAT CHARACTERS

Here are my favorites:

  • Marie-Laure because of her courage.
  • Papa and his love for Marie-Laure.  I love his puzzle boxes and the miniature neighborhoods he builds to help her learn her way around.
  • Werner despite his moral conflicts, because of what he does at the end and how he realizes that this is his moment, “All your life you wait, and then it finally comes, and are you ready?” (p. 465)
  • Madame Manec because of what she says to Etienne: “Don’t you want to be alive before you die?” (p. 270) I love how this idea becomes an important recurring theme.
  • Etienne because of how he transforms. When he acts, “he feels unshakable; he feels alive.” (p. 331)
  • Volkheimer because he has both good and bad sides. As Doerr develops this character, he introduces another great recurring theme, “What you could be.” (p. 251)
  • Frederick because of his courage to follow his own moral compass at Shulpforta.

THEMES

Courage, love, defiance, overcoming the belief that we are all locked into unchangeable roles.

UNIQUE STRUCTURE

  • Connections between characters and events that are not immediately apparent but are revealed later.
  • Characters that disappear from the storyline after you start caring about them, forcing you to wonder how they are doing and what they are thinking. Not everyone likes this, but I think Doerr does it deliberately to make you think.
  • Jumping back and forth between storylines and time periods. Some readers have complained about this. I think it forces you to think about what’s happening.
  • References to light and the moon throughout the book, but no exact repetition of the title in the text. A late reference ties it all together.
  • The mix of fairy-tale legends with wartime reality.

MISCELLANEOUS COMMENTS

  • Not everyone appreciates parallel references to books within a book’s story. Marie-Laure’s favorite book is Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne, and there are many references. I never read this one, but my general knowledge of Captain Nemo and the Nautilus was enough to make it work.
  • Because this story takes place during World War 2, some readers think there aren’t enough references to the Holocaust and the major events of the war. I think All the Light We Cannot See is more a story about characters doing great things during a terrible period of history, and that Doerr purposely focuses on the characters, not all the events of the war, which figure prominently in many other historical fiction books.
  • Some readers do not like Sergeant Major Reinhold von Rumpel’s villainous character, saying it does not fit with the rest of the book. I think it’s a necessary device to incorporate the Sea of Flames diamond plot into the storyline, but I agree with some of the comments.
  • Not everyone likes how the author ties up the story.  You’ll have to read it to understand what I mean.  I think the final chapters are necessary, and I always like when an author leaves a few loose ends for me to think about.
  • I especially love the indirect reference to The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis. Can’t say more because it will spoil the story!

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Reading update – All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

all the light we cannot see

I’m busy reading All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr and I already know that this will become one of my favorite books. I’m about 100 pages in and, when I have to put it down, all I can think about is the characters Doerr has created, what they will do and what will happen to them.

To show you what I mean, here are a few lines that make me want to keep reading:

In another half second her father’s hands are in her armpits, swinging her up, and Marie-Laure smiles, and he laughs a pure, contagious laugh, one she will try to remember all her life, father and daughter turning in circles on the sidewalk in front of their apartment house, laughing together while snow sifts through the branches above. (p. 41)

And yet everything radiates tension, as if the city has been built upon the skin of a balloon and someone is inflating it toward the breaking point. (p. 70)

In her coat against the black trees, her face looks paler and more frightened than he has ever seen it. Has he ever asked so much of her? (p. 108)

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What’s up next? All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

all the light we cannot seeAll the Light We Cannot See
by
Anthony Doerr

I’m very excited to begin reading All the Light We Cannot See. I have been on the library’s waiting list for six months and I finally made it to the top!

In case you missed last week’s Pulitzer Prize announcements, Doerr’s book won this major prize for fiction. To see all the winners and some interesting facts about the award and about Joseph Pulitzer, check out my April 21 blog post, “2015 Pulitzer Prize winners announced.”

Here’s a nice preview of the book from Amazon:

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors” (San Francisco Chronicle) are dazzling. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, he illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, a National Book Award finalist, All the Light We Cannot See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer “whose sentences never fail to thrill” (Los Angeles Times).`

Click on this link to see what Doerr thinks about winning the 2015 Pulitzer Prize.

And be sure to visit Anthony Doerr’s website and his biography page:

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Night by Elie Wiesel

 Night

Night
by
Elie Wiesel

Rating:

I had read other books about the Holocaust, but never Night, Elie Wiesel’s memoir about being sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland during World War II. The New York Times calls it “a slim volume of terrifying power” and I couldn’t agree more.

In 1944, Wiesel was deported by the Germans from his town of Sighet, Transylvania and sent by cattle train to Auschwitz and later Buchenwald. He was just a teenager. His account of this experience is a horrifying reminder of a terrible period of history. When the first of many “selections” began, Elie and his father were separated from his mother and sister. Being put in the wrong group meant certain death, but those who were chosen to work suffered brutal physical conditions and vicious psychological terror.

Wiesel’s account also details his questions of faith. When his father whispered prayers, Wiesel could not. He writes, “Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust.” He also explains how desperate and selfish thoughts ran through his mind and how he felt burdened by guilt over these feelings. He and his father, separated at times, still held onto and drew strength from each other. But as his father weakened, Wiesel felt an agonizing conflict between love, duty and survival.

After a brutal death march to Buchenwald, in horrible winter conditions, Wiesel and his father were exhausted and nearly-starved. As his father grew weaker, Wiesel tried desperately to keep him alive. His father endured dysentery and exhaustion, but he succumbed to beatings by SS guards. Just a few weeks later, Wiesel was freed by the Americans.  He was sixteen years old.

Night was first published in English in 1960, but earlier versions were published in Yiddish and French. His single goal in writing Night was to remind the world that such a terrible history should never repeat itself. He later said, “I decided to devote my life to telling the story because I felt that having survived I owe something to the dead, and anyone who does not remember betrays them again.”

Wiesel lived in France after World War II and eventually moved to America. He has received many awards for his work, including the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize. He is Andrew Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University and founding chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council.

Thank you to the following sources:

The My Hero Project – Celebrate the best of humanity.
Brainy Quote
Front and back cover of the above Night publication
Wikipedia articles on Elie Wiesel and Night.

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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

the book thief picThe Book Thief
by
Markus Zusak

Rating:

I’m in that strange period of time right now, having just finished The Book Thief, feeling both exhausted and hopeful.  I feel just like the soul collector who, after rescuing Liesel Meminger’s story, wants to know “how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.”

The Book Thief is a truly original and moving story of a young Liesel Meminger, whose mother, at the outset of World War II, gives up her daughter to a foster family outside Munich, Germany.  Stunned, Liesel suffers this loss and slowly, in the smallest of steps, rises to periods of love and happiness, through a foster love that is initially unrecognizable, but deep, through her neighbor friend Rudy Steiner, through words and books, and through a painfully happy connection with Max Vandenburg, a German Jew who is hiding in her family’s basement.

It’s the relationships in this story that give you hope.  It’s how they build and become something you know is stronger than the hatred and the loss.  These are the things that help you make sense of a time when one man used words to almost destroy an entire population of innocent people.

I don’t know what to say that properly presents The Book Thief to you.  If you’re a high school student and this book is on your reading list, pick it, even if the title doesn’t grab you.  If you are like me and are just getting to this book, nearly nine years since it was published, read it before the others on your stack.  If you are tempted to see the movie first, read the book first.  I have not seen the movie yet, but the books are always better first.  We all know that.

I will tell you what I like so much about The Book Thief, besides the way the author has made me feel both so happy and sad at the very same time.

1)   The relationship between Liesel and Hans Hubermann is like no other.

2)   The relationship between Liesel and Max Vandenburg is like no other.

3)   The relationship between Liesel and Rudy Steiner is like no other.

You get the idea.

This book is like no other.

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Four Perfect Pebbles – A Holocaust Story by Lila Perl and Marion Blumenthal Lazan

four perfect peb pic

Four Perfect Pebbles – A Holocaust Story
by
Lila Perl and Marion Blumenthal Lazan

Rating:

This is the chronicle of one family’s survival during the Holocaust. Marion Blumenthal Lazan tells the story of how she and her mother, father and brother tried to flee Germany during Hitler’s regime. They ultimately were taken to the Berger-Belsen concentration camp where they endured deplorable conditions of death, disease and starvation. Their ordeal lasted six and a half years.

This story is such an important one to tell. It shows the strength and determination of the Blumenthals and how they clung to each other to survive during a time of horrible acts. And it shows how they made their own happiness and rebuilt their own lives in the United States after the war. Today, Lazan continues to share her experience by speaking at schools around the country.

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