Category Archives: Literature/Fiction

Book News-October 13, 2015

I have a few book-news related items to post about. Please read on, check out the links, and enjoy what you find!

Here they are in no particular order:

Congratulations to Marlon James for winning the Man Booker Prize!

The Sea Beach Line, by Ben Nadler, has finally been published!

Moment Magazine is accepting applications for its Short Fiction Contest.

Thirteen Ways of Looking, by Colum McCann, is out!

Read about Jewish Book Council’s “Raid the Shelves“!

Rachel Kushner has a thought-provoking interview/article-read it here.

One of my favorite quotes: A book is like a garden carried in the pocket. -Chinese Proverb

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Aharon Appelfeld’s Books

I am an avid reader of Aharon Appelfeld’s books. I find them to be a fascinating look into the mindsets of those who seem to have a naive sense of things to come, and/or things that are occurring around them.

Some of Aharon Appelfeld’s books that I have read are:

Badenheim 1939

Suddenly, Love: A Novel

The Story of a Life: A Memoir

Blooms of Darkness: A Novel

The Iron Tracks: A Novel

Tzili: The Story of a Life

All Whom I Have Loved: A Novel

Until the Dawn’s Light: A Novel

Laish: A Novel

Aharon Appelfeld brings the reader illuminating gems within his novels. His stories are told with magnificent prose and word-imagery.  The impact is not normally light and airy, but one that is often disturbing, and on the fringes of horrific events to come.  He has a point to make within the pages of his novels, and the concepts and depictions resound and echo through the heart of pain and extreme adversity.  He beckons the reader to ponder humanity and the human condition.

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Review: Missing Mom: A Novel

Joyce Carole Oates never ceases to amaze me, not only with her story lines, but the depth of the characters in her novels.  In her novel, Missing Mom , a tribute to her own mother, who is no longer living, Oates has gone one step beyond herself, and given us insight in a magnificently crafted novel.  I feel that this book must have been a catharsis, of sorts, for Oates, to help her through her devastating loss.  She most certainly must have helped others, dealing with the loss of a mother or a father.

Having lost my own mother 11/11/2004 (Veterans Day of all days), this story line captured my attention, and I could not put the book down until I had finished it, reading it straight through, overnight.  It was a sobering and compelling read, and filled with true-life situations.  This reader could feel the pain that emanated between the lines. I saw myself in several of the painful situations.

In the character of Nikki, I saw the reality of what denial can do to a person.  She had several dimensions, but most of them were superficial.  In the end, she became the person she feared she would become.  Realizing that she had become that person, she slowly adjusted to that facet of her being.  Oates illuminates the varied phases and emotional conflicts quite brilliantly.

Nikki’s mother was constantly in her life, although, no longer living (I can definitely empathize and relate to that aura).  From her clothes to the house decorations, to the entertaining of friends/family, we see she is her mother’s daughter, guilt-ridden, yet caring and loving, at the same time.  Loss has no barriers in the time continuum.

This reader felt Nikki’s loss, felt her denial, felt her pain, and watched her take baby steps in healing.  Even though she continued to heal and move forward, I understood that she would always be missing her mother. The void of loss would be a constant for Nikki, yet the will to find a sense of acceptance resonated quite vividly.

The bereavement process is a difficult time in a person’s life.  Joyce Carole oates has written a story line so poignant, heart-wrenching and a story extremely filled with the consumption of death and its after-effects and after-affects, in her novel, Missing Mom.

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Review: Waiting For Robert Capa

Waiting For Robert Capa: A novel, by Susana Fortes, is a book that held my interest from beginning until the end, not only because of the photojournalism aspect, but also due to the romantic interests, and the historical aspect.

Andre Friedmann, was a struggling photographer, living in Paris. He was a Hungarian exile.  He had an assignment to take pictures for publicity purposes for a life insurance company. Within that realm, he finds a woman named Ruth Cerf, and asks her to model for him.

Ruth was suspicious, and told him she was bringing a friend along.  Her name was Gerta Pohorylle.  From there, begins a story line that mingles fact with fiction, and encompasses a story of romance and photojournalism like you have never read before.

Andre and Gerta become known as a couple.  And, couple, they did (pun intended).  They were two young and brilliant individuals trying to maintain a relationship and garner assignments in Spain in order to document the war.  And, in order to do so, Gerta came up with the bright idea to change their names in order to gain recognition.

First she changes Andre’s name to Robert Capa, eliminating his Jewish surname.  She becomes his self-appointed “agent”. Eventually she changes her name to Gerda Taro.  She wanted to be independent, and be recognized for her own work, rather than her photographs be included in Robert’s work without a byline. She literally became the first female war photographer who involved herself in the midst of battle.  He became infamous in the world of photography for his extremely hardline images, leaving nothing to chance or to the imagination. To say they found themselves in unbelievable circumstances, is an understatement.

They were right there, within the action, each one, documenting war through photography, putting their lives at risk in order to capture the ravages and horrors of war.  Those efforts and circumstances changed the face of war photography forever.  From that point forward, war was seen by millions of individuals in ways that they never imagined.

His photographs depict tumultuous moments.  Robert’s photograph “Death of a Loyalist Militiaman“, became the poster child, so to speak, for the Spanish Civil War.  It is an incredible image, and one that depicts the moment of one man’s death, literally.  With one click of the camera, he captured death as it occurred.  He never lived that image down, due to speculation that it was staged.  He denied it, but there were the nonbelievers. It followed him for the rest of his life.

As a side note-I knew of Robert Capa’s war photography, especially his work regarding D-Day, and other images during that document World War II.  I knew of Gerda Taro.  But, I did not know about their relationship.

I won’t go any further with details, because the novel is too compelling and intense.  Suffice it to say, the love story is depicted with realism and deep intimate moments.  The war angle and photography moments are intensely written and portrayed. Susana Fortes is masterful at keeping the reader interested, and masterful in illuminating her word images.

I recommend Waiting For Robert Capa: A Novel, to everyone.  The historical information, alone, makes it more than an excellent read.  Combine that with the romantic story of two brilliant individuals whose work will live on, and keep their brilliance and efforts alive, and you have a book difficult to put down.

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To view some of the incredible photographs that were taken by Robert Capa, visit Magnum Photos. I was absorbed in all of them, but the ones from Italy 1943-1944 spoke to me, as my father was involved in the liberation of Italy. I was also amazed at the D-Day photographs, and remember seeing many of them while growing up, in various literary magazines and in newspapers.

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Review: The Invisible Bridge

If you want to read an incredible epic novel, one that is stunning in its presentation, then The Invisible Bridge, by Julie Orringer is a novel for you. The Invisible Bridge is a saga, and a difficult book to review, due to its epic quality and the fact it is well over 600 pages long. The haunting historical novel begins in 1937 and takes the reader through the end of World War II. The story is told through a unique perspective, that of a Hungarian Jew named Andras Levi.

Andras has gone to Paris to study architecture, where the opportunities are greater, leaving behind his family in Hungary. He has two brothers, Tibor and M, and they are very close. The familial bonds are extremely strong. While in Paris, Andras meets an older woman named Klara who is also a Hungarian Jew, with a teen-aged daughter. Her background is a bit mysterious and the reasons for her being in Paris are not immediately evident. An affair begins between the two of them, which eventually turns to love and romance.

Due to circumstances and the antisemitism prevalent against Jews in France, Andras is forced to return to Hungary. He is eventually conscripted into the work labor program. That is where the more horrendous part of The Invisible Bridge begins to transform itself into an historically intense story of wartime horror. Orringer leaves nothing to the imagination, and the word imagery is stunningly detailed. She includes every minute detail into The Invisible Bridge, and the reader’s senses are filled with the sights, sounds, scents, tastes and touches of daily life. Life in the work labor camps is depicted with depth and strong visuals. The adverse conditions (that is putting it mildly), and the atrocities are told so strongly that the reader feels as if this is a personal family memoir and saga, as opposed to being a novel.

As The Invisible Bridge progresses, the reader watches the relationship between Andras and Klara develop. The reader sees Andras growth as he turns into an emotionally mature man, not only thinking of himself, but of Klara and his family that he has left behind. He is willing to sacrifice his life, sacrifice anything for her safety and the safety of his family. And, Klara in return, is willing to do the same, always cognizant of the fact that Andras’ safety is in danger. Each partner is concerned with the other.

That is the beauty of The Invisible Bridge. Love transpires and evolves within the harshest of circumstances. Love flows from one event to the next, never diminishing, but growing stronger. As the hours and days move forward, Andras’ thoughts of Klara are what continue to give him the motivation to find a way to survive the horrendous nightmares set before him.

I became totally involved in the book and the characters who felt very real. I wanted to know more about them, and wanted to continue to learn more regarding their daily situations. There is so much more to The Invisible Bridge than what I have written, but to include more details would reveal too much of the story line. You need to read it for yourself, and inhale the depth of the saga.

Orringer has researched the events that transpired in Hungary during World War II to the utmost of standards, perfection and reality. The events, described so brilliantly, give the reader insight into the little known aspects of what transpired in Hungary during World War II. There isn’t much information on that subject. What we read, as far as the events and audacious circumstances, did occur. She did not white wash anything, yet she wrote magnificent details with beautiful and superlative prose.

Julie Orringer’s brilliant writing illuminates the pages with intensity and sensitivity. The reader can discern that her heart and soul were within the words, lines, paragraphs and pages of The Invisible Bridge. It is a beautifully written historical novel that pays tribute to not only the Hungarian Jews, but to familial ties and relationships. It is a metaphor for love and war, yearning and loss, strength and survival under the most adverse of conditions. I highly recommend this book to everyone.

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Review: Away: A Novel

Away is a novel of epic proportions, panoramic in its landscape and a saga covering two years in the life of Lillian Leyb. Leyb is a Russian immigrant, who has fled the pograms. Her parents and husband were murdered, and as far as she knows, her precious, toddler daughter, Sophie, has been murdered also. She has emigrated to New York City to start a new life, and is very determined to assimilate and reinvent herself.

We witness her go through many changes in her desire to weave her way through the tapestries of 1920s New York City.

Survival is at the foremost in her mind. When she thinks that she has found a niche, a place of comfort where she has the essentials such as food, shelter and clothing, her life takes a turn due to some news she has found out.

Lillian’s cousin emigrates and informs her that Lillian’s daughter, Sophie, is still alive. This sparks an intense desire and passion in Lillian to try to trek to Siberia, in order to find her daughter. Lillian goes to the extremes in order to do so, trekking through expanses of land that are not inhabited, in order to make her way to try to find her daughter. Along the way she meets people of varying status and mores.

This does not deter Lillian, for she is determined to find Sophie no matter what she has to do. It might sound insane, unattainable, and sound like a journey without a happy ending, but as far as Lillian is concerned, it is one she must make.

Away, by Amy Bloom, is a novel depicting the plight of the Russian immigrant. Bloom depicts the social mores, and the ways that immigrants assimilate in order to become part of the society and country they so strongly want to live in. Away has the protaganist reinventing herself to fit her environment, only to return to her true identity.

Bloom has given us a descriptive and clear painting of love and longing, passion and strength, assimilation and identity. Her characters are flawed, but that is to be expected, as in reality, none of us are perfect. And, for those who can’t understand Lillian’s fierce will and determination, they have missed a vital part of the novel. Most of us would go to the ends of the earth to find our child, if we were in the same situation that Lillian was in, no matter how absurd it might seem. Bloom understands this, and writes with eloquence, and gives us an emotionally breathtaking novel, filled with bits of humor and filled with heart-wrenching moments within the vast expanse and panorama of America.

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I have read a more recent book of Amy Bloom’s, entitled Lucky Us, and you can read my review of it, here.

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Books by Edna Ferber

I have read several books by Edna Ferber, recently. I have a couple more books of hers to read.

Her writing speaks to me on many levels, aside from the fact that she began writing in 1911-her first novel, Dawn O’Hara, the Girl Who Laughed.

It amazes me that a woman from that era could write in such a manner that her works are fitting for today’s readers. Her writings emphasize the plight of women in the world, women who initially might appear to be weak, but in actuality are extremely strong. It took a lot of courage for Ferber to deliver the impact of a woman’s place in the social spectrum, and a woman’s determination to succeed in a man’s world.

In the books I have read, I have seen great transformation of a strong woman, a woman of depth and determination to overcome all odds. Her main female characters are ever evolving, ever growing in self-esteem, and ever confident in her goals.

Often those goals override her inner creativity, surpassing the ideals of creative passion for the quest for monetary gain. Yet, that quest is often diminished upon the realization that life is for the living, and for the passions of the heart as far as creativity and enjoyment of one’s work endeavors.

Her women work hard, work for their family in order to survive, and put themselves selflessly on the back burner, so to speak. Events occur in which they eventually fulfill their inner dreams, often in a world where men rule supreme in business, etc. Social stigmas ran rampant. It isn’t much different today, in many respects. Women aren’t often afforded the same privileges as men in the working world.

So far I have read:

So Big (Edna Ferber won a Pulitzer Prize for it)
Fanny Herself
Buttered Side Down
Showboat (yes-the musical was based on this book)
Roast Beef Medium (I have about 30 more pages to go)

Edna Ferber’s books speak of time eras with illuminating depictions through word-imagery. From city life to country life, she leaves nothing untouched, nothing to the imagination. We see towns and cities through her knowing eyes.

I am looking forward to reading the other books I have downloaded.

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