Sunday, 9 December 2007

Two reviews

I seem to be getting into the habit of reading several books at once. This is very unlike me! I usually read one book religiously until it's finished and then move on to the next. I'm not sure why it's changed suddenly, other than I decided I needed a different bedtime read to the one I was reading during the day, a book about the rise of the Nazis. I prefer something a bit more cheerful to go to sleep on! So I've been reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes at bedtime and that's still ongoing and very enjoyable. In the meantime I've finished the Nazi book and also read Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Anyway, a little about both of those.



I found Defying Hitler by Sebastian Haffner in the library. (Why I need library books when I've hundreds of books of my own is one of those little mysteries which we won't go into here.) I immediately spotted it as *my* kind of book and so it proved to be.

The author was born somewhere around 1907 into a rather literary, 'thinking' German family. Age-wise this places him in the thick of some the most momentous years of German history and he charts the progress of WW1 carefully; how as a child was obsessed with battles and casualties and so on. Things begin to go wrong after the war. War reparations took their toll on the economy and population, a revolution followed and a man called Hitler gradually began to emerge as a force in German politics. The insidious manner in which Hitler's party took over the country is depicted in all its horror, especially in regard to the Jews as the author, although not Jewish himself, had a Jewish girlfriend and many Jewish friends. Many opinions are expressed about the personality of the average German, his susceptibility to brain washing and the fact that Germany was at a low ebb and Hitler took his chance. You sense the author's outrage and disgust at the goings on, how suddenly he was unable to speak freely to anyone because you never knew what their stance was on the political situation. You also sense his feelings of inadequacy that he is unable to do anything to halt the onslaught of barbarity, realising that his death in a concentration camp would be a futile gesture. His gradual realisation that he will have to leave Germany is heart breaking because it's clear he loves his country, his hatred is for what has happened to it.

The narrative finishes in 1934 just after his return from a Nazi camp that he has had to attend in order to be eligible to take his law exams. His son finishes the author's history, not because he dies - he lives to a ripe old age in fact - but really because Haffner stopped writing the book and shoved it away in a drawer. The son finds it after his death and thinks it worth publishing. Which it most certainly is. The slow decline of an entire country into fascism is a fascinating, if tragic, thing to read about. You wonder how it can happen and then realise from reading this book, just how easily it *can* happen. The author's opinion is that it couldn't happen in a lot of countries but I'm not so sure. Many Germans just sat back and hoped someone else would stop Hitler, they 'did nothing' in other words and we're all inclined to do that more than we like to admit. An excellent, informative read.



I spent yesterday recovering from a stomach bug so a gentle read was called for. I've been intending to read Laura Ingalls Wilder's 'Little House' books for a while. I never read them as a child but my daughters were huge fans, so much so the books they have are falling to pieces so I bought a new edition of Little House in the Big Woods.

I'm sure most people have read these and already know that this first book is all about Ma and Pa, Laura and Mary, and little baby Carrie who live in the forests of Wisconsin in the late (I think) 1800s. It charts a year of living, from winter right around to autumn, trials and tribulations - but also many good times.

I found this utterly charming and actually quite informative as to the way families lived and survived. Family was clearly hugely important, you relied entirely on your immediate relatives for your survival and more distant ones for things such as bringing in crops and entertainment. Human nature is here too. Laura is jealous of Mary because Mary is fair haired and pretty and people praise her and ignore Laura who has brown hair and feels herself not so pretty. Cousin Charley is spoilt in Pa's opinion because he's not made to help on the farm enough. The day they force him the boy makes a complete nuisance of himself on purpose. A delightful read which I'll be passing on to my grand-daughter as I know she'll love it. And I'll be reading the next one, Little House on the Prairie, soon.

9 comments:

Kay said...

Cath, hope you are feeling better soon. I hate stomach bugs.

I'm a big fan of the Little House books as well and I think they appeal to all ages. They are quite a slice of history at this period of time.

For a more adult look at somewhat the same time period, you might try "These is My Words" by Nancy Turner. It is a fictionized account of the author's grandmother's diaries I believe. I loved it.

Cath said...

Thanks, Kay, I'm feeling much better today.

I had a look at 'These is My Words' on Amazon and promptly ordered it from Amazon Marketplace. It sounds excellent given my interest in American pioneer history. Thanks for rec!

Tara said...

Sorry to hear about your tummy! Ugh.

I'm so glad to hear you've enjoyed the LIW book. I read them over and over as a child, though not as an adult. My daughter is not quite ready to sit still for them, though that shouldn't stop me from reading them. My mother in law reads The Long Winter every year, which I should probably do as well so I'm not feeling sorry for myself here in the cold.

Kay said...

Oh, I'm glad you ordered the book, Cath. She has writtend two sequels to it as well. I have them both but haven't read them. I'll get around to them at some point.

Cath said...

Tara: I have The Long Winter! It belonged to my daughters so is a bit worse for wear. I wonder if it would stand alone or whether I would need to read the three books in between first. Feb. is our coldest month here so I could probably get those read in the meantime and read that for February when it would feel appropriate.

Kay: Yes the book is on the way. I was also looking at a travel book by LIW called On the Way Home. Have you read that? I'm very tempted by it...

Kay said...

No, I have not read On the Way Home. I may have to one day start this series again and read it. On the Way Home sounds like maybe the ending book? You'll have to let me know.

Cath said...

As far as I can see, Kay, On the Way Home is not a Little House book, it's actually a non-fiction travel book Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about a trip she made from South Dakota to Missouri. And being a travel book junkie I am very tempted by it. It has to be pretty interesting surely?

Tara said...

Cath, I'm sure The Long Winter could stand on its own...though it wouldn't hurt to have read the others.

Kay said...

Cath, I now see that this is the ending of the journey, in nonfiction format I guess. Thanks for finding it.