Enigmatic. I went back and forth between thinking the three short stories were too simple, too typical, not completely unique recountings of Jewish suffering in the Holocaust and Pogroms and Russian Revolution and being totally captivated.
Very engaging history of Israel war for independence. I read it in 2001 before I was keeping this book blog.
It was surprisingly bad. I learned a fair amount about the Nuremberg trials after WWII, but was shocked by how trivial the plot was and how uninspiring the writing was. I expected more.
This short collection of short stories is a wonderful piece of honey cake with a glass of tea. A Jewish Russian immigrant to Toronto describes the transition he makes with his parents and uncle and aunt as they climb from helpless newcomers to weary acceptance of life in the new world, without ever losing the cultural imprinting that Russia plants within its citizenry. The book is full of smiles of recognition, truthful while remaining fictional–but who knows where autobiography is replaced by a little relish — and I think quite accessible even to people who neither know Russians or Jews. In fact, it’s probably a wonderful introduction to both. The book is short, the stories chronological, the characters continue to grow from one to the next, yet it’s not quite a novel with contiguous chapters. July 2005.
One of my absolute favorite books about the Warsaw ghetto uprising. A real page turner with wonderful characterizations.
Not great writing, but very informative about the checkpoints in Middle East before the Second Intifada made them even worse.
Nearly sixty years after the author’s great-uncle, wife, and four daughters disappeared in the Holocaust, the author searches for their memories. Beginning with his grandfather’s (his great-uncle’s brother) stories, some letters and finally to several of the 48 survivors of the 6,000 Jews of his great-uncle’s Ukrainian-Polish town, Daniel Mendolsohn exquisitely crafts one of the most memorable, humanizing, personal and universal searches for his roots. In so doing he asks all of us to pause and consider the memories and lives of senior generations who have led us to who we are today. One of the most expertly constructed and readable books I’ve read. July 2009.
A fluky book by on the of the world’s greatest Holocaust historians. Gilbert gathers dozens of newly uncovered personal histories of November 10, 1938 when more than a thousand German and Austrian synagogues were attacked and burned. The accounts of burned synagogues seem trivial compared to what we know follows. Moreover, the personal histories are all from survivors so their cumulative impact is to make it seem like escaping the Holocaust was not so hard. At first the personal stories seem randomly distributed through the text, but as the stories intermingle with the sound of country doors slamming shut to Jews trying to escape Germany and the war and extermination machines power up to full throttle this highly readable, short book with a British perspective turns terrific. August 2006.
An assistant Reform Rabbi slowly loses touch with God while she falls in love with the son of a Holocaust survivor who slowly finds God while the two of them find one another. A nice portrait of the essential tenets of Reform Judaism that what matters most are your actions in life and how the adherence to ritual can help you maintain your religiosity even when – as all Jews do – you must wrestle with the utility of believing in God. The story and the characters seemed real, but the writing was a little stiff. I could put the book down whenever I wanted. December 2004.