Review: “The Night Watch” by Sarah Waters

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For some reason this book has been on my To-Be-Read list for 5 years (according to the trusty source that is Goodreads). I can’t even remember why I put it on my TBR list to begin with, since it’s more or less a romance novel set in England during World War 2.

I’ve tried to stay away from novels about World War 2 because it’s just too close for my likingMy grandparents were both from different sides of England and were serving respectively in the ATS and Royal Navy when they met and fell in love during World War 2. They just happened to be at the same pub in Liverpool (again, not where either of them were from) and the rest, as they say, is history. So growing up I had always heard things about World War 2 and as a reflex, my eyes would start rolling out of my head.

Now that I’m older and a lot more aware about the pretty shitty things going on in the world, I’ve begun to appreciate just how much the War meant to my grandparents and their generation. Now it makes perfect sense to me that they would constantly bring it up. It was a pretty big deal and “The Night Watch” really gave me a sense of the fear and uncertainty of that time.

I think that my recent trip to the UK (my second one ever) has also renewed my interest in the War. I spent a lot of time walking the streets randomly, just observing the different styles of architecture, and noticed how there were big scars running through sections of the city. I don’t mean that any part of London that I saw was ugly. I just noticed the bits where bombs had clearly dropped and new buildings were built or old buildings were repaired but not quite blended in with the original structure. For an architecture AND archaeological nerd like myself, I found it a great way to immerse myself in the city’s history.

Back to “The Night Watch”… I was actually quite surprised at the homosexual element of the story. I don’t actively look for novels with lesbians as the central characters and I guess it just surprised me because I’m so biased towards World War 2 novels set in England to begin with. When I think “English wartime novels”, I think of very stereotyped gender roles with perhaps some feminist undertones peeking through (but of course nothing to wild because, you know, they’re English) .Quite frankly, I assumed this would be a novel my grandmother would happily sit down and read on a Sunday afternoon… but I’m not too sure I would give this one to her. She may have a heart attack *touch wood*.

I’m glad I was surprised by this novel though. It’s probably the reason why I kept reading it. The only drawback about it was the structure. I didn’t quite understand why the 3 separate parts were in reverse chronological order and I really think the last bit could have been chopped out altogether. Also, I found myself skimming the parts relating to the only central male character named Duncan. I just didn’t find myself caring enough about him.

So Reader, have there been any novels you have found yourself really surprised by recently? Do you have certain topics/periods in history you just can’t bring yourself to read about? Let me know in the comments!

I hope this week has treated you well.

A x

 

 

Review: Surviving the Angel of Death: The Story of a Mengele Twin in Auschwitz by Eva Mozes Kor

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From Goodreads:

Eva Mozes Kor was 10 years old when she arrived in Auschwitz. While her parents and two older sisters were taken to the gas chambers, she and her twin, Miriam, were herded into the care of the man known as the Angel of Death, Dr. Josef Mengele. Mengele’s twins were granted the privileges of keeping their own clothes and hair, but they were also subjected to sadistic medical experiments and forced to fight daily for their own survival, as most of the twins died as a result of the experiements or from the disease and hunger pervasive in the camp. In a narrative told with emotion and restraint, readers will learn of a child’s endurance and survival in the face of truly extraordinary evil. The book also includes an epilogue on Eva’s recovery from this experience and her remarkable decision to publicly forgive the Nazis. Through her museum and her lectures, she has dedicated her life to giving testimony on the Holocaust, providing a message of hope for people who have suffered, and working toward goals of forgiveness, peace, and the elimination of hatred and prejudice in the world.

Out of all of the anecdotes to come out of World War II, this one about a Jewish twin in Auschwitz being used for Dr Mengele’s human experiments is probably one of the most heartbreaking. This story was quite short and straight to the point. It’s a bare bones account of what happened to 10 year old Eva and her sister. I read this book in about an hour, but I did feel like I needed more from the story.

It’s really amazing to think that Eva can now forgive those that had imprisoned her all of those years ago, but considering how bleak her story is, she doesn’t leave the reader in a totally depressed state. The story is just one example of how even in the bleakest, most desperate situations, the human mind and body are very much connected and can survive an incredible amount and that children are incredibly resilient.

You can buy the book here.