Posts Tagged With: nonfiction

Book Review: A Woman in Berlin – 5 of 5

A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City: A Diary by Anonymous

berlin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book. Just wow. I don’t know what it is about WWII stories, but I love them, and this one is no exception. There are so many things that make this a must-read. It’s a side that we don’t always see when it comes to WWII literature – this diary takes place in Berlin, from the perspective of a German woman, as the Russians come in. It’s only been in recent years that we’ve really started to hear about the horrible things that happened in Germany, to Germans, because of the war. This gives the reader just one horrifying glimpse.

This book is by anonymous. This woman was having a hard time dealing with what she knew would be her fate and started to write it all down. She was some kind of journalist, or in publishing, before and must have found writing comforting. She chronicled her life as the Russian victors came in and took what they wanted – namely the beds of every female. It’s a story about survival. She chose one path to stay alive and she made note of the paths others took. She wrote about what went right and what went wrong, she wrote about being hungry, about not having light, about not being safe, about where life might go. This diary feels like it was written from the soul and it’s amazing that we can all now read it.

It’s not just about the occurrences of the days. It about some of the fascinating things she mentions. She hypothesizes on why the invaders rape, why they choose who they do, why they have to be drunk, how the community reacts to the rapes, how the ration cards can still be so organized – any number of things. She talks about grander ideas of war and masculinity –

“These days I keep noticing how my feelings toward men – and the feelings of all the other women – are changing. We feel sorry for them; they seem so miserable and powerless. The weaker sex. Deep down we women are experiencing a kind of collective disappointment… Among the many defeats at the end of this war is the defeat of the male sex.”

It’s just such a great, short, chronicle of a horrible time in history. Highly recommend for everyone, but especially anyone who is fascinated with WWII.

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Book Review: How Not To Write A Novel by Howard Middlemark

How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them–A Misstep-by-Misstep Guide by Howard Mittelmark

notwrite
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book, a book about writing, had me laughing aloud on the commuter train. Yup, I was that person going to crazy-town, the kind of person you aren’t sure you want to sit next to (though, I’m starting to realize that can be a good thing for others to think… it can mean a seat all to myself!) Back on subject now – this is a gem of comedy. At one point there is a quiz to help you identify just how stereotypical your characters are and there’s a part about “grandma” and, well, I don’t want to spoil it. Just trust it’s good. Comedy in of itself is a good reason for this book to be part of your life. Add that to the fact that it gives some lovely advice and you have a truly excellent piece of work.

This is a quick read. It’s laid out in a number of quirky little essays that give you a blunder (which, occasionally, made me cringe as I remembered these mistakes being my own) and then tell you just why this is a problem and why you should do to avoid it. Usually the advice was just not to do it. If the solution wasn’t that simple then it gave a couple more examples, all remaining tongue in cheek. It’s a brilliant and easy to read book that is a good reminder of some novel best practices.

Still, this didn’t quite earn top marks just because I hold writing books to a high standard. I want the book to be hard to get through because I’m constantly setting it down to fix something or compose something new. While this book did get me to jot down a couple notes to improve my current work, it didn’t draw me away enough. In fact, to a certain extend, the book was a distraction because it was so darn funny.

What a paradox! It’s a strange thing to downgrade a book for, but there it is. I think all kinds of people, even the casual writer, will benefit from the easy suggestions of the book. More importantly, everyone can value a good chuckle on the train, even my slightly weirded out seat-mate.

Categories: Pick Ups, Uncategorized, Weekly Review, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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