Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

Archive for March 14th, 2015

The Lost Wife

Posted by nliakos on March 14, 2015

by Alyson Richman (Berkley Books, 2011; ISBN 978-0-425-24413-5)

The Lost Wife is the story of Jozef and Lenka, Czech Jews who fall in love and marry in the months before Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia. The book describes the descent into hell of the Czech Jews. Jozef and his family manage to flee the country, but Lenka refuses to leave her parents and younger sister; she is deported to Terezín and then to Auschwitz but ultimately survives because the Nazis want to use her skill as an artist. But Lenka, pregnant with Jozef’s child, believes that Jozef and his family all perished when their ship is torpedoed; while in New York, Jozef does not give up the hope that Lenka has somehow survived the Holocaust until he learns of her transfer to Auschwitz and probably demise in the gas chambers. Jozef eventually marries a fellow refugee and has two children, but memories of Lenka continue to haunt him. After the liberation of Auschwitz, Lenka marries an American soldier; they also have a child. Their children’s children eventually marry each other, and Jozef and Lenka, now in their eighties, meet again at the wedding. I am not spoiling anything for you; the book opens with this meeting and then flashes back to their separate stories.

Even though Jozef and Lenka are fictional characters, their story is the story of many innocent people going about their lives, until they couldn’t any more because of the Nazi evil (there is no other word for it). Several of the characters in the book really lived and died as described here, and Richman got the idea for her story when she heard about a chance meeting at a wedding of two real people who had been married before the war but thought they had lost each other, just like the protagonists in the story.

I cried a lot while reading this!

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How the García Girls Lost Their AccentsAlthough the bo

Posted by nliakos on March 14, 2015

by Julia Alvarez (original pub. by Algonquin Books, 1991; I read it on my phone, and I have no idea who published that)

This is essentially a book of short stories, all about four sisters (Carla, Sandi, Yolanda, and Sofia) from the Dominican Republic who immigrate to the United States with their parents to escape the Trujillo regime. At home in the Dominican Republic, they live lives of privilege, with numerous servants; in the U.S., they have to learn a new language and culture; they encounter the typical problems of immigrants, including prejudice. The book is divided into three sections: Part 3 concerns their life on the island prior to emigration (1956-1960); Part 2 focuses on their early post-immigrant lives in the U.S. (1960-1970); and in Part 1 they are grown up (1972-1989). As you can see, the book is arranged in reverse chronological order (like a blog?). Within each part, different stories are about different sisters; they are often narrated by the sisters themselves. Although the book is fictional, I suppose it is in some ways autobiographical, as the author’s life mirrors that of the García sisters in some ways. Though born in New York, she lived in the D.R. until the age of 10 and then returned to the U.S.

I enjoyed the stories, but reading an e-book is not my favorite thing. I feel like I am strapped into a car, speeding past different people and events, without the possibility to returning to where I have been to straighten things out in my mind. I know it’s possible to go back, but either it’s not convenient, or I haven’t figured out how to do it right; all I know is that when I am reading an e-book, I don’t go back, whereas when reading a regular book, I go back often to remind myself of details that have slipped my mind or that I didn’t pay enough attention to, not knowing I would need to remember them later.

Anyway, I enjoyed the book and was glad to have it when I was on the bus or in a waiting room without my book.

Advanced language learners, especially those from Caribbean or Hispanic countries, would probably enjoy this.

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