The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank, by Willy Lindwer

This book was on my tbr for over a decade… I know! I bought it when I was around 12 years old and went on a school trip to the Netherlands and visited Anne Franks House, I’ve always been a bookworm so of course, I picked it up. However, I felt intimidated and honestly kind of scared by this intense topic. We had read Anne Frank’s diary in class, but reading this by myself felt like a task I couldn’t do just yet. So I left it, at the back of my bookshelves, for a decade. Then we come to me being more active within the online book community, the Bookternet as I hear Jessiethereader call it on YouTube (I love that phrase so much!), and I was actively going through and checking out all of the books I had on my tbr shelves (to be read). I found this one again, and now, age 21, I felt like I could tackle this concept so I picked it up. Now, this isn’t to say that you have to be a certain age to read this book, this was just my own personal experience (and the blurb made it look kinda scary, truth be told).

So, onto the book. As the front cover says, we follow the stories of 6 women who interacted with Anne in her last few months alive. What I didn’t realise from the outside of the book alone is that this is the work compiled for a documentary and that there was so much more gathered about the individual women in the research progress of this. They couldn’t use it at the time as the documentary focused on Anne alone, but Willy Lindwer couldn’t just let these stories sit untold when these women had something to say. And that is how this book came into being.

These stories range from deep and emotional, to factual and informative, with all the women having a variety of experiences within the different concentration camps used by the Nazis. These women all survived the Holocaust, and they tell the stories of both themselves and those who could not make it through. It is a very touching read and definitely made me appreciative of everything I have in my life, as well as worried about the current state of politics and racism. We cannot have a repeat of these events, and maybe, just maybe, more people being educated about what happened when the Nazi’s decided that their way was the only way can help to prevent a similar occurrence in the future.

The Girl in the Blue Coat – a review

Yet another WWII book, nobody who follows me is surprised. But let’s be real I’m not going to stop, so let’s get into my review.

I listened to this book, as an audiobook, thanks to my libraries online app. Although this let me read the book when I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to due to time constraints, I feel like it also distanced me from the characters and what happens to them. This could be Monica Hesse’s writing style, but it seems to happen more frequently to me with audiobooks so I’ll have to read a physical copy of this book in order to find out. This distancing meant that I wasn’t massively impacted by the events as they happen to the characters, however, this doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the book. I gave it 4/5*s! I just didn’t cry at any of the plot twists, which is why it didn’t hit the 5* mark.

We follow Hanneke as she is working within the black market during WWII in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. We see her making deliveries during the day, hiding what she does from her parents at night, and morning her boyfriend Bass in every moment as he was killed on the Dutch front lines. During a standard delivery, one of the women wants help from Hanneke, it turns out that she wants her to try and find a Jewish teenager that she was hiding in a secret room. She has vanished and the woman is incredibly concerned for her safety. Eventually Hanneke is convinced into helping find her, and the web of the Dutch resistance closes in around her and opens her eyes to the horrors of the Nazis.

I really enjoyed watching the various characters develop, come to trust each other and work to help those worse off than them. This is also, unless I am remembering incorrectly, the first WWII book I have read which was set in the Netherlands and followed Dutch characters. It was very interesting to me to see how this country was impacted by the Nazis regime and how the Dutch people resisted in little and large ways.

This is a beautifully written book and personally I think it is a very important topic. Books set in WWII, in all different areas, all have something that can be taken away from them and applied to the modern day. This book tells us that we should help those who are being treated inhumanely, and to use our privilege to help as many people as we can. Don’t let horrendous acts happen under your nose in your own country, and not take action against them. Even if no one else knows that you’re doing it.

I definitely recommend this book and I aim to try out anything else Monica Hesse releases.

Tattooist of Auschwitz will break your heart

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This book was absolutely amazing and left me in tears once I finished it. The narrative follows Lale, a holocaust survivor and his time in the clutches of the Nazi’s, and this book is based on a real-life story from the author’s chats with Lale Sokolov and his son. We see his arrival at Auschwitz and how he managed to get into his position through a mixture of luck and work. As he settles in as best as he can in the life he is left with, we are shown him meeting a woman who he decides he justs has to talk to, even though there is a risk of death. We see him attempt to avoid trouble, whilst helping out those around him and attempting to give the kids living in his block some semblance of a normal childhood. There are some shocking moments, ones which will make you feel grateful to be alive and free and living in relative luxury, but thankfully there are also moments where hate is overturned and we get to see some beautifully happy moments come out of atrocious conditions.

Once I finished this book I cried for a good 20 minutes, full on sobbing, because this book is so powerful. It is written beautifully and gives such an insight into the world that was created to dehumanise people, and yet still there was hope throughout that may have been suffocated at times but always managed to keep breathing. This is definitely a must read and I need to get this book in a physical format so that I can read it again. Absolutely amazing and something I will recommend to everyone I know.

Thank you so much to NetGalley for a free eCopy of this book in return for an unbiased review.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, breaking my heart one page at a time

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I had been avoiding reading this book for the longest time. I was made to watch the film adaptation when I was in year 8 and despite being a self-professed lover of all literature WWII based and was too scared to bring myself to pick the book up because the movie scarred me too much. But finally, as a 21-year-old, I picked it up! Reading this as an “adult” definitely changed my perspective compared to how I would have reacted if I was younger. One part of this is due to me sadly having been exposed to more violent acts, both by the Nazis in WWII and in general fiction (both written and cinematic) and in real life, but it is also due to me being able to more fully understand what is going to happen and what Bruno is experiencing, even when he doesn’t know himself.

The most unique aspect of this book has to be that it is told through the eyes of a nine-year-old. This viewpoint means that, as an adult, I am very aware of what Bruno does not understand and of how those around him are reacting to the situation they have found themselves in. This really impacts how we experience his move from Berlin to “Out-With” (Auschwitz) and the people in pyjamas he can see from his bedroom window whom he desperately wants to meet. The innocence of the protagonist completely offsets the horrors which are being carried out in the background, which is a very odd position to be in as a reader as you know of the events which Bruno is blind to but are instead engrossed in the tale of Bruno’s life.

This is a book that I think everybody should read at some point in their life, it emphasises that everybody is essentially the same no matter what labels we assign to ourselves and others. The opposite of what the Nazis stood for and a very important message.

Ghosts of Marvel? Will this be unique?

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This comic was not what I had expected from the cover, although seeing as this is only volume 1 it may develop into what I expected in the future. I’ll definitely be finding out as I am 100% continuing with this series! Jeremy Corbin’s (the direct contrast between this character and Jeremy Corbin the MP in Britain makes me laugh!) life is suddenly turned upside down when he is told that his father has passed away, and what he had believed was his fathers’ life story is shown to be false. Suddenly he is involved with the CIA, Nazis and his life is in almost constant danger. I’m liking the mixture of the current day and the past, with WWII being my favourite time in history to learn about. There is a Steve Rodgers aspect to this, very much getting a little bit of Hydra feels, but not in a bad way. I’m enjoying the plotline and looking forward to seeing how it develops in the future, really hoping that it will be a unique storyline which will just make this comic series so much better. Fingers crossed! Thanks to NetGalley for an eCopy of this comic in return for an honest review.

Second Generation, the story of a concentration camp survivor’s son

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Firstly, I’d like to say thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eCopy of this graphic novel in return for an unbiased review. This graphic novel based around the Jewish persecution in WWII is a little different from other novels on the subject, not only is the art within drawn in a more humorous manner than usual, but the perspective is from that of the victim’s son. Second Generation tells the story of how Jews who suffered at the hands of the Nazis had an impact on their family around them once the nightmare of the concentration camps was far in their past.

It was so interesting to read how Michel interpreted his fathers’ experiences and how he felt alienated from his father due to his decision to withhold and disclose certain varying aspects of his life history, depending on the situation and the timing. It also affected what he and his siblings felt they could do in their childhoods, so not to affect their father. He mentions that he feels like he never had the chance to experience teenage angst because his fathers’ opportunity was taken by the Nazis, and despite this being a small issue it really impacts an individuals childhood experience and how their personalities are shaped. There was, for someone who has no family history of being affected by the Nazis, a surprising amount of impact passed down the generations to those who weren’t even born when the Nazis were in power. This was very sad but very interesting to learn about.

I really enjoyed this graphic novel, and although I am biased as I have a fascination with anything based around WWII I genuinely think this will be a book enjoyed by a large number of people and one that should be promoted more. A five star read for me.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28807863-second-generation—the-things-i-didn-t-tell-my-father