Tag Archives: Caroline Moorehead

Reading the old year out…

31st December 2011

And I must say, I’m not at all sad to see the back end of 2011. It was a very tumultuous year, and I am very happy to be ringing in a new year this evening with a mini-readathon cooked up by two other bloggers (Becky and Tasha) and myself. There will be champagne, so in the infinite wisdom and singing voice of Bing Crosby, let’s start the new year right.

But. Before we get to that, I wanted to do a year end post. As of midnight on December 30, I have read 121 books. Of these, 46 were written by men and 75 written by women (wow!); 109 fiction and 12 nonfiction. This year I read 9 audiobooks, and considering I read none last year, that’s quite a jump. Also, just so you can see my habits, 42 of these books came from the publisher/author/publicist, but I bought 52 and checked out 26 from the library, a pretty decent statistic. Now down to brass tacks….

Least favorite books of the year: Let’s just get this one out of the way. I only really disliked two books this year, and if you’ve been around for a bit, you can probably guess the first one: The Magicians by Lev Grossman. The other I just finished this morning: Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me by Ian Morgan Cron. I’ll put up a review next week with details. Suffice it to say, memoirs are tricky.

Best New-to-Me Series: Well, obviously I love the Patricia Wentworth Miss Silver books, but seeing as they were written in the last century, I won’t call them new. If you’re looking for a vintage mystery, give these a go. Also consider joining me for Miss Silver Saturdays through 2012.

Best New Series: I just finished Discovery of Witches and am pretty much in love with it. I can’t wait for the next one. Many compare it to Twilight, but for me, it was much more reminiscent of the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. I loved it!

Funniest Book: Hands down, Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman. In fact, this is a book that I plan to re-read soon, I liked it that much. Definitely keep an eye out for debut author Matt Norman.

Best Dark Comedy: Funny Man by John Warner. I’m really surprised this book hasn’t gotten more attention, as I think it’s pretty genius in a lot of ways. I’m really eager to see what else Warner writes.

Book that Made Me Think Rainbow Rowell stole my life and wrote about it: Attachments. Runner up for funniest book of the year, it was just so perfectly me. Sadly, many other bloggers have said the same thing, so obviously I ain’t anything special. Distinctive? Pshaw.

Book That Seriously Creeped Me Out and Blew My Mind: The Magus by John Fowles. Review next week, and boy howdy, what a book. Thanks so much to Sean at Read Heavily for the gift.

Best Middle Grade Book: Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier. Absolute fun and super smart. Reminds me of books written when I was young.

Book that Made Me Cry: Thankfully there were only two of these this year (one sparked this post about crying in reading). The other is A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead. This is nonfiction and about the women of the French Resistance. It’s incredibly moving to see just how much the human spirit can endure.

Most Beautiful Book: The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock. This is physically just a beautiful, beautiful specimen of a book. The cover art, the inside art, the paper. It’s technically the biography of a woman artist, but it’s so much more than that.

Biggest Surprise: Ian Fleming’s Bond series. Yes, he can be a misogynistic, slightly-racist ass, but damn, these books are good. If you think you know Bond from the films, think again and join Lit Housewife’s Shaken Not Stirred challenge. You won’t be disappointed.

~and last but not least~

Best Book of 2011: Galore by Michael Crummey. I read this book in April, but it will not leave me. The story is timeless, the writing superb. If you haven’t read it, make sure you add it to your list for the new year. I compare it to East of Eden by Steinbeck and House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende. One of my favorite passages from the book is below:

~Watching Judah emerge from the whale’s guts, King-me felt the widow was birthing everything he despised in the country, laying it out before him like a taunt. Irish nor English, Jerseyman nor bushborn nor savage, not Roman or Episcopalian or apostate, Judah was the wilderness on two legs, mute and unknowable, a blankness that could drown a man.

So that’s my list. I wish you all the best in 2012 and hope to see you back here. Thank you all for reading, commenting, emailing, etc. I so enjoy your company.

And on that note, what was your favorite book this year?

A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead

22nd November 2011

* I received this book through TLC  Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Trish for the opportunity to read and review.

Whenever I talk about World War II, the same question always pops up: How did it happen? And while the answers to that question could fill many volumes, Caroline Moorehead’s book A Train in Winter is an excellent example – at least in part – of how atrocities happen.

It’s 1940, and Occupied France is a mostly peaceful France. The first lines of the book emphasize this: “It seemed not an invasion but a spectacle. Paris itself was calm and almost totally silent….And when they stopped staring, the Parisians returned home and waited to see what would happen.”

Many did nothing, but Charles de Gaulle called for the French people to resist the Germans. A Train in Winter is the story of 230 women who did resist and who, in turn, were captured by their own government before being handed over to the Nazis as dissenters.

I have never before read such an in-depth breakdown of the changes in Occupied France and the effect on its people. Nor have I experienced a story of greater selflessness and hope. The 230 women originally captured are whittled down slowly to a small band of survivors who fared far better than those women without a support system within Auschwitz, bodily holding one another up during roll call and hiding sores and illnesses or broken bones, if necessary.

However, the part of this book that has left the most lasting impression on me – and the part I have discussed in greater detail than my mom, sister, aunt, or friends want to hear without reading the book, is the aftermath of the concentration camps. When these women are released, malnourished and physically and mentally scarred, they are in every sense of the word, displaced. They have no idea where to go or who they will see once they are there. Each woman arrives in the midst of a government trying to forget its own depravity after a war that ravaged the world in unbelievable ways, and each finds no one wants to hear about the unreality of a German concentration camp. This, to me, was and is one of the most real atrocities, our desire to forget and move on.

Coming home was, therefore, not the happiest experience, and Moorehead points out that “having lived so intensely together, depending on each other to stay alive, they were now forced apart: by geography, by families, by a world whose rules and ways they had forgotten and which, physically weak, quickly exhausted, prematurely aged, they had to learn again.”

Though I have read some great non-fiction this year (Manhunt, In the Garden of Beasts, The Paper Garden, Devil in the White City), this is by far my favorite and a must for anyone interested in World War II or the role of women in wartime.

Have you read this? Or is it going on your Christmas wish list? Also, does anyone have any recommendations for similar books?

Recommended for:

high school/college readers

book clubs

World War II buffs

women’s history buffs