In the High Peaks

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Reading Going Well & A World War II Authentic Memoir

Despite my mud misery, I am very happy to say that my reading has improved, that is, my reading stickability. I'm reading now several hours per day, day by day. Really, it's pure escape, but it feels so good.  I am on the verge of finishing both the thriller discussed in my last post and Falling by Elizabeth Jane Howard. Should finish up with both tomorrow, I expect. Then onward!

I feel emboldened. Do I dare start Barchester Towers? Or maybe Agents in the Field by John Le Carre?

About three or maybe four posts ago, I bemoaned the lack of historical accuracy in Kate Quinn's The Huntress, which is fiction, yes. But I still assert that authors of historical fiction owe it to their readers to research thoroughly and get their work vetted by experts.
And yes, let's not forget the many memoirs written by men and women who experienced World War II firsthand, for their immediacy and authenticity.

A newly published,  authentic work set during World War II is the memoir, A Bookshop in Berlin: The Rediscovered Memoir of One Woman's Harrowing Escape from the Nazis (Dec. 2019) by Francoise Frenkel (not the author's title).  Frenkel wrote this memoir of her life covering her experiences  from the 1920s through WWII, which she recorded immediately after she escaped to Switzerland from France, before the war had ended. And her memoir was published in Switzerland in September 1945, in a small printing. Her husband, who shared ownership of the bookstore with her in Berlin, had successfully escaped to France with her, but later was sent to Auschwitz, where he was killed. Historical research tells us this much. Yet, surprisingly, in the memoir, Francoise makes no mention of her husband whatsoever. Yet her escape, and her continued, escapes from the Nazis after her husband was deported, makes this an important testament. 


  1. So sorry to hear about your mud misery, how dispiriting.

    And isn't it nice to find books that you want to read after a dry spell?

    I'm endlessly fascinated by memoirs from WW2. It's odd because at one time I was only interested in WW1 and the horrors of the trenches or the role women played as ambulance drivers or nurses. Whether this is because I grew up hearing WW2 stories from my parents, relations, friend's parents and then when I married, my in-laws, and it was a bit too familiar, I don't know. But the interest in WW2 has come recently and not before. Quite odd.

    1. Hi Cath,
      Memoirs from World War II abound, and it is disheartening that so many of them, the vast majority, have gone out of print. Yet, not to be daunted, I remind myself that many of them are still available through AbeBooks, or through the used-book distribution system, whichever one you use.
      And how exciting to have a renewed interest in WWII, and to feel so interested in exploring and experiencing the subject with a refreshed outlook.
      I have had an intense interest in World War II, globally, since I was about 12 years old. (Just a history nut from a young age, I'm afraid.)I read everything I could get my hands on from children's historical fiction to adult fiction to the library's nonfiction, not to mention TV documentaries and movies. Just could not get enough. I still own an enormous nonfiction collection, and still haven't read it all. What can be said is that it was an absolutely fascinating, complex, and totally absorbing period of history, I think. One can never know it all, but it is wonderful to be able to experience at least some of it through the men and women and children who lived through it.

  2. Escape reading is good. I consider all of my reading escape reading because I start thinking about what to read next as soon as I finish a book (and sometimes before) and can't stand not to have a book going.

    Your mention of the book by Elizabeth Jane Howard intrigued me and I looked her up. I think I am going to have to read something by her. But she is a new author for me, so no idea yet of which one. (Or when I will have a copy.)

    The Warden by Trollope is on my classic list and it would be a perfect book for me to read this year, I should start looking for a copy.

    1. Tracy,
      So happy to have you affirm it for me. Yes, especially when the world (or the family) is mayhem, escape reading is so positively healthy.
      About Eliz. Jane Howard: Many of our fellow bloggers have really enjoyed The Cazelet Chronicles, which is actually a series of books about a fairly well-off family in England. But she has also written so many other novels as well. Falling has been interesting, to say the least. A cautionary tale, perhaps. But that's for another post.
      Ah, The Warden. Isn't that the first novel in the Barsetshire novels. I thought about starting with it, but then decided to go with Barchester Towers, which, I believe, is the second novel. It's THICKISH! Maybe I'll start it soon, but not sure.
      Do enjoy!