Review of The Burnt-Out Town of Miracles by Roy Jacobsen, translated by Don Shaw and Don Bartlett
This novel is set in the eastern parts of Finland during the Winter War, part of World War II where USSR attacked Finland. When the Finnish army are evacuating the people that lived in Suomussalmi region, the main character, a logger, Timo refuses to leave. With the Russian's arriving, they treat Timo with suspicion (rightfully so). As a prisoner of the Russians, he is assigned to work with their loggers (who themselves are prisoners or de-facto prisoners). While he helps the Red Army's loggers, it seems to me that he tries to thwart the efforts of the Red Army by not doing much work.
This is a really splendidly written (and translated) novel, Jacobsen writes some great sentences. This novel like the others of his that have been translated to English shows depth and a lot of humanity and spirit. Not my favourite novel of his but a very good read.
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review of The Secret War by Max Hastings
Max Hasting book deals with as the full title suggests spies, codes and guerillas during world war II, it's in the title, people Between the stories of the spies and missions, there is also some op-ed by Hastings himself
It does lose a star for Hastings' description of other neutral states being "much more important" than Ireland. That gave my ego a hammering . No seriously, I jest. Overall this is an interesting read. There is a lot of detail in it and I liked this book. I found it best as a novel to take in small chunks rather than reading it through because as seems a must with non-fiction, a slower reading speed is necessary. It does help how the book is divided. Needless to say some sections are more interesting and skip along faster than others
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Review of The Undertaking by Audrey Magee
The book starts with a soldier on the eastern front getting married to a picture of a woman he doesn't know, for honeymoon leave and the same ceremony takes place in Germany
When on honeymoon leave, meeting his wife for the first time and her family and then his father in law introducing him to the well connected Doctor that the father-in-law does work for and in turn during his honeymoon leave, he works for (early scene is breaking into a house of Jewish people). The soldier wants to return to his teaching job after Germany triumphs over Russia easily while the father-in-law has other plans, namely planting to the farm land that they need to feeds the expanding German family.
There is the opulence of the doctors surrounding, the relative comforts of the new house (even getting a Russian maid as doing housework is below a German family now) of the wife's family (in confiscated property) and then the dire circumstance
A novel of hope and loss there thereof, the bleakness and suffering brought on my overconfidence and the notion of invincibility
There is alot to be said about the novel, i think it is reflective of the times it is set. Audrey Magee I believe has done a good job in the Berlin she created and the Eastern front she created but for me, I just found a little bit lacking to move it from 3 1/2 to 4 stars. It has its merits and is a good novel.
Yes I have read 'We Are At War', enjoyed it immensely. First came across the Mass Observation stuff when the Folio Society released a book similar to the We Are At War. Not read the other two books you mentioned, they sound interesting so will look out for them.
I'm not so interested in the 1st war but I do have one of the Forgotten Voices books from that war which is sitting in my TBR pile.
Have you been watching the TV programme Blitz Street? I've only the 1st two progs so far but found them very interesting. The reconstructions of the bombs on the terraced houses was disturbing when you think of people having to live through that night after night. I often wonder how we would fare as a nation today if we had to go through a similar type of war. Somehow I don't think we'd do so well.