Books, Books and More Books…

Next to dogs books are my best companions. They don’t fight with me and when they ‘annoy’ me I can just close them and put them away. The material I have read might go around and around in my head; sometimes I understand but always I want to know more and I open them up again a day or a few hours later. Even a book I don’t totally like I will finish because I know there must be a reason the writer wrote it. I dissect the story. I sometimes think about how I would re-write it, or parts of it. But that’s not what I wanted to talk about today. I want to tell you of the books I have read so far this year. Most of them have a connection to my own book “We Don’t Talk About That”. My writing created an incredible thirst in me to know more about war history, especially WW I and WW II. So I started reading instead of writing my next book.

“The Officer’s Code”

officers-code-lyn-alexander-paperback-cover-artLyn Alexander’s way of telling a story puts you right into it. You identify with one of the characters and you become that person. In this book you re-live the life of a young English man who could not satisfy his father since he did not like to study law and take over the family practice. He failed and as punishment was sent to Germany to study in Heidelberg and “prove” himself. He married a German girl, changed his name to his mother’s German aristocratic name ‘von Schellendorf’ and fought on the German side during WWI. An incredible story based on fact and fiction .

Versailles Legacy“The Versailles Legacy”

This is the second of four books in what is known as “The Schellendorf Series” by Lyn Alexander. It puts us in the picture of a Germany in tatters and the impossible hardships imposed on the country by the ‘Versailles Treaty’ after the war is lost. The German Representatives argued the stipulations laid on Germany would be counter-productive. A young Austrian WWI corporal, Adolf Hitler, promised jobs and bread and peace for all Germans and his hypnotic speeches swayed many mistrusting Germans to vote for him because they had nothing to lose but everything to gain. The years between 1920 and 1939 lead to WWII.

English General“The English General”

Once you read those first two books you cannot help but want to read the third one. The establishment of Hitler’s ‘Thousand Year Reich” brought many changes. The old military, the Reichswehr, with the former generals in charge tried everything to stop the new developments but one after the other mysteriously disappeared or was killed. They also plotted to assassinate Hitler but he always got away. One of Hitler’s close allies established the “Brown shirts”, known as the SA which numbered in the hundred-thousands already during the 1936 Olympics. The young Englishman became a German General and deeply ingrained within him was “the Code of honour”. We see him struggle with blackmail by his birth country while once again fighting for Germany during WWII.

Ghosts of War“The Ghosts of War”

This, the fourth book in the ‘Schellendorf Series”, finally helps us understand a lot of what happened when the Allied Forces entered Germany. Imprisonment, lies, deceit, interrogations, and, to top it all off, the Nuremberg Trials where the blackmailing English arranged that the famous lawyer, the father of our by now beloved General defends him. His return to England, the ups and downs during the years after 1945, and his secret visits to Germany.

I never mentioned General von Schellendorf’s wife but she plays a huge part throughout all four books, love, deceit, lies, divorce, her re-marriage and abuse by her demented father. At the end of book four we hope for reconciliation and maybe a joint new venture in Heidelberg. Once you read these books and you travel to this wonderful city you’ll know it. These four books feel so “real” that you think you lived through it all. In time I’ll read them again.

Night I Danced with Rommel“The Night I danced with Rommel”

Elisabeth Marrion wrote this heart wrenching memoir of her mother’s life. Married to a soldier who fathered a baby every time he was on leave, her mother had to look after and somehow provide food for five small children. Dealing with the bombing of her hometown of Hildesheim, and being a hands-on woman a lot of neighbors relied on her. When her husband was transferred to Africa to fight alongside General Rommel she was relieved of the scary thought of him being killed in Russia. As the story moves on General Rommel’s Regiment happens to be stationed in this city for a few days on their way to France and she was singled out by him to do the first dance during a party the towns-people organized to honour him.

Nazi Officers Wife“The Nazi Officer’s Wife”

Two authors, Edith H. Beer and Susan Dworkin told the story of Jewish women who married Nazi Officers to save their lives. In many cases the husbands had no idea they were Jews. These women were known as “U-Boats” or “Submarines” living normal lives when they were everything else but normal. This story is gripping, has been made into a movie, documentaries and has received worldwide accolades. It is hard to believe what the author, Edith, has endured during the time of the Nazi take-over of Austria to the end of the war living in the Russian occupied Germany. I had no idea that these women even existed and was touched to my deepest soul after reading this book.

Garden of Beasts“In the Garden of Beasts”

Eric Larson does not need an introduction. In this book he tells the story of the American Ambassador to Berlin during the early years of Hitler’s reign. The book is based on hundreds of letters to the American President, the diaries of the daughter and one is overpowered by the incredible research Larson must have done over several years to write this book. It is rather a lengthy book and towards the end I felt as if I myself went through WWII again. Exhausted.

Louisa-Elliott-Book-Cover2“Louisa Elliot”

How I loved this book by Ann Victoria Roberts, a gifted writer! The novel is set in York in the 19th Century and involves a family drama that sometime just takes your breath away. Despite the fact that it has about 700 pages (e-book) I was sorry when it ended. Not a surprise to me when I found out that it sold over a million copies when it first came out. Luckily there was another book for me to read following this one, called

Liam-Story-Book-Cover-20121“Liam’s Story”

Also a big book and I tell you, this one occasionally makes your blood boil. How can a writer write books that you simply cannot put down? How can she make you identify and suffer with the protagonist? How does a brain like Ann’s work to come up with these tales just because she happened to find a small diary of a family ancestor? Each novel can stand on its own but read “Louisa” first…

MasterstalecoverSMALL-e1427439366841“The Master’s Tale”

Another Ann Victoria Roberts book – this one is based on her research about Captain Smith, Captain of the unsinkable “Titanic”. She portrays the rich and famous guests, the interactions of many of them, love triangles, affairs, and intrigues. When the ship hits the iceberg you can hear the cries, you will feel the cold water and you see the listing of the big ship from your life boat and finally see it disappear as if it had never been.

Gift of Penance“The Gift Pennance”

Jo-Ann McLean writes ‘thrillers’. I have never read thrillers and cannot recall how, or when, I read a couple of chapters of this book on Linkedin, Amazon (Look Inside) or perhaps came across Jo-Ann’s website. Because it involved kayaking I wanted to read more. The story is set in Vancouver and since I know and lived in this fair city I was intrigued. When I started reading I realized I had never ever read a book like it, totally fictional and an imagination I can only marvel at. Some scenes in it caused me to contact her (bless the Internet!) and ask what her family or her husband thinks about some of the scenes. This book is part of a series, the previous one is the “Gift Legacy” but I have not read it.

“North of Normal”

North of NormalCea Sunrise Person took seven years to write this shocking memoir of her childhood, growing up during the ‘counter culture’. Her grandfather moved the family from California to the North Country wilderness. They were growing pot, smoking and selling it, living off the land, fishing and wildlife. Periods of plenty changed with periods of hunger. Little Cea’s home was a tipi/tepee shared with her very young mother and a number of other adults who thought nothing of nudity, open sex, changing partners. Cea invented her own games and amused herself without contact with other children until she had to go to school. Seeing the first pair of underpants and a fancy frilly dress made her realize that there was another life out there and she had only one wish: To survive the crazy life she was living and her ‘crazy family.’ After her book was published her friends asked her: “How did you ever turn out so normal?”

“The Glass Castle”

Glass CastleI had no idea what living in the sixties for the people who chose to live the ‘free life’ was like and I must admit that the book “North of Normal” had deeply disturbed me. Friends, whom I told about it, encouraged me to read ‘The Glass Castle” – a similar book by Jeannette Walls. The language is not quite so vulgar because Jeannette’s parents were actually educated, but they chose a life of nonconformity, poverty and their children had to fend for themselves. When hungry the older two went through garbage bins and ate what others had thrown away. Their clothing was bought in Thrift shops. They were dirty, they smelled and other children did not want to have anything to do with them. Jeannette could be compared to Cea in ‘North of Normal’ as both girls were trying to get an education and create a better life. Both succeeded. Paramount bought the movie rights to this book. It has been a bestseller for years and Jeannette has been interviewed repeatedly.

We Dont Talk About That“We Don’t Talk About That”

This is the book I am re-reading now. It came out in April 2014, I have read it before, but I am surprised how it “gripped” me again. Another one of those books “hard to put down.” I am so sorry not to have more time to read. But I have to write. My readers are constantly reminding me and asking “when is the sequel coming out? Are you writing it? How far into it are you?”

I have given you a number of fantastic books to consider reading. None of them will disappoint you. So, – find a cozy corner and READ books – books – books. Live in a different world for a while, a different time zone, on a different continent or even a different dimension. Enjoy!

Paddling the ‘Broken Islands’

I have to share a very much appreciated review of my book “We Don’t Talk About That” from my good old friend, one who has written books and many essays himself, one who has started the first kayaking club in eastern Canada and tried to teach me to ski on Grouse Mountain on the west coast; one who has started and established architecture courses and taught at the university, involved in building an opera house and did all kinds of other incredible things. One thing we did together was a weeklong kayaking trip through the ‘Broken Islands’ starting in Ucluelet, B.C. on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Broken Islands - 1I will never forget how I carried all our supplies to the boat close to the ocean where we were to take off. Gerhard had left to find a parking place for his car. Returning on my second trip with another arm full of ‘stuff’ I saw hundreds of seagulls ripping into our food bags, nuts and dried fruit was all over the place. I had to fight them off while I saved what I could. When I finally had everything piled up next to the boat the ocean had left, – the ebb tide had set in and I stood next to the kayak on the sand watching the water retreat farther and farther. Quite a helpless feeling!

I will also not forget how we had a fishing line attached to the kayak and all of a sudden the paddling seemed harder. Wow! A good sized salmon was on the line and fighting to get off. As my friend started to reel it in it took just a moment and an eagle dove down and stole our supper. We had to cut the line, we had no choice. Camping on different small islands we harvested mussels and oysters, cooked them in ocean water and sometimes shared them with other campers.

Broken Islands - 2Paddling towards a huge big rock off the coast we heard the howling of sea lions. As we came close one giant stood up and apparently gave a loud order and at least a dozen of them dove into the ocean and stood like a wall in front of us, bobbing up and down in the waves but never taking their eyes off us. I was scared and wanted to paddle away but Gerhard kept his course and only just during the last moment steered away. I am sure those beasts would have capsized our kayak and we would have drowned.

Broken Islands - 3It was my most exhilarating and exciting kayak adventure in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Sometimes we had to fight huge waves but we made a terrific team as we were both experienced paddlers. Gerhard, an Austrian by birth knew the ways of the ocean while I was used to paddling on the Baltic Sea even though my kayak competitions were mostly on lakes and rivers of Germany.

Memories. And now Gerhard read my book. I was anticipating some critique from this widely read and educated man. I want to thank him from the bottom of my heart for what he had to say:

Giselle,

Finally I purchased your book. I started reading and couldn’t put it down. It isn’t just good it is very good. It is gripping, even though I have heard much of the story from you over the past twenty years. It is good to see the story did not change. It is well organized so that one knows who is who as we meet them over the years of age, old rural bliss, looming disaster, cataclysm and redemption.

You may have started a new genre with this book. It is not often we encounter a book showing fortitude and heroism amongst the despised losers of a bitter war, together with kernels of humanism remaining amongst the unspeakable brutality of vengeful victors when they encounter the only ones left: the innocent. Everyone should read it.

Gerhard S.

Book getting rave reviews #WeDontTalkAboutThat

I am pleased when I see flattering reviews from readers of We Don’t Talk About That but it is both humbling and heart warming to receive rave reviews from established UK historical authors such as Bob Pickles and Ann Victoria Roberts. Check the REVIEWS tab above to see what they have said.