“Katharina: Fortitude”

 I just finished reading this book. All along, I was wondering how the author, Margaret Skea, would have been able to find so much material during her limited time in Wittenberg. I asked myself repeatedly, “Is this fiction, based on truth? Is this a biography of Katharina von Bora?” Or is it “intelligent fiction?” When I read the author’s comments at the end of the book and learned that IT IS fiction, I couldn’t believe it. Written in the first person, it was so real, I was Katharina, or I was next to her, holding my breath, prayed with her, felt her despair… What an exceptional writer! If I had the time, I would want to read every one of Ms. Skea’s books. Notably, the prequel “Katharina: Deliverance,” telling of her childhood in a convent, her vows as a nun, her escape, her meeting with Dr. Martin Luther, the former monk.

Like ghosts, the people in the book are occupying my head every hour of the day. How did Ms. Skea, the English-Scottish writer, ever come up with the idea to write about this German woman, the nun who became Mrs. Martin Luther?  How did she get to ‘know’ her and the people around her so intimately?  Are there history museums in Wittenberge with lots of details about the 16th Century and Dr. Martin Luther, the reformer standing up to the mighty Catholic church and the Pope? Did she find a book that she translated? This idea ran through my head because it is absolutely incredible how anyone could write this story and transport the reader back into THAT time, feel close to the characters, the setting, the history…  I am in awe. King Henry was also starting his ‘reform’ in England because the Pope would not allow him to divorce his Catholic wife. My honest opinion? The beginning is a bit slow, some German words don’t make much sense, ‘Wirtschaft’ for one – that word has many meanings, but Weddings are not one of them.

When I questioned the author, here is what she writes:

“To give you a bit more background to the fact/fiction division – I didn’t want to write screeds at the end – it is fiction, but all the key events actually happened – I just had to flesh them out and try to bring them alive. 

We know Frau Jessner was fined for abusing the Luthers publicly, we know they had a pet dog named Tolpel, we know the land Katharina persuaded Martin to buy, we know a lot of the discussions that were had at Dr. Luther’s ‘Table Talk’ and some of Katharina’s contributions to them etc, etc.

We know a lot of what she did, but not why, nor do we have documented evidence of what she thought. I worked backwards, trying to imagine what sort of a character she must have been to do this or that. I loved the experience of trying to see it all through her eyes. Obviously, the interactions with her women friends were the most fictional bits – but again we know a lot about who was in the Lutherhaus and roughly when, and rough dates for miscarriages for her and for her friends and rough dates for the deaths of friends and of children. Ditto for family deaths, the visit of her brother Hans and so on. I did have a fairly tight framework to work to – which (mostly) helped! 

I guess you could say it is a complex blend of fact and fiction. Great news for me if, when reading, you  couldn’t see the seams between them!!”

No, I couldn’t see the seams between them. I didn’t know very much of Katharina,  Martin Luther’s wife. Just that she was a former nun and bore him seven children, of which four lived. Now, learning of her extra-ordinary life with this controversial man, I want to know more about him, the Reformer of the Catholic Religion, Dr. Martin Luther, one of the most important and unforgettable men in church history.

Do I recommend this book? Wholeheartedly, even if partially fiction, it provides an intimate look into the lives of women and the history of the early sixteenth century. Margaret Skea, the author, is known for ‘knowing her history’  – she has written several other historical novels.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07VQK6XHZ?pf_rd_p=2d1ab404-3b11-4c97-b3db-48081e145e35&pf_rd_r=5QTATFCQ1KP6HSTN677F

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A New Promotion during The Last Week of 2018

Another year has come and gone. For some of us, it was a good one. Others say “it was a dark year, I am glad it’s over.” As for me, I wish it would be starting and not be finished! I am at an age now when the days, weeks and months just go too fast!

You know I have written several books, one of them, “We Don’t Talk About That” – the memoir of my first thirty years – has made it around the world through ninety countries. YOU, my readers, have been asking and are waiting for the continuation. “What happened next?” was asked by many of you. You will get the answer in 2019. I have just started chapter eighteen of the sequel. Let me know if you want to be on the list for the first people who get the notice when it is ready!

My short story book “Forget Me Not” is a  favourite of mine. When I held the first copy in my hand, I said: “If this were a teddy bear, I would take it with me into bed.” A number of those stories are parts of my next book. Most of them will keep you wondering until you come to the end. Some will make you laugh and shake your head. Yes, I had an interesting life, and I met many interesting people. Those short stories are about real people, believe it or not!

Then there is my little German Poetry book “Ein Mensch von Gestern – Heute.” A tongue-in-cheek book in verses about the things people born during the last century had and have to contend with. This happy book makes a wonderful present for your German friends. Actually, it gives my German friends, who can not read English, a glimpse into my life.

If you have not read any of these books yet I joined an e-book Christmas-New Years Promotion of Smashwords. All my books are on half price, prices are $1.50, 2.00 to 2.50. For more information or to order, click on:

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/GiselleRoeder

I wish you the best of health and happy reading in 2019! If you have read my books, tell your friends about the Smashwords Promotion for the coming week! It ends on
January 3rd.

Two Sides of WW II

This is a letter I like to share with you written by a Russian writer, a lady who writes books from “the other side” – telling stories of what ‘her people’ endured with the Nazis. She read my memoir, and this is what she had to say:

Dear Giselle, I read your book, “We Don’t Talk About That.” Was there anything I didn’t know before? Factually, nothing (I touch this subject in my books as well). Emotionally, a lot, overwhelming, goosebumps all over the body most of the time: at some points from horror, at others – from joy there were lovely, loving, and supporting moments with the people you met, with the members of your family, and even some enemies (the kind doctor). It took me some time to gather the courage to write to you because there was an overwhelming feeling – shame and guilt for what my people – Soviets, Russians – made to your people, especially to the women, children, the civil population at large. Reading all these details was devastating to me. Some stories shattered my heart. Many brought me to tears, one of them when your parents reunite after your father returned from Siberia. I’m so glad he had. I’m thankful for your understanding (as I feel it) that the Soviets mirrored what Wehrmacht and SS troops committed in the Soviet Union. Most likely, there were no mass rapes, not with such brutal outbursts at least, but rapes they were. The lives of ordinary people – on all sides – were trampled and destroyed. I’m proud of you, Giselle. Of your battle to survive, of remaining human, supporting, and kind at the time when many broke, of the achievements of your life. I expressed my impression in my review on Amazon. Thank you for your book, which is a rare glimpse at the subject that was taboo for so long.

I checked her name, Marina Osipova, on Amazon.com and found a listing for her book. I read as much as was possible by using the ‘Look Inside’ feature. It is a book I will read.

         The Cruel Romance tells the story of four young people on their different paths through WWII. The fates of a Russian country girl, a Soviet intelligence officer, a German violinist, and a Russian intellectual are irrevocably intertwined in the war not of their choice, forcing them to navigate the unconscionable moral compromises of life. Who will survive? And, at what price? The story’s conclusion is set in our time.

Banned Book Week September 23rd – 29th 2018

I must say I was surprised when I saw this announcement placed by “Book Club Mom.” I couldn’t believe that even a book, written by Margaret Atwood, “The Handmaid’s Tale” had been challenged and banned before it was made into a TV series and a movie. Ms. Atwood had started this book in 1984 when she lived in West Berlin before the fall of the infamous Berlin Wall. Another book I would never have questioned was “Mockingbird” by Kathryn Erskine, a book about a young girl with Asperger’s disease. No, NOT the one written by Lee Harper “To Kill a Mocking Bird.” Maybe I can understand that books about sexual orientation had been banned when they came out. It was probably too early for the topic.  Now, it wouldn’t be a problem.

Until last week I never thought that there were books today I couldn’t order or buy. But it happened. I tried to order an Art Book from Amazon.com – a coffee table book with a collection of paintings by an ‘Unknown artist’ – Adolf Hitler. A USA  art collector had published only a thousand of it. I had seen a documentary on television about Winston Churchill and was intrigued by his hobby – painting – a hobby he shared with this other artist with an infamous name. It seems that both men, under tremendous stress, could forget the world they lived in when painting. I could read up on both artists through Google/Wikipedia and even see paintings of both artists which sold by auction for 6-figure prizes.

So? I checked Amazon.com. They listed several used books ‘Adolf Hitler, the Unknown Artist.’ Naturally, the thousand that were printed decades ago were long gone, and now people tried to make a buck by offering theirs for sale. The cheapest listed and marked ‘in good condition’ was $168.98 US including shipping. They did have several more for more money. I put it in my shopping basket and proceeded to ‘check-out’ – curious what would happen. I thought, ‘In the end, I don’t have to buy it.’ I found out that Amazon did not own any of those books, private sellers had listed them on their site.

When I proceeded to type in my address I was told: ‘We cannot ship to Canada. Give us a different address.’

What? Not ship to Canada, a multi-cultural country, respecting every religion, color, creed or whatever. Not allowing an ART BOOK to cross the border?

I followed up by contacting ‘chat help’ at Amazon.com. I learned some amazing facts about banned books. But the help person was helpful and connected me with Amazon.ca after he had found out that they had just one copy of the book that I was looking for.

I had a chance to follow a link to look at it and when I saw the price of $1.598.99 Canadian I quickly went back to my chat person and told him:

“Thank you for helping me, but the price for that book is out of my league.”

He apologized, and his final comment was, “It’s not Amazon, they are private sellers, we also cannot buy these books. They are out of print, and a private owner can charge whatever they want.”

Out of print, banned or book burnings I remember from the Nazi time. Are we getting there again?

Smashword’s Birthday Celebration and Summer/Winter Sale

Summer where I live – winter Downunder! Starting at Midnight July first through the whole month Smashwords has invited their authors to celebrate their 10. Birthday by offering the readers deep discounts on all e-books. Thousands of books are listed. It’s hard to find a book you are looking for – but I make it easy for you:

E-books of my historical memoir “We Don’t Talk About That” – Surviving WWII, (a UK history writer said it should be placed next to ‘Anne Frank’s Diary’)

“Forget Me Not” – A Bouquet of Stories, Thoughts, and  Memories

“Ein Mensch von Gestern – Heute” – my little German Poetry book

are on sale for 50% off the already low prices at Smashwords.

Click on https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/Giselle and scroll to my books. Click on the book title you are interested in, put it in your ‘cart’, a coupon will automatically appear to reduce the price by 50%.

Happy Reading!

A Chance Encounter

Image may contain: flower, plant, sky, nature and outdoorIt was a bit cooler today, we had some rain last night. By far not enough here in Bavaria while they had heavy thunderstorms in other parts of Germany. During the morning, after my water treatment and massage, I packed up some clothing I don’t need anymore and went looking for a Salvation Army container to donate it. I saw a Red Cross shop, just looked in for curiosity sakes. I could not believe a) the quality of their donated offers, and b) the prices. 2.00-3.00-5.00 or 7.00€ for really GOOD stuff. If I ever come back, I’ll travel without a suitcase, get what I need, donate it at the end of my trip and be worry free on my way home.

But, now I need to tell you about that afternoon. After a healthy noon meal and a little nap I took my Nordic Poles and wandered off. I got myself a kilometer counter. I seemed the only person walking through still blooming meadows, quiet forest as the birds were resting during the midday heat. Coming by a Hunter’s restaurant I decided not to stop for their fantastic cheese or apple cake. I rested on a bench for a while, feasted my eyes on the beauty surrounding me and checked my km counter. It said 3.7 kilometers.

After another 3 km I arrived at the “Kurpark”. I was drawn to a bench in the sunshine, occupied by a big elderly gentleman with a bright red sweater, his pretty little brown dog next to him. For an unexplainable reason I stopped and commented on the dog. I am a bit of a dog nut, and this was one I could have fallen in love with. I heard a sad story about it, how it was born in Spain in a garbage pile with three others, the mom went out scavenging for food, came to nurse and went off again. The dog babies were very afraid and shy, but this man and his wife decided to rescue one. They picked a little boy and called him Carlos. Carlos liked me, sniffed my hand but did not lick it. We just sat there next to and looked at each other. Then Carlos decided he had enough sun, got down, the man let the leash out and Carlos settled in the shade of a nearby tree.

Now, as you can guess, the man asked me if I lived in this town. When I told him about my home in Canada, he was amazed that I still spoke perfect German without an accent. I mentioned that I have a book reading next week.
“Oh, on Tuesday in the Gugger Hause and you are Mrs. Roeder.”
I exclaimed, “How do you know that?”
“I happened to see a poster yesterday and decided to be there. My name is Roeder as well.”

Can you imagine that the next half hour was taken up with ‘what, where, when etc.’ – and how that little dog had made me stop to experience something so totally out of the ordinary.

I needed to share this with you!

Revelation of a Time Capsule and More

Stresow Church

Once upon a time, there was a small village in the eastern part of Germany called “Stresow.” A church with a cemetery surrounding it and a pub was built in the center. Those two places were also the centre of any social life of the hard-working farmers. Since women were not allowed in the pub, they would meet after church in the cemetery during their task of taking care of the graves to visit with each other and chat. To this day, the graves are planted with flowers in German cemeteries and each family tries to have the best-looking one.

Many years went by. After WWII in 1945, the states of East Prussia, Silesia, and Pomerania, about one-third of Germany were ceded to Poland. The German inhabitants had ten minutes to get out of their homes where they had lived for generations. My own family was amongst the millions evicted, and so was the family of my cousin Joachim. With only the clothing on our back and with what we could carry, we were three weeks on the road to nowhere, slept in barns when lucky or under the stars. (the full story in my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That”)

I have never been back to my birthplace but my cousin Joachim has. Poland belongs to the EU, and visits are possible. Joachim has been back several times. He only lives about seventy kilometers away while I live on another continent. Joachim made friends with the Polish family who now lives in his father’s house. He had the most incredible experience in 2006. A friend of his Polish friend is a teacher in the neighboring town of Bad Schoenfliess. He is in charge of a museum and was happy to show Joachim two rooms dedicated to the “German Time.” There are photographs of Joachim’s family and his ancestors as well as of my parents and other families we know. Joachim was amazed.

The most significant surprise was a folder he was given with old handwritten documents, letters, and newspapers of the years from 1871 to 1896. They had been contained in a ‘Time Capsule” buried when a new church tower was built in 1896 after the old church tower had collapsed. Nobody could read any of these documents since they were written using the German Süterlin letters.  Joachim was able to read them. There was a list of twenty-four farmers living in Stresow in 1871, including Joachim’s great-grandparents. Two pastors serving the small community between 1871 and 1896 had written an account of life during those years. Joachim was able to re-write the most critical documents. Photographs of the old and the new church tower were included in the time capsule.

What an exciting experience for my cousin Joachim!

The same year he had another surprise coming. In 1945, when the family was evicted and had to leave within ten minutes, his grandmother had stuffed one hundred-forty-five photos into his school satchel with a change of underwear. These photos had been picked up out of the mud after the Russian invasion. I had picked ours up from the pile of manure in the middle of our yeard. They represent the only memorabilia of our life from before 1945. During the long walk, Joachim, his grandparents, and his mother had a chance to stay in a house for two nights. Joachim and his two small sisters played with the six-year-old son Robert living there. They looked at the pictures. Joachim’s satchel was forgotten when they left, and his grandma always lamented as long as she lived about the loss of those treasured photos from home. She died and never got over the loss.

Almost sixty-one years later, the ITS, a search service connected to the Red Cross as well as churches,  found Joachim’s sister Marianne. She had looked for and listed their dad’s name many years ago. Now, with the Internet, it had been possible for the previous six-year-old Robert, at sixty-seven years old, to find the family who had stayed with them in 1945. Robert had kept the photos in a box in his attic all those years. During a project to add on to his house, he came across it and started searching for the kids he had played with in 1945.

Joachim phoned Robert and made a reservation to visit the next day. The newspaper in Joachim’s hometown got hold of the story, and I have in my hands a copy of the one-third page with a photo of my cousin holding a photograph of himself and his two sisters. A large one at the bottom is of ten men, the artistic biking club with Joachim’s father and uncle in their sports uniform. Needless to say, Joachim in his eighties and the former little Robert in his late sixties, are now close friends.

Former WWI Memorial

Joachim exclaimed when he first related this story to me:

“You cannot pay for something like this. To get your lost treasure back after sixty years is absolutely miraculous.”

Free e-book Promotion Results:

It is interesting for me, the writer, to see the results of the e-book promotion from March 4th to March 10th, offered by Smashwords:

FREE ‘sales’ of my book “We Don’t Talk About That” = 15

FREE ‘sales’ of my book “Forget Me Not”                      =   4

FREE ‘sales’ of my book “Ein Mensch von Gestern”     =   3

It will be even more interesting to see if the giveaway FREE is creating real sales. I like to thank all my faithful Facebook and other social media friends for sharing my promo-blog and saying a few words about my books they have read.

For all who have received my FREE e-books, happy reading. Please place “Reviews” on my website www.giselleroeder.com or Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/734091.

Thank you!

“Pride and Prejudice”

Which book would you take with you if you were exiled to a deserted island? For me, it would be “The Complete Novels” of Jane Austen. I love her ‘stories’, I love her style of writing, I love the way she puts a finger on the sore spots of love and life in the Regency Period. I love her finely sarcastic and witty way of critiquing and expose idiosyncrasies, no matter what the social standing.

During a trip to England a few years ago, we visited the house where Jane Austen wrote most of her novels and where she also died. It is now the Jane Austen Museum, run by a “Jane Fan Club”. I met and talked to several of the women who volunteer at the museum. They spoke of Jane Austen as if she were still alive. Several times I had the feeling she might just come around the corner and enter the room.

Jane Austen was born as the seventh child to her parents George and Cassandra Austen on December 16, 1775. Sadly, she died when she was only forty-one years old. She left quite a number of notebooks filled with unfinished stories. Jane Austen completed only six, now famous, novels. One, I think it was “Sense and Sensibilities”, was published without revealing her true identity when she was thirty-six years old. It was, at that time, socially unacceptable for a lady to be a writer. It was published anonymously. One publisher had exclaimed ‘this could never have been written by a woman’ after reading one of her novels. One of her brothers represented her. He has published her other works posthumously and every one of the books became a great success. He finally revealed the true author’s name. Jane’s books are translated into many languages, are read by and have millions of fans worldwide. Many movies have been made over the years and even more TV mini-series of all her novels. Sales of the Jane Austen books have forever been going up. Her critical view and witty observations of life and love of the landed gentry have become the base of romantic novels to this day. Jane Austen is one of the best known English writers.

At Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, we came across a film crew busy filming a new and more modern version of “Pride and Prejudice”. I was captivated by some scenes taken just outside the great entrance. Oh, would I have loved going inside to see this beautiful place! I looked forward to seeing the new movie starring Keira Knightly and Matthew McFadden. I did several months later – and was disappointed. Not that the movie was bad but I was in love with an old one, the 1995 version starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. I have seen it several times, and I wish I could do so again and again. I will never forget the scene in the great-room of Darcy’s friend when the eyes of Darcy and Elisabeth Bennet met in an incredibly intimate way.  I had seen it once before I even saw the movie: when my cousin Siegfried came back from a weeklong trip and looked at his wife Annemarie. The way they looked at each other went deep into my soul. I was embarrassed to witness it. The scene is part of my memoir “We Don’t Talk About That”. I remember the phrase “marriage is made in heaven” came to my mind. Theirs was.

I saw “Pride and Prejudice” again, this time on the stage at the wonderful little theatre in Chemainus on Vancouver Island, Canada. We asked ourselves, how can they ever do justice to this complicated story on stage? They did. They picked relevant scenes played by talented actors who truly captured the audience of a sold out house. It was an enjoyable performance which left me smiling all the way home. Chemainus is an intimate theatre with only a small stage but the designers have a knack to come up with ideas that let you forget where you are. It was not the first time that we marveled about their innovation. And to give credit where credit is due, every one of the actors played their part in a believable way. Several actors even portrayed two characters. We hardly noticed, and most people probably didn’t. This story was written about 200 years ago. How much has changed? Not much. We still find the same problems in love, relationships, and life – and maybe some of us recognized a familiar character or two in our own social setting.

Well done, Chemainus Theatre!

 

Books published or read in 2016

Oct 28, 2016

Looking back on 2016 I am amazed how much I actually got done. I have been busy. My collection of short stories, “Forget Me Not – A Bouquet of Stories, Thoughts, and Memories” was published in January 2016. It is a memorial to special people who have crossed my path – either in person or through their achievements. I dare to say that every single story carries some kind of message to the reader. At the very least it will make the reader think and maybe he/she feels like sharing his/her thoughts about the story with family or friends. It is about aging, adoption, blended families, babies, changing seasons, superstition, cancer, dogs, horses and other critters, escape, earthquake, flying, internet dating, island living, love and rape, roses, travels, war, and many other topics. It finishes with a beautiful fairy tale “The Weeping Angel” – for which, at one point, I received the First Prize in the form of another book: “Computers for Dummies.” Throughout the book, you find poems and pictures. A delightful book – perfect to give as a gift to YOUR special people, reminding THEM not to forget YOU. The easiest way to obtain this book is Amazon.ca.

The books I chose to read during 2016 have added greatly to my knowledge about history. Some of them upset me, robbed me of sleep since it was hard to believe people can be so blinded by promises, ultimately leading to a horrible war. One recurring thought was ‘do people never learn from the past?’ At the same time, I was crying over the fate of some people and keeping my fingers crossed for others to survive. As you can see, I prefer to read mostly “true” stories or history based on truth since that is what I write as well. The following are the books I read and since there are so many I will refrain from telling you about them. All are worth reading.

“All The Light I Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr. Pulitzer Prize, New York Bestseller list.
“The Witch of Napoli” by Michael Schmicker was a fun read.
“Goering” – The Rise and Fall of the notorious Nazi leader. By Roger Mansell. Incredible.
“The Glass Castle” by Jeanette Walls. A classic I had never read, but it is a ‘must read’.
“Moonrise” by Ann Victoria Roberts. This author has touched my emotions in many ways.
“The Rise of Nazi Germany” by Charles River Editors. I wanted to know more history.
The GiftAwakening”, by J.P. McLean. Contemporary Fantasy, a new genre for me

  1. The Gift “Revelation”
  2. The Gift “Redemption”
  3. The Gift “Penance”
  4. The Gift “Betrayal

“POW # 74324” – Triumph through Adversity by Robert Stermscheg.
“Daffodils” by Alex Martin. An English love story set within WWI.
“The History of Germany From The Earliest Times by Bayard Taylor. Tough read!
“The Spy in Hitler’s Inner Circle” by Paul Pailole. The risks people took, unbelievable.
“Lunch with Charlotte” by Leon Berger. Unexpected happenings, finally talking WWII.
“How the (Bleep) Did I Get This Old” by Laverne H. Bardy. Need a good laugh? Get it!
“An Adventure on Two Continents” by Heinz H.G. Berger. A West Vancouver story.
“Journey of a Lifetime” by Trevor D. Cradduck. Not available for the general public.

There were a few other books. I remember the stories but I should have written down the titles. Plus, I read four substantial books in Germany in October (German language) and was fascinated by the content. I read several nights since I couldn’t sleep anyway. The time difference of nine hours is hard to overcome – your body is not fooled by the clock. The trouble is – when I got home to the North American Continent the same happened – in reverse! It’s said that for every ten years of your life it takes a day to re-adjust your body clock. C’est la vie!