[Review] Survivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz by Michael Bornstein and Debbie Bornstein Holinstat

Publisher and Publication Date: Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Square Fish. March 7, 2017.
Genre: Nonfiction. Biography. Memoir.
Pages: 352.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Young adult nonfiction.
Rating: Excellent!

Link @ Amazon.
Link @Audible.
Link @ Barnes and Noble.

There are several YouTube videos with Michael or his daughter Debbie who are co-authors of the book. These are two I’ve shared.

Summary:

On January 27, 1945, the Russians liberated Auschwitz. Of the 2,819 prisoners, 52 were children under the age of eight. Michael Bornstein was one of those children.
Michael, with the help of his daughter, Debbie, has documented this narrative style account. He felt his story needed to be shared about this traumatic event. He did not want to remain silent on what happened to him, his family, and the Jewish people during the Holocaust.

The story begins in October 1939 when the Germans invaded Zarki, Poland. Michael’s family lived in a home in Zarki. Michael’s older brother, Samuel, is age four. Michael will be born in May of 1940.

Michael’s parents are Israel and Sophie Bornstein. There are several family members who live in the Zarki area. For a while, they are able to continue living in their home, later, they will be resettled, and then, transported to Auschwitz.

In this story, the focus is on his family but shares the chronological history of what happened to the Jews in Zarki, and in great detail the hellish life in Auschwitz.

My Thoughts:

I have read a lengthy list of memoirs of the Holocaust. It is rare to read an account through the lens or perspective of a small child. This brings a unique nature to the story. I believe, Survivors Club, is in the top five books I’ve read of Holocaust memoirs because of the unique structure and feel to the story. Michael was born during the Holocaust. He was an innocent babe in peril at his first breath.

Other reasons why this is an excellent book.

1. A detailed chronological timeline of the events happening in Zarki, Poland, starting in October 1939. This is not a sterile type of account, but deeply personal.

2. Most Holocaust stories that share the experiences in Auschwitz do not share thoughts and daily life in great detail. What I mean is Michael shares perspectives and thoughts not usually shared. For example, on pages 126-127, “Men who reached for suitcases that weren’t there.” “Women reached for children who had been pulled from their grip.” My takeaway is the shock of what is happening has not registered yet in their brain that the item or beloved person is no longer there. This is startling, shocking, and a surreal moment. This illustration is one of many that caused me to pause and ponder.

3. Further events in the book: the processing of the prisoners, the work details, the bathhouse, Mengele’s selection of children, the infirmary, the “Death March” out of Auschwitz, liberation, and rebuilding a life afterwards. The story is a solid view Michael’s life and what he has experienced.

4. Thirty-six illustrations. Most are in black and white, a few are in color.

5. A glossary is included

6. Notes on their research is included.

7. In the preface, the authors explain what has been pieced together through research, interviews, and memories (factual), and what they have constructed (conversations and emotions.) I love it when the author lets me know what is factual and what has been pieced together in the story.

Themes: war, survival, grief, intolerance, hope, resistance, suffering, sacrifice, family honor, good and evil, fear, heroism, power of love, courage, and bravery.

Survivors Club is a powerful story. It is an important story. It is a story I will not forget.

And, considering the events happening in the Ukraine, this story is more than just a memory, both remind us that evil exists. We cannot ignore, we cannot take a nap thinking this will all be over when we wake up. This story makes me feel firm in my convictions that freedom is important; and a huge part of that freedom is the ability to have free speech, and to live in a humane, safe, and free society.

[Review] Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy by Kate Clifford Larson, narrated by Bernadette Dunne

Publisher and Publication Date: Blackstone Audio, Inc. October 6, 2015.
Genre: Biography. Nonfiction.
Listening Length: 7 hours and 44 minutes.
Format: Audible audiobook.
Source: Self-purchase through membership in Audible.
Audience: Readers of biographies. Readers of mental health’s impact on a family. Readers with an interest in the Kennedy family.
Rating: Very good.

Amazon Audible link

To read more information about Rosemary Kennedy:
National Parks Service
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

This is an hour-long video, but important photographs are shared by the author, Dr. Larson.

Summary:

Rosemary Kennedy was born September 13, 1918. She was the 3rd child born to Joseph and Rose Kennedy. She was the eldest daughter. Her older brothers were Joseph Patrick and John Fitzgerald. The other Kennedy children in order: Kathleen Agnes, Eunice Mary, Patricia, Robert Francis, Jean Ann, Edward (Ted) Moore.

Rosemary’s birth was difficult; and it is important to note the circumstances of her difficult birth led to her intellectual disability. Rosemary’s developmental progress was slow: walking, feeding herself, and talking.
Rosemary was tutored privately in the home, and she attended private schools. Later in life she lived at a private school in Wisconsin. Rosemary died in 2005.

Rosemary: The Hidden Daughter shares the struggles in Rosemary’s life and how her family responded. Their response changed through the years from trying to hide her (or cover-up) to becoming involved in helping the intellectually disabled through conversation, educating the public, education for the disabled, and the Special Olympics.

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed listening to this Audible book. I’m a visual learner, but I am beginning to listen to more Audible books.

The narrator is Bernadette Dunne. She has a rich deep voice that is easy to listen.

What I learned through reading Rosemary:

1. Rosemary shows the rest of the family. The focus is Rosemary, but her parents and siblings are a huge part of the book. I have a better grasp of the dynamics of the whole family. I have a better understanding of how they felt about her disability (especially their lack of knowledge about her condition.) And how through the years their mindset and opinions changed about her condition. Some of her siblings, for example, Eunice, became outspoken and actively involved in how to help those with intellectual disabilities.

2. This is not an enjoyable feature of the book, but I feel it needs to be included, the lobotomy treatment on Rosemary when she was 23. This is heart-breaking to read. Gut-wrenching is more descriptive. Her father, Joe Kennedy, felt this treatment would help her. Instead, her condition became worse.

3. Joe and Rose had high expectations of their children. The Kennedy children were to be high achievers. They were to be physically fit and active. Rosemary could not accomplish their ideas and dreams. It is easy for me to disagree with her parent’s choices, especially the lobotomy. I live in a different generation. A generation that reads and studies, searches the Internet to find answers, and engages in conversation about the hard stuff in life. Previous generations did not have medical advancement and knowledge, and they did not talk about the hard stuff. Once upon a time, Children with intellectual disabilities or other types of disabilities were either cared for in the home by parents or they were sent to a state school. In some instances, the families never went to visit the disabled person.

4. What I enjoyed reading the most in the book is how Eunice became a huge advocate for the disabled. She grew close to Rosemary. She adored Rosemary. Eunice became, in essence, Rosemary’s angel.

[Review] The Gilded Page: The Secret Lives of Medieval Manuscripts by Mary Wellesley

Publisher and Publication Date: Basic Books. October 12, 2021.
Genre: Nonfiction. History. Medieval history. Europe. Church history in England.
Pages: Hardcover edition holds 352 pages.
Format: E-book copy. The review copy does not have illustrations included. The hard copy does have illustrations.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book from NetGalley. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of medieval history especially those who love English church history.
Rating: Excellent.

Link @ Amazon.

Link @ Barnes and Noble.

Link @ Basic Books.

Author webpage: Mary Wellesley/ Goodreads.

Summary:

The Gilded Page is a complete study of medieval books and manuscripts. The book begins with how a page is created. It includes the transition through the years of the types of materials that were used to create pages in the Middle Ages.

The Gilded Page is a history of the people who were involved in the creation of; and those who owned and treasured the manuscripts and books.

The Gilded Page is a book for book lovers to pour over and enjoy!

My Thoughts:

The Gilded Page is an informative, descriptive, well-researched, insightful, and fascinating study of the written page in medieval England.

Medieval history is one of my favorite time periods to read and study. I especially enjoy reading about early Christian history in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. I love reading about the monarchy. I love reading about the common people of the Middle Ages. For example, Margery Kempe.

A jewel of this book, and it is a pleasant surprise, is the history of the people who were involved with these manuscripts and books. This includes information about those who rescued these artifacts from doom. I especially love the stories of the Cuthbert Gospel, the Cotton Library, Queen Emma, Henry VIII’s private prayer book, the Lindisfarne Gospels, and Welsh poetry.

I’ve read several books on Henry VIII. This is the first book with information about him that personalized and showed a humane side of him. In his prayer book he made notations at certain passages. These passages resonated with him in his mind and spirit. I love this!

The Gilded Page is one of the top books that I’ve enjoyed reading in 2021. Bravo, Mary Wellesley!

*The review copy held no illustrations for me to view. I found the following illustrations at Wikipedia, and they are in the public domain. I am sharing with my readers what I found online.

St. Cuthbert Gospel. The beginning of the text.
Emma receiving the book, Encomium Emmae. This work is a selection of her life during the period she was married to Cnut. Emma of Normandy was Queen of England twice (married to two different Kings.)
Winchester Bible. From the page on the life of King David.
From the Lindisfarne Gospel. The illustration is from the Gospel of Matthew. It is Matthew the Evangelist.

[Review] Writers: Their Lives and Works, Foreword by James Naughtie

Publisher and Publication Date: DK, Penguin Random House. 2018 is the first American edition.
Genre: Nonfiction. Biographies of writers.
Pages: 360.
Format: Hardcover. 8 by 10 1/2.
Source: Public library.
Audience: Readers who want to read about the lives and works of writers.
Rating: Excellent.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

Link for the book @ Barnes and Noble.

At this link, you will see several pages from the inside of the book. DK.

Summary:

Writers is a delicious hardcover, large book to pour over.

Beginning with Dante Alighieri and ends with Arundhati Roy.


Six chapters in total. “Chapter 1 is Pre-19th Century.” “Chapter 2 is Early 19th Century.” “Chapter 3 is Late 19th Century.” “Chapter 4 is Early 20th Century.” “Chapter 5 is Mid-20th Century.” “Chapter 6 is Writing Today.”

My Thoughts:

Overall I love this book. I poured over it and devoured each page.

Several of the writers I’d not heard of before because they are from countries that I’d not read fictional works (at least very little.) For example, Mo Yan, Chinese. He was awarded the Noble Prize in Literature in 2012.

Writers is a compiling of writers from all over the world and through the centuries. It is an eclectic group. I like this. I appreciate this. However, the compiling is organized not by who I would chose. For example, J. R. R. Tolkien is given only a snippet and located in the Directory section. I am shocked! I’d like to see him given six pages. Not a mere snippet. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book. It gave me an education on a broad range of writers that I had been unfamiliar.

And, one more thing I am disappointed about: C. S. Lewis is not mentioned.

What I love:

1. Visually appealing with illustrations on most pages.
2. Some of the writers are given four to six pages for a write-up. Most have two pages.
3. I enjoyed reading about their early life, writing journey, personal lives, and other experiences in life. For example, their journalism work during wars or travel adventures. I also enjoyed reading about those writers who were friends. They encouraged one another. A few had disagreements and went their separate ways.
4. Several, if not most of the women writers, were trail blazers. I admire their tenacity and perseverance.
5. Small personal stories are shared. For example, a writer friend came to visit Charles Dickens in his home. He overstayed and Dickens became impatient. The guest became embarrassed.
6. I love the desks and writing spaces that are included.
7. I love reading about the impact of writings that led to other writings which led to screen adaptions.


[Review] Code Name: Lise: The True Story of the Woman Who Became WWII’s Most Highly Decorated Spy by Larry Loftis

Publisher and Publication Date: Gallery Books, a trademark of Simon & Schuster, Inc. 2019.
Genre: Nonfiction. World War II. Women and Literature.
Pages: 384.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of WWII history and SOE British agents.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon link
Barnes and Noble link

SOE is the initials of Special Operations Executive.
List of female SOE agents during World War II:
Wikipedia.
WordPress blog of Alan Malcher. He has a post about SOE female agents.
Nigel Perrin. This site has a photo archive of the SOE agents and profile information.
Biography Online about Odette Sansom.
Imperial War Museum about Odette Sansom.
History101.com about Odette Sansom.

Summary:

In 1912, Odette Marie Celine Brailly was born in Amiens, France. Her father fought and died in World War I. Odette had a younger brother, Louis. Odette married an Englishman, Roy Sansom, and they had three daughters. After the birth of the first daughter, the family moved to England where the other two daughters were born.
Odette’s grandfather predicted another war. He told his grandchildren to do their “duty, both of you, to do as well as your father did.” From page 2.
When World War II began Odette wanted to serve in some way but hesitated because of her young daughters. In 1942, Odette contacted the War Office and she eventually joined the SOE.
Code Name: Lise is the story of Odette Sansom and her work as a SOE during World War II. The book gives a little background information of her life before 1942, but the book is primarily about her role as an agent.

My Thoughts:

I’ve read a few other books about SOE agents. I’d been a little familiar with her name and history. I am pleased to finally know her full story in history.

Several reasons that led me to give this book an excellent rating:

1. Odette is portrayed as a remarkably strong person who endured separation from family, injuries, imprisonment, and torture. Several times I have been amazed at how she handled herself in a crisis or during those periods when she was tortured. She is a hero.
2. I love it that several black and white photographs are included in the book.
3. The appendix addresses criticism and problems that were brought up in the 1950s with the SOE. Odette was criticized by other agents. In one example, her report of what happened to her were made up-untrue. I am glad Loftis added this chapter to the book for clarification.
4. Code Name: Lise gave me an education of how the SOE agents were trained and how assignments were implemented; and how they were treated by the Gestapo, especially the techniques of interrogation and torture.
5. The book is told in narrative nonfiction and the author narrating.
6. Odette is a compelling historical character. The life she lived during the time period of the book is strong, and it is more than engaging, it is on the edge of your seat drama unfolding.