(Review) The Violinist of Auschwitz by Ellie Midwood

Publisher and Publication Date: Bookouture. November 18, 2020.
Genre: Historical fiction. World War II. Holocaust.
Pages: 356.
Format: Kindle edition e-book.
Source: NetGalley. I received a complimentary e-book copy, but was not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of Holocaust stories.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon link
At this time the e-book is $3.99

Ellie Midwood’s Goodreads page.

To read more information about Alma Rosé:
Music and the Holocaust
World History

The prologue starts the story creating a fear of what might happen.

The year is 1943.
Alma Rosé is a well-known virtuoso violinist. She’s played in Holland, Austria, Germany, and other countries on the continent of Europe. She has family members who are well-known musicians and composers. They are Jewish.

Alma and her father make it safely to England, but she returns to Holland to continue performing. She is arrested and sent to Drancy, France. From there she is sent to Auschwitz.

After arriving at Auschwitz she is sent to the experimental block. She plays the violin in a concert. She is recognized as the famous violinist Alma Rosé. She is moved to the female orchestra block. Alma becomes the conductor of the female orchestra. Her position makes is possible to save other females in the camp if they are able to play a musical instrument.

Alma meets Miklos a pianist and composer. It is an instant connection and attraction.

My Thoughts:
It’s interesting the story starts with a foreshadowing of the ending. Since I had not read the true story of Alma Rosé, I read the story fresh and without knowing the events in her life.

The Violinist of Auschwitz is an emotional story. The name and setting of the story is immediate at causing an anguish in my spirit.

The story is a reminder of the harsh and stressful daily survival for the prisoners. But, the story is a reminder of the bond and unity of the prisoners. Their quiet defiance against the Nazis and their devotion to help one another.

The writing style and tone expresses the serious and somber story. Yet, there is beauty in certain scenes. For example, a stolen and tender moment between a couple. There is also sarcasm. Alma is a person who has a strong personality. It is difficult for her to remain quiet and stoic. Her feelings are often expressed as sarcasm. However, she has moments that are emotionally overwhelming and she is stunned.

The Violinist of Auschwitz has external conflicts, but there is internal conflicts with the prisoners who are confronted with gut-wrenching type decisions.

Themes in the story: courage, death, bravery, loyalty, love, passion, kindness, compassion, and perseverance.

I’m thankful Ellie Midwood wrote this important story. It is a strong testament of Alma Rosé.


(Review) Bleak House by Charles Dickens

Publisher and Publication Date: Penguin Classics. 2003. First published 1853.
Genre: Fiction. Classic literature. Victorian literature.
Format: Paperback.
Pages: 1083-this includes all supplementary material. The story itself is 989 pages.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of Charles Dickens, classic literature, and Victorian literature.
Rating: Excellent.

Link at Amazon
The Kindle is free at this time.

Bleak House was first published in a series, 1852-1853. It was published in one volume in 1853.

I’ve read several of Charles Dickens books.
1. David Copperfield.
2. Hard Times.
3. Oliver Twist.
4. A Tale of Two Cities.
5. Great Expectations.
6. A Christmas Carol.
7. Bleak House.
In January, I plan to start reading The Old Curiosity Shop.
David Copperfield is my number one favorite book!

Front cover of the serial cover that first published Bleak House. The series ran from 1852-1853.

The time period is probably the 1830s.
England is the setting.
A lengthy litigation case tied up in Chancery court proceedings is Jarndyce and Jarndyce. Two young people who are at the center of this case is Richard Carstone and Ada Clare. They are young adult cousins. John Jarndyce is their guardian.
Esther is the heroine and the only first person narrator in the story. She was raised by a critical and unloving godmother named Miss Barbary. Her life with the godmother is lonely and sad. After Miss Barbary’s death, Esther is placed in an establishment where she can be educated to be a governess. It is John Jarndyce who arranges her schooling. He is also the one who hires her to be Ada’s companion. Esther is a person who has a strong lack of vanity. She is humble. She rarely looks in the mirror; and, her feelings about her looks will become more apparent in the story towards the end. She is a character who is strong in positive traits. She is a true heroine.
Lady Honoria Dedlock is married to Sir Leicester Dedlock. It is apparent early in the story Lady Dedlock hides a secret.
These are the three main plots in the story.

There are several subplots along with a long list of characters.

There are internal and external conflicts.

Themes in the story are illegitimacy, death, dying, revenge, bravery, loyalty, perseverance, honesty, compassion, love, shame, honor, and romance.

My Thoughts:
I love, love, love Bleak House. The more I think about this story the greater respect I have for it.
It is a huge—epic story. It encompasses so much terrain. I feel Charles Dickens crafted a superb story. It holds it all in terms of what a story can share with a reader.

My favorite points of Bleak House:
1. Charles Dickens is a master at manipulating me by pushing, pulling, and moving me along through the story to the last page.
2. Dickens creates characters not only with unusual and memorable names, but their personalities are dimensional and demanding of attention.
3. The use of imagery is always a favorite with me. The story begins with a fog that will not go away. The fog is “everywhere.” It hangs on and impacts everyone.
4. I have strong empathy, like, dislike, disgust, or anger at characters.
5. Moral lessons in the story. I’m referring to how people should be treated humanely and with empathy.
6. I feel this is a story I can read multiple times and learn something new each time.
7. Bleak House is a reminder of the things most important in life.

Why does the story Bleak House matter?
One reason is the example of the ridiculous lengthy court proceedings of Jarndyce and Jarndyce. A change in court proceedings happened later in the 19th century.
A secondary reason is the shame and energy it takes to hold on to a secret.
This story tells me it is always wrong for people to abuse a child because of what some in the adult world has decided is the correct response.
Charles Dickens is telling me about his world. He wanted to bring to light a kinder place than the one existing in Victorian England.

(Review) Villette by Charlotte Bronte

Publisher and Publication Date: Bantam Classic. 1986. Originally published 1853.
Genre: Fiction. Classic literature. Victorian literature.
Pages: 510-this includes the introduction.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of classic literature, Victorian literature, and women and literature.
Rating: Good.

Link @ Amazon
There are several choices of Villette in Kindle. They are less than $5.00.

Charlotte Bronte 1816-1855

Villette is the final novel Charlotte Bronte wrote.

In Villette, a young woman named Lucy Snowe left England and became an English teacher in a French boarding school. The school is located in the town of Villette, France. While in Villette Lucy fell in love with Dr. John Graham Bretton. In the story he is called, Dr. John. His feelings toward her are lukewarm. He doesn’t take the time to know her as a person. He doesn’t appreciate Lucy. Lucy is heartsick. Much of the story is Lucy’s thoughts and feelings. The story is rich in detail of her insecurities, fears, anguish, loneliness, and disappointment.

My Thoughts:
I’m going to be gender bias (forgive me): Villette is a female story. A story of this particular female’s thoughts and feelings. For me, and I’m female, it was too much. I had a difficult time sticking with the story until the end. It is not a bad story. It has its merit. It is not a very good story. It is definitely not an excellent story. It is mid-range.
My problem is I disliked being in Lucy’s head. I wanted out.

After the above paragraph, I will list a few things I like about the story.
1. Lucy is an illustration of women who dream or try to become what their love interest wants them to be. This is a lesson in the story: do not become someone else in order to win the affection of another. Yes, men can do this too.
2. Attraction to another person is just that, attraction. A successful relationship requires more than attraction. This is another lesson.
3. Coming of age story. Lucy is 23, but she is inexperienced in romantic relationships. She is learning to be independent.
4. Lucy seems on the edge of hysteria at times. She needs counseling. This is the Victorian era where counseling is unavailable. Lucy is a person I have empathy for her plight, and this is the reason why I continued to read Villette.

Themes in the story: courage, love, betrayal, loneliness, perseverance, grief, death, and passion.

Villette is a character driven story and Lucy is the heroine.

The conflicts are internal.

The story is heavy in dialogue and Lucy’s thoughts.

(Review) The Orphan of Salt Winds by Elizabeth Brooks

Publisher and Publication Date: Tin House Books. 2019.
Genre: Fiction. Coming of age story.
Pages: 293.
Format: E-book.
Source: Kindle e-book purchase.
Audience: Readers of coming of age stories.
Rating: Very good.

Link @ Amazon

The story has 2 time periods, 1939 and 2015. The setting is England.

Virginia Wrathmell is 10. She is adopted by Clem and Lorna. They live in a rural area near a marsh. Their home is called Salt Winds. Clem studies birds. He writes wildlife books. Clem is a stable and kindhearted man. Lorna is irresponsible, high maintenance, and preoccupied. Their marriage and the tension in the home is palpable. A neighbor, Max Deering, is at Salt Winds too often. Meanwhile, a German fighter plane crashes near the marsh. The pilot is missing. Clem sets off at night to search for where the plane crashed.

Virginia has returned to Salt Winds as an older woman. She has not forgotten the events of 1939. They have impacted the rest of her life. This part of the story is about memories and making peace.

My Thoughts:
It’s difficult when my favorite character is written off in the beginning of the story. I dislike this. While reading I wondered if I could hang on to the last page or end it all together.
Clem is a character that’s depth is hidden by his quiet and calm nature. He is intelligent. He is a solid, all-around good guy. He is a person that can be friends with anyone. He is the anchor in the family.
Lorna is unlikable. I picture her in my mind as a person either staring off in a dreamy like state or staring at herself in the mirror. She is so uncomfortable as a mother that I am uncomfortable too.
Max Deering is a person no one should take their eyes away from. He is not trustworthy.
Virginia is 10 but going on 30. She takes on the roll as a parent. She’s resilient and strong-willed.
The Orphan of Salt Winds is a character driven story that takes on internal conflicts. The plot is shaped because of the choices and conflicts of the characters.

The mood of the story is one of things unsaid or unspoken. There is a haunting feeling. A feeling of doom.

Themes in the story are jealousy, ambition, love, loyalty, betrayal, and obsession.

Overall, I enjoyed reading the story because it’s well-written and memorable. It’s a great fire-side-winterish story.

(Review) The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien

Publisher and Publication Date: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. My edition was published 2004. All 3 stories of the trilogy in one book. Originally published in 1954.
Genre: Fantasy fiction. Classic literature.
Pages: 430. This includes the introduction and other pre-story information.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase from Barnes and Noble.
Audience: Readers of classic literature and fantasy fiction.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon link

The trilogy stories of The Lord of the Rings:
The Fellowship of the Ring
The Two Towers
The Return of the King

A note on the text explains the stories are actually 6 books sometimes published in 3 volumes.

I enjoyed reading about the writing and publishing history surrounding the stories. For example, an unauthorized version was published in America. And, The Lord of the Rings was written over a period of 18 years.

If you read this particular book, make sure you read the forward to the 2nd edition. Tolkien explains why he wrote the stories.

Why is The Fellowship of the Ring a well known classic? The films helped, but this is not the only reason.
I believe it is because the stories swallow the reader whole and holds them (in the world of Middle-earth) until the last page.
I believe the stories are unlike other stories.
I believe the characters and storyline are memorable.
I believe the stories clearly define good and evil.
I believe the stories are a testament to people-characters who with great courage fight against evil.

When the story begins there is a party for Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End. It is his birthday. He lives in Hobbiton. It is a spectacular party complete with fireworks. Then, Bilbo leaves his home and friends. He leaves his assets with Frodo. One asset is the Ring with powers. Frodo is an innocent Hobbit. He didn’t know the story of the Ring or its powers. Gandalf, the wizard helps Frodo to execute a plan about the Ring. Frodo leaves the Shire and he takes Sam and Pippin.
The journey is long and treacherous, and the Hobbits encounter several adventures.

If you have read The Hobbit it will help you understand this story better. If you have not, this story will share what happened that led to Bilbo having the Ring.

My Thoughts:
I’m late to the Tolkien stories, but I have arrived and I’m enjoying every moment in reading them.
I have a plan to read all of his stories. I’ve begun collecting them either in paperback or e-book. Plus, I have a new book (arrived yesterday). The book is The Complete Tolkien Companion by J. E. A. Tyler. The publisher is Thomas Dunne Books.

First, the difficulties I have with The Fellowship of the Rings.
1. Correctly reading the names. The names require me to search in how to correctly read them.
2. Correctly spelling the names. They are capitalized. For example, Elves. Not elf. Not elves. Elves. The Complete Tolkien Companion is helping me to learn and hold on to the knowledge of Tolkien stories.
3. The stories cannot be speed read or casually. The stories require patience and discipline. They are thinking stories.

What I love about The Fellowship of the Rings.
1. Endearing characters. I love Gandalf, Frodo, Sam, Merry, Elrond, Aragorn II, and Arwen.
2. Frodo has friends who care for him faithfully. They have commitment, purpose, and courage.
3. I love the writing itself of The Fellowship of the Rings. I love Tolkien’s commitment to get it right-to persevere in the editing. I love the legacy of the stories.
4. I love the atmosphere of the story. I love how I am immersed in the unfolding drama.
5. I love the secondary stories of the characters because they too each have their own complex and manifold tales.
6. The plot is clearly defined and it moves the story forward with anticipation.
7. The story has memorable quotes. For example, Gandalf said, “You cannot pass.” Page 330. “All that is gold does not glitter, Not all those who wander are lost;” Page 247.