[Review] A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France by Caroline Moorehead

Publisher and Publication Date: HarperCollins Publishers. 2011.
Genre: Nonfiction. History. World War II. France. Holocaust. Women and literature.
Pages: 374.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Public library.
Audience: Readers of history, World War II, French Resistance, and the Holocaust.
Rating: Very good.

Goodreads page for Caroline Moorehead.

Link @ Amazon.

Summary:

A Train in Winter is the story of French women, from all walks of life, who were arrested and jailed in France in 1942 by the work of the Nazis and the French who were collaborators. This is also the year of the Jewish round-up in France. In January 1943, they were sent by train to Auschwitz, Birkenau. Later in the war, the women were split up and sent to other camps. For example, Ravensbruck and Mauthausen.

These women had been a part of the Resistance in France. Many of them were members of the Communist Party. Most of the women had husbands and lovers who were in the Resistance. Some were swept up in the arrests because of their affiliation.

There were 230 French women who arrived at Birkenau. Most of the women died of dysentery, disease, abuse, starvation, and execution.

My Thoughts:

This is the first nonfiction history book I’ve read specifically about the French women involved (in some way) in the Resistance during World War II. They were political prisoners.

An important thing to note about this book is it does not focus on one woman or a few women. It is a broad look at many women. When reading a book with a long list of people, the book can come across as a fact-based book. There are brief personal stories included, not lengthy stories, but brief, and these bring a personal intimate look at several of the women. In some instances, it was a mother and daughter who were arrested. In some instances, the women had young children or were pregnant. In showing a large sweeping group of women, I see a fuller picture of the Nazi’s brutality against not just a few people but a huge group of those who stood in their way. I know this in theory. I realize the depth in a book like this.

One of the women prisoners is a psychiatrist. The area she worked in brought her in to contact with Joseph Mengele, the German physician who did medical experiments at Auschwitz. She gave witness to horrendous acts.

The horrific acts against them are emotional and provocative.

One of the most important chapters is at the end. The after-effects of trauma inflicted on the women. How they were not able to articulate what had happened. Its effect on their personal lives after the war.

There is a follow-up chapter addressing those Nazi’s who brutalized them after the war ended.

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The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

Publisher and Publication Date: Ballantine Books. 2011.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 314.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Library.
Audience: Historical fiction readers of women and literature. The book may especially be of interest to Hemingway fans.
Rating: Good to very good.

Goodreads author page for Paula McLain.

Paula McLain has written another book about the wives of Ernest Hemingway. The Paris Wife is book one about the first wife.
Love and Ruin is the third book about the third wife.

Link for The Paris Wife @ Amazon.

Ernest and Hadley Hemingway. They married in 1921 and divorced in 1927. Their son was John Hadley Nicanor Hemingway. His nickname was Bumby. He was born in 1923. He died in 2000.

Ernest and Pauline Hemingway. They married in 1927 after his divorce from Hadley. Hadley and Pauline had been friends. Ernest and Pauline had 2 sons: Patrick and Gregory (Gloria). Ernest and Pauline divorced in 1940.

Summary:

The Paris Wife is from the voice of Hadley. In the first pages, Hadley is grieving the death of her mother who she had a strained relationship. She takes a trip to Chicago and at a party she meets Ernest. It’s only been a couple of years since Armistice Day. Ernest is a young, ambitious, vibrant, charismatic, charming, persuasive Romeo. He is a strong pursuer.

Hadley is older than Ernest by 7 years and 8 months.

Hadley has not had the social life of dating and relationships that Ernest had. She has lived at home. She’s had three deaths to grieve in her lifetime. Each taking a little bit more away from her psyche.

The story follows their relationship to the end and especially during their Paris years. In the final chapters of the book, it shares about Hadley’s later part of life. The book does not share the detailed life of their son Jack or Bumby (as he was called as a child).

My Thoughts:

The main point I do not like about the book is the structure or form. Hadley shares her story in her voice, but every once in a while, Ernest (in italics) shares his story. I dislike him having a voice at all considering Hadley points out more than once that his personality is so big, he fills the room with his presence. This is another way of saying he sucked all the air out of the room. So, I’d say that through Hadley sharing her story, Ernest has a big enough presence that I don’t need him to have any more voice than he already has. I want to clarify. I enjoy reading Hemingway stories. For Whom the Bell Tolls is a favorite. I want Hadley to have a complete book in her voice. It is her story.

Later in the book, Hadley shares that she feels she had the best of him-the early years before he was a famous writer.

Hadley is a wife who is very supportive of his work. She praises and encourages him. There is a point in the story where she finally has an emotional event. She has been supporting him. She has been giving her all to him. She lives for him. But she has had enough. She is emotionally frayed and starved. I’ve known several women, especially those from the previous generations who completely live for their husbands. Their feelings and thoughts and goals and desires are not really their own but their husbands. The wife has no hobby of her own. She has no work of her own. She has no other opinions but his. This is difficult for me to wrap my mind around. To lose oneself in another. And I dislike Ernest’s reaction to her emotional event. In essence, what she did was finally open her mouth and rise up and say no. No, she did not want him to go. And for this he was angry.

From the start, I immediately like Hadley. She is imperfect (as all people). Even though there is a vulnerability and sadness, I also see a strength that I don’t think she realized she had until later in life. I certainly have empathy for her.

I enjoyed reading about their life in Paris. Where they lived. The people they met. The places they visited, especially the travels to other countries.

I enjoyed reading about how his writing style evolved or transformed.

I enjoyed reading about the cultural changes starting in about 1921.

I’d certainly like to have read more about the Shakespeare and Company book store located on the Left Bank in Paris. It is mentioned but not in descriptive detail.

Hadley Richardson Hemingway Mowrer died in 1979.

[Review] The Cottage on Winter Moss by Allie Cresswell

Publisher and Publication Date: Allie Cresswell Limited. June 28, 2022.
Genre: Contemporary fiction. Romance.
Pages: 555.
Format: Kindle e-book.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of women in fiction.
Rating: Very good.

Allie Cresswell Goodreads’ author page.

Link for the Kindle copy @ Amazon.

Summary:

Dee is a young woman living in the London, England area who is a writer. She is an author of books and one screenplay.

Dee is in an unhappy relationship with a live-in boyfriend who is an unemployed actor.

The unmotivated boyfriend adopts a dog that Dee did not want.

Dee’s only living relative, a brother, she is estranged from.

Dee is sinking into burnout and despair.

When the boyfriend finally gets an acting job out of town, Dee takes the opportunity to leave him taking the dog.

Dee drives north away from the city without a clear destination. She ends up in a village named Roadend.

My Thoughts:

If the book’s setting were somewhere else, like South America or India, would I like the book or even want to read it? No. The rural setting of England is a big plus for me. The book starts in a large city but moves away in the early part of the story to the rural English countryside near the sea.

There are some areas in the beginning of the story that I had mixed feelings about, but as the story progresses things became settled. One of these “things” is the poor little dog, Bob, who Dee didn’t want in the beginning. Her irresponsible boyfriend got him and then left town. When Dee began planning to leave and wanted the boyfriend to do something about the dog’s welfare, I really worried she might leave Bob in their flat. I am so glad she did the right thing. I am glad she and Bob became close friends. A second “thing” I had mixed feelings about is her inability to really deal with that boyfriend or some other serious life situations. These situations are all related to relationships. Relationships with unsaid words and closure.

What I love about The Cottage on Winter Moss:

  1. I love having a pet cat or dog in a story. I hope authors will write more animals into their stories. I have four cats. I love them. They are my precious children. I know many people who feel the same about their pets. Why are there not more cats and dogs included in stories?
  2. I love how the story shifts in both the scenery, landscape, and people. I love how the transition causes Dee to relax.
  3. I love it how Dee is an imperfect person. She makes mistakes, makes wrong choices, forgetful, has a hard time with communicating well. One of the personality traits she has rubs people the wrong way and I don’t understand why she can’t see it. She doesn’t seem to mind in putting people out. For example, a pub or restaurant is about to close. She doesn’t mind sitting down to place an order. One evening she’d promised to be at an event. She doesn’t show up. However, I am happy to say she is a character who evolves. She matures.
  4. I love the village of Roadend. I love the history of the area.
  5. I love the historical fiction story she writes of the village. I love how there is a story within the story.
  6. I love having a character in the story who has a disability. I’d like to read more stories with people who have disabilities.

Dee is a character that causes me to like her, and also causes me to want to have a long talk with her because of her repeated choices in relationships. Not that she’d listen.

[Review] In the Shadow of a Queen by Heather B. Moore

Publisher and Publication Date: Shadow Mountain Publishing. October 4, 2022.
Genre: Historical fiction. Inspirational fiction.
Pages: 384.
Format: Advanced reader copy/e-book.
Source: I received a complimentary e-book copy from Shadow Mountain Publishing and Austenprose. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of Queen Victoria’s royal family. Readers of the Victorian era.
Rating: Excellent.

To read more information about the book visit the publisher at Shadow Mountain Publishing. That is a direct link to the book.

Praise:

“Peek into the House of Hanover and view the strength of two women: Queen
Victoria and her daughter Princess Louise. This story weaves compassion and
conflict into breathtaking and gripping historical detail.”— Julie Wright, author of
A Captain for Caroline Gray.
“Moore crafts an intriguing portrait of the independently minded Princess Louise
and her tensions with the English royal family. Moore sets the stage with
meticulous research, and she expertly combines fact with fiction, with
psychological insights on Victoria’s mercurial moods and the impact of her
controlling nature. It adds up to a worthy portrait of a woman divided by duty and
self-determination.”— Publishers Weekly.
5 STARS – “I always enjoy Heather Moore’s historical novels. This one did not
disappoint! She is impeccable with her research and always does an excellent
job of bringing people from the past to life.”— Julia Daines, bestselling author
of Haven Cross, and Whitney Award Finalist.

Links to purchase:
AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY | BOOKSHOP | GOODREADS

The Kindle copy is $4.99. At Amazon, it is also available in audio, hardcover, and audio CD.

Author Info:

Heather B. Moore is a USA Today best-selling and award-winning author of more than seventy publications, including The Paper Daughters of Chinatown. She has lived on both the East and West Coasts of the United States, as well as Hawaii, and attended school abroad at the Cairo American College in Egypt and the Anglican School of Jerusalem in Israel. She loves to learn about history and is passionate about historical research.

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS

Summary:

Based on the True Story of the Free-Spirited Daughter of Queen Victoria. Princess Louise’s life is upended after her father’s untimely death. Captive to the queen’s overwhelming mourning, Louise is forbidden to leave her mother’s tight circle of control and is eventually relegated to the position of personal secretary to her mother―the same position each of her sisters held until they were married. Already an accomplished painter, Louise risks the queen’s wrath by exploring the art of sculpting, an activity viewed as unbefitting a woman. When Louise involves herself in the day’s political matters, including championing the career of a female doctor and communicating with suffragettes, the queen lays down the law to stop her and devotes her full energy to finding an acceptable match for her defiant daughter.

Louise is considered the most beautiful and talented daughter of Queen Victoria but finding a match for the princess is no easy feat. Protocols are broken, and Louise exerts her own will as she tries to find an open-minded husband who will support her free spirit.

In the Shadow of a Queen is the story of a battle of wills between two women: a daughter determined to forge her own life beyond the shadow of her mother, and a queen resolved to keep the Crown’s reputation unsullied no matter the cost.

My Thoughts:

Recently I read another book about the same people. Louise was shown as an outspoken, artistic, intelligent young woman. The book emphasized her defiance and disrespect of her mother, Queen Victoria. The book emphasized her artistic work and the supposed affair she had before and during her marriage. I gave that book 3 stars for good. To me, the book came across as sensationalistic.

In the Shadow of a Queen emphasizes the royal family’s love and devotion to one another. Even though the queen and Louise did not always agree, and Louise wanted to pursue interests outside her mother’s rule and will, Louise respected and honored her mother. I love these qualities. Honor and respect are moral qualities, but also show the true character of the person. Louise is shown as gentle, kind, thoughtful, sensitive, devoted, wise, purposeful, and loving. I have given this book 5 stars for excellent. This book comes across as intimate and real; and it is a story and a daughter to be admired.

Additional reason why I love, In the Shadow of a Queen:

  1. Much of the story is dialogue among the family members including the husband of Louise and herself. I love their devotion, tenderness, and love for one another. Often, the scenes are intimate, and share conversations that I leaned into as if I too were a part of their conversations. This helps to sweep me up and away. The feeling and atmosphere in a story that pulls me in.
  2. The story starts at the beginning of Louise’s life. It moves forward progressing through her age. I watched her grownup. I watched her transform to a lovely young woman.
  3. The pace of the story is slower at times. This is not an adventurous edge of your seat type book. It is the life of Queen Victoria’s family. They have day’s when they are busy with events, and they have many slow days when they are at home with one another. I feel this helps shape them as people I can identify with and not just celebrity type individuals.
  4. Before Albert’s death, I saw his dedication and time spent with the children. He was involved with every area of their lives.
  5. I love the happy times the children shared with their mother.
  6. I love the descriptions of people. Their clothing, mannerisms, posture; and facial expressions to the point of intimacy and a revealing of unsaid affection.
  7. One of the best romantic scenes in literature that I’ve read is the courtship of Louise and John Campbell, the 9th Duke of Argyll. It is less about physical activities, and more about patience, true love and devotion.

I want to clarify something. There are scenes when Victoria and her children are at odds. When one defies the other. When a scandal has caught fire. But for me, I saw the love and devotion as more pronounced in the story. The negative situations only show a reality that effects all people no matter their station or status in life.

In the Shadow of a Queen is one of my favorite reads of 2022!

[Review] Agatha Christie: An Elusive Woman by Lucy Worsley

Publisher and Publication Date: Pegasus Crime, an imprint of Pegasus Books, Ltd. Distributed by Simon and Schuster. September 6, 2022.
Genre: Nonfiction. Biography.
Pages: 428 written pages. And 52 black and white illustrations.
Format: Hardcover.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of biographies. Fans of Agatha Christie. Readers of women in literature.
Rating: Excellent!

Link at the publisher for more information: Pegasus Crime.

Link at Amazon.

Link at Barnes and Noble.

Lucy Worsley Goodreads author page.

Website for Lucy Worsley/ Blog/ Facebook/ Twitter.

Summary:

Lucy Worsley expresses that Agatha Christie wanted people to have the impression she was an “ordinary” person, an “ordinary” woman. This is untrue. How can a woman who was born in the late Victorian era who rose above the culture and society of that day to become a successful author of mystery books be considered ordinary? Agatha Christie was a trail blazer in this genre. She was a trail blazer as far as her generation of women having a successful writing career.

Agatha Christie: An Elusive Woman is a biography of the whole life of an amazing woman. It touches on every area of her life. It does not focus on one aspect. For example, her writing career.

Lucy Worsley is a historian and curator. She is knowledgeable about the research process. Her expertise is strongly noticed in this new work.

My Thoughts:

I have An Autobiography by Agatha Christie on Kindle but have not read it yet.

I have three other books, one a collection of her stories, all on Kindle.

I am currently reading The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

I’m planning to read as many of her mysteries/crime fiction as possible.

I’m a newbie to Agatha Christie. I knew very little about her personal life before reading Agatha Christie by Lucy Worsley. This is a good thing in that most of what I read is fresh. I consider this book a fresh perspective of the whole of Agatha Christie. This is the first reason why I love this book!

Additional reasons why I love this book:

  1. It does not leave me with an unfulfilled curiosity about parts of her life that was left untouched in the biography. What I mean is the bio takes in every area of her life as a person, wife, mother, daughter, writer, traveler, divorced woman, single mother, and career woman.
  2. I enjoyed reading about her work during WWI and WWII. She is quick to enlist in helping with the war effort and wounded.
  3. I enjoyed reading about her life as a child, especially the parenting roles of her parents, and their homelife.
  4. I enjoyed reading about her unique personality and character. Even as a child, there is something about her that stood out as unique and gifted.
  5. Worsley points out Christie’s prejudice opinions about domestic help and people of other races are common for that era. The reader should not be quick to dismiss her or judge her books based on our current history, society, culture, and beliefs.
  6. Worsely reminds me where most of the females of the early 20th century worked. In 1901, there are only 31.6% of females in Britain employed. Most of them worked in the textile and domestic areas. This book will not give a strong history lesson in females in the work force during Agatha Christie’s life. The statistic is given to share the standard in respect to her life. She was expected to marry and marry well. She was not expected to have a paid writing career.
  7. I enjoyed reading about the first serious relationship Agatha had with her first husband, Archie. World War I started to put a damper on their courting. However, they sped things up by a quick marriage in late 1914.
  8. I enjoyed reading about her crafting of the characters in her books. For example, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.
  9. I love how Worsley included the writing and publishing of Christie’s books plus what was simultaneously going on in her personal life.
  10. I enjoyed reading about what Christie thought about her own writing, especially in regard to her contribution to the mystery literature world.
  11. The period of time in 1926 when Christie is missing. This period in time is a strength of the book. Worsley takes her time in piecing together the steps during Christie’s disappearance, as well as her return and her own remembrance. It was during this part of the book that I became so captivated I lost track of time.
  12. I read the book in two days!