The Winter Soldier – my new gentleman friend

The Winter Soldier by Daniel Mason

My Rating: ####/5

GoodReads Rating: 3.97/5

Published September 11th, 2018

 

I have indicated a spoiler-free and spoiler-included section.

 

“Vienna, 1914. Lucius is a twenty-two-year-old medical student when World War I explodes across Europe. Enraptured by romantic tales of battlefield surgery, he enlists, expecting a position at a well-organized field hospital. But when he arrives, at a commandeered church tucked away high in a remote valley of the Carpathian Mountains, he finds a freezing outpost ravaged by typhus. The other doctors have fled, and only a single, mysterious nurse named Sister Margarete remains.

But Lucius has never lifted a surgeon’s scalpel. And as the war rages across the winter landscape, he finds himself falling in love with the woman from whom he must learn a brutal, makeshift medicine. Then one day, an unconscious soldier is brought in from the snow, his uniform stuffed with strange drawings. He seems beyond rescue until Lucius makes a fateful decision that will change the lives of doctor, patient, and nurse forever…” – Goodreads

I was gifted a copy of The Winter Soldier by Pan Macmillan SA.

Trigger Warnings:
  • Violence and Gore

 

SPOILER FREE SECTION:

I have read many a World War II story, but this is only my second World War I novel.  When a book is praised by authors like Anthony Doerr and Elizabeth Macneal, it has a certain appeal.  Daniel Mason did not disappoint.  Fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, All the Light We Cannot See and The Girl You Left Behind will adore Mason’s writing style.

Lucius only ever wanted to be a doctor. He has visions of breakthrough medical discoveries and exploring the human anatomy (and fleeing from his awful mother), but war is not something he is prepared for… at all. Lucius is posted to a remote field church-turned-hospital, far removed from hygienic operating rooms and state-of-the-art medical technology. His only salvation is a single nurse who has learned what it requires to survive not just the war, but also the aftermath. But the 1914 Austro-Hungarian Empire has unforgivable winters; add to that, brutal war and Lucius is completely out of his depth.

The writing is impeccable.  Mason weaves a story that flows smoothly, is interesting and lets you feel deeply for each character.  The setting is well-crafted and adventures.  There are luscious evening dinners and harsh, gruesome battlefields.  It is a time where PTSD was not considered a medical diagnosis and the only priority is showing up, fighting the war and staying alive.  The story is both heart-warming and heartbreaking.  Part mystery, part war story, part romance – there is something for everyone.

SPOILER INCLUDED SECTION:

Lucius’s character development is relatable.  By the end of the book, I felt that I had made a new gentleman friend and was proud of the young man he had become, even if his story did not have a happy ending.

 

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BOOK DEPOSITORY | LOOT

 

The Confession – First 5-hashtag read of 2020!

The Confession by Jessie Burton

My Rating: #####/5

Goodreads Rating: 4.09/5

Published September 24th, 2019

“Rose Simmons is seeking answers about her mother, who disappeared when she was a baby. Having learned that the last person to see her was Constance Holden, a reclusive novelist who withdrew from public life at the peak of her fame, Rose is drawn to the door of Connie’s imposing house in search of a confession . . .”Goodreads

I was gifted a copy of The Confession by Pan Macmillan SA. This is an unpaid review.

At one point in your life; if you haven’t already, you will read a book that steals your heart, breaks into a million pieces and leaves you broken. This is not that book. This book is the opposite of that. The Confession rips your heart out of your chest, shatters it, leaves you aching and in anguish and then slowly and lovingly puts it back together. Jessie Burton uses Rose Simmons and Constance Holden to wrap their arms around you while you cry for their pain, comforts you with their confessions and helps you put your heart back together whilst piecing together their journeys into a story so beautiful it leaves you breathless.

Trigger Warnings:
• Child abandonment
• Abortion

“I don’t tell people about the yearning. The wonder. I tell them, You can’t miss what you never had!

Rose has always wanted to know about her mother, but her dad has never wanted to talk about Elise. As a little girl, Rose made up stories about her mother; who Elise was, where she came from, why she left… or how Elise died. But as an adult, having grown up without a mother leaves you incomplete. Having grown not knowing one single thing about your mother, leaves you completely incomplete. Rose is unhappy, lost and with no sense of self-awareness – it’s heartbreaking.

“Self-consciousness in a woman’s life is a plague of locusts!”

On a trip visiting her father, he finally provides some information about Elise. A woman named Constance Holden. As Rose tries to contact Constance to find out about her mother, her world is upended most unexpectedly. Who is Constance Holden? Does she have any answers? Does she still have contact with Elise?

“In both books, Holden seemed preoccupied with mothers and daughters, love, the nature and conditions of emotional punishments, and missed opportunity.”

This book is dazzlingly written; it’s like picking up a piece of poetry and seeing each anapest clearly and feeling the rhythm of each verse in your soul – without anyone having to explain it to you. Burton takes what she describes in her quote above about emotional punishment and missed opportunities and crafts a story of self-discovery and redemption. But it’s not for the faint of heart. If you loved books like The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid and Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, you will adore this powerful novel about secrets, story-telling, motherhood, and friendships.

GOODREADS | AMAZON | BOOK DEPOSITORY | LOOT

If Only I Could Tell You…. How disappointed I am.

If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman

My Rating: #/5

Goodreads Rating: 3.96/5 

Published February 21st, 2019 by Orion

Trigger Warning(s):

  • Life-threatening illness
  • Miscarriage
  • Suicide

Synopsis:

Audrey is fighting an incurable illness, but her greatest fear is not dying. Her greatest fear is dying while her daughters are still estranged, and her granddaughters have never been allowed to meet. Audrey’s family is torn apart by secrets and she is determined to set everything right.

Writing:

Audrey, Lilly and Jess’s stories are told from the third person limited point of view. The TOC gives a clear outline of how sections and chapters are broken down into the past and the present and how Audrey’s last year of her life progresses. And this is where the clarity stopped for me. Yes, at the table of contents.

I don’t enjoy overindulgent writing and If Only I Could Tell You is written with a lot of excessively emotional and repetitive explanations for the same thing, whereby when it comes to the personal circumstances of each character, you are told very little. This made it hard for me to relate to any of the characters, as I’ve only been given a basic overview of their lives. 

The Story:

The chapters are short, which at first, I thought would make it a quick and easy read, but each chapter ends abruptly and the next one starts at a random point in time. The end of each chapter left me feeling unsatisfied and takes away from the flow of the story. This book gave me the impression it was written by three different writers and then the chapters were pieced together haphazardly after the fact. I didn’t enjoy some chapters being repeated verbatim after the “big secret” was revealed; I believe this was done as a reminder to the reader of past events, but this added to the random flow of the chapters and unfortunately added to my frustration with the story.

The “big secret” is only revealed right at the end, and by this point, I wanted to shout: “just tell us already!!!!”. There is also an unexpected plot reveal about halfway and even this felt disjointed and did not tie into the story told in the first half of the book. By this point, I got the impression that the writer changed her mind about what the “big secret” should be, added another element to the story and then changed the whole plot for the second half of the book. 

My final thoughts:

I picked up this book because it was described as an emotional, deeply moving read. It fell flat in several departments and I wish it had more substance to it. The concept of the story is such a great idea, but the execution didn’t live up to the hype. I am surprised I finished it, as I usually DNF books very quickly if they don’t grab my interest and attention right from the start. I kept thinking: “There is a lot of hype around this book, it’s going to get better and it’s going to be epic…” It didn’t get better…. And it was not epic. 

This book might be the perfect light and fluffy beach read, if you are looking for something superficial or a palate cleanser, where you do not need to live yourself into the story too much or if you only are able to read a couple of pages a day and can fill in the substance by using your imagination.

The Professor and the Madman – for the love of words.

Director: Farhad Safinia (as P.B. Sherman)
Writers: John Boorman, Todd Komarnicki, Farhad Safinia & Simon Winchester (author)
Stars: Mel Gibson, Sean Penn & Natalie Dormer

The Professor and the Madman is a biographical drama set in the 19th century Ireland.  The movie is based on the 1998 book The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Love of Words written by Simon Winchester.

Have you ever wondered how the Oxford English Dictionary came to be?  Who wrote it?  How was it decided which words to include and their meaning?

This is about recording the evolution of meaning.”

James Augustus Henry Murray (eventually knighted Sir James Augustus Henry Murray), portrayed by Gibson is assigned the daunting task of gathering all the words in the English language, their origin, translation and meaning and compile what we now know as the Oxford English Dictionary. To assist with this enormous assignment, he enlists the help of the public. The public is asked to submit words to be included in the OED, along with quotations from books, newsprint, bibles and any other sources of literature.   

While being held at a psychiatric hospital, the brilliant, but very disturbed, William Chester Minor (Penn) comes across the invitation and devotes most of his time (and eventually his life) reading, researching, cataloging and submitting words and quotations to Murray and his team.  As such, Minor becomes one of the OED’s most effective and significant contributors.

Disclosure: I have not read The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Love of Words, but the film is brilliant.

The characters are well thought-out, interesting and likable.  The Victorian era is profoundly illustrated through dark, somewhat gloomy and cold spaces for those lower-; and middle-class families suffering poverty and hardship; contrasted with rich, warm and comfortable settings depicting the educated and upper-class society.  Sean Penn truly shines as The Madman and I cannot think of a better actor for Minor’s role.  Penn portrays calm, intelligence, anguish, wretchedness, lunacy and love in such an intense way, you feel it as if you were in the room with him.  Mel Gibson compliments Penn’s character with consistency, stoicism and true Gibson-style perseverance.  Seeing them together on-screen, makes you want to yell: “You can do this, just keep going!!”.

WATCH IT BECAUSE:

Book lovers: you’ll love this film with its passion for words and it’s beautiful and historical books #bookshelfappreciation. Minor’s ingenious cataloging system will make you want to unpack your bookshelf, read every single book and start your own cataloging system.

“James Murray: Who’s she?
Dr. William Chester Minor: The impossible.
James Murray: The more impossible, the greater the love. “

The technical stuff:

Genre: Biography, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Run time: 2h 4min
Parental Guidance: No sex or nudity, moderate graphic violence and gore and mild profanity.