Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Things that make me Happy

I don't want to wish time away, but I'm glad to be saying goodbye to January, always a difficult month in the aftermath of Christmas, with its short gloomy days and long freezing nights, the worst of the weather and the horrible bugs. February at least promises brighter, longer days, the return of birdsong and new growth pushing through in the garden, bringing hope.

I have just visited the Three Beautiful Things blog for inspiration, and it set me thinking about what three things have made me feel happy today.

Putting on a pretty, warm, knitted dress, smart woollen jacket, winter white scarf and black leather knee boots today to go into the beautiful Suffolk riverside town of Woodbridge and do some shopping, instead of my usual jeans, jumper and fleece.

Buying two new books at the Browser's Bookshop, an independent shop with interesting and thoughtful stock beautifully laid out, where I could spend far too much money. Today I bought Tea Obreht's "The Tiger's Wife" which struck me as both unusual and well-written, and Helen Castor's "She-Wolves" about influential Medieval Queens, a subject which has fascinated me ever since I picked up an Alison Weir book detailing the life of Katherine Swynford, a commoner, the Mistress, then later third wife of the 14th century Prince John of Gaunt and the ancestress of our royal family. Medieval history has become something of a passion and I am absolutely riveted to the Richard III saga.

Stroking the silky-soft velvety fur of our Labrador's ears.  I love to stroke her ears and she can happily put up with it for hours! Soothing for both of us.

Thursday, 12 April 2007

The Aftermath

Vikram has been banished from the bedroom but we are inseparable during the evenings.

I am now reading about the aftermath of the war when communications are restored and Henny gets back in touch with her old friends in Berlin. Seth uses the letters he found in the attic of Henny's house in Hendon as his source. She and her family were deeply rooted in the community they lived in and had a close-knit circle of friends. She was engaged to her employer's son.

Obviously, Henny is very preoccupied with the way her mother and sister were treated by this group of people during the run-up to their deportation in 1943. Lola, her sister, was among the last Jews to leave Berlin as her work was considered important but eventually the she and her mother were separated and sent to the death camps. The trail of letters gives a great deal of insight into the pressures put upon the German people living under the Nazis and the moral dilemmas they faced as they struggled to keep their integrity and to survive themselves. Some helped Henny's family more than others. Some had more to lose because of their own dubious ancestry. Henny's fiance married an Aryan and betrayed her to preserve himself. He was himself half Jewish. There are also first-hand descriptions of the deprivations suffered by the Germans in the years after the war ended.

I find all this quite fascinating as it is an extreme version of the moral dilemmas we all face as we go through life. It also shows how difficult it is to condemn another's choices without understanding their situation.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

"Two Lives" by Vikram Seth

I hardly slept last night.

The last thing I do every night before I turn out the light is read my book. Last night I found it hard to put down. I am currently reading Vikram Seth's novel "Two Lives", in which he narrates the unusual story of his Uncle Shanti and Aunt Henny.

They both had fascinating lives and lived through turbulent times. Henny was a German Jew who came over to England in 1939, while it was still possible for Jews to travel. Last night I was riveted by Seth's description of what would have happened to her mother, Ella, and her sister, Lola, both sensitive, cultured women who were caught up in unimaginable horror. Of all the articles and books I have read about the Holocaust, I think this really brought home to me the gruesome reality. Seth does not dwell particularly on the details of their final ordeal, he just gives an outline of what their fate would have been, but the final description of the scene in the gas chamber is harrowing.

I was also reading yesterday the story of Leni Riefenstahl, the actress and film maker who collaborated with the Nazis and made propaganda films for them but who, herself, may have been Jewish. It is anathema to us now that this horror became normalised, yet it happened in Western Europe within living memory.

Also in the Sunday Times was a fascinating article by Bryan Appleyard describing the Stanford Prison Experiment which demonstrates that perfectly ordinary, well-balanced people can be turned into savage tyrants or cowering victims according to the circumstances in which they find themselves. That it is the situation that allows evil to flourish. That really is chilling!