The Man Booker Prize 2013

h_logo_official_largeEvery year, I’m excited about the Man Booker Prize. I’m not quite sure why it’s this prize in particular that interests me the most, but fact is, it is. Maybe because it often is very good books that are both long- and short-listed as well as eventually wins.

Every year I want to read the long-list and thereby form my own opinion on which books deserve to be put on the short-list – and which book ultimately deserves to win. Each year I fail in doing this – mostly because I can’t afford buying all the books (and most of them aren’t available in Denmark anyway so I have to order them from abroad which of course costs more). Time is also a factor in my not getting around to reading the entire long-list. Still, I dream of doing so one year.

Last year, Hilary Mantel made history by winning for the second time – with the second book in her Cromwell series.

This year – someone else will get the honor.

This year’s longlist:

  • Ruth Ozeki: A Tale for the Time Being
  • Charlotte Mendelson: Almost English
  • Tash Aw: Five Star Billionaire
  • Jim Crace: Harvest
  • Richard House: The Kills
  • Jhumpa Lahiri: The Lowland
  • Eleanor Catton: The Luminaries
  • Eve Harris: The Marrying of Chani Kaufman
  • Donal Ryan: The Spinning Heart
  • Colm Toibin: The Testament of Mary
  • Colum McCann: TransAtlantic
  • Alison MacLeod: Unexploded
  • Noviolet Bulawayo: We Need New Names

You can read more about these books here.

I haven’t read any of these books – and only one book by one of the longlisted authors (Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann which I loved).

I will try to see if I can find some of these and at least make it through a few of them before the shortlist will be revealed on September 10.

Anybody have any thoughts on this year’s longlist?

Related posts:

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2 years blogiversary!

Wow! 2 years has gone by since I decided to start this blog. The first year was a great year but this second year has been incredible. The blog has grown quite a bit so there’s now a lot of readers who check it out every day. And even more important, there’s a lot more commenting going on which makes it even more interesting to read the posts because they now often involve other people’s views and suggestions too. I love that interaction and I love that more people are interested in The Literary Bunny so it becomes even more fun for all of us.

I posted 59 posts the first year and now, after two years, I’ve posted 202 posts! That’s quite a lot of posts – but I of course want there to be even more posts. This second year has seen me branching more out so there are more non-review posts, of course still book related. I like that there are more of a variety  of posts now and I like that I have started participating in memes (or at least in one meme Top Ten Tuesday) and readalongs (Clarissa springs to mind). I would like to participate in more 24 hours etc readalongs but it’s often hard for me since I have two young children but I will try to jump in whenever I can.

I will try to keep the contents interesting throughout the blog’s third year. Mostly, of course, by reading interesting and fascinating books but also by participating in interesting events in the blogiverse and by writing posts about whatever is up in the book world and whatever I find interesting…!

To celebrate, I’ve updated the blog’s look. I think I have had the old look almost since the beginning and so I decided it was time for a change. New theme, new colors, new header image. I hope you like it!

And how fitting it is, that I finished my second book of the year today!

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Ramona Ausubel: No One Is Here Except All Of Us (review)

We are all here, our voices said. This is our home, our turf, our valley. We have peed all over it, slept all over it, dreamed all over it, renamed it. No one is here except all of us. (p. 108)

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When I first heard of this novel, I thought this would be something of a 1001 Nights story where the people of a small village gather together and tell each other stories to fend off the impending doom. However, that was not quite a correct impression. Instead, it’s in some ways a retelling of the creation story from the Bible with chapters called The Beginning of the World, The First Day, The Second Day etc.

In a small village in Romania in 1939, war is slowly getting closer. When a mysterious strange woman is washed up on the riverbank and tells about how her village was attacked by solders and how she watched her family being taken away, into the forest, the villagers feel an impending doom closing in on them. The villagers’ Jewish ancestors have been forced to move to escape numerous times and the villagers don’t want to do that again. They have no where to go, no place to run: ‘When there is nothing left to do, and there is nowhere else to go, the world begins again.’ (p. 24). And so they make a deal with God:

Dear God, We did not start again because it wasn’t beautiful before. The world we make will be much smaller and less glorious than the one you made. Ours will have none of the strange, wild animals – no elephants or tigers, no parrots or blue frogs. It will have none of the exotic spices, no sea, no lakes. We are content to accept this small circle of land as our entire universe, so long as we are safe here. (p. 29)

So the villagers start over. They create a new world with their imagination. Two wives switch husbands – and the couple who have never been able to have a child, gets one. In this new world, they no longer have to be childless. The 11-year-old girl, Lena, who is the book’s narrator, has to say goodbye to her family and becomes a new family’s child. But she’s not a baby and the mother is so very much in need of having a baby, so they make an agreement that she is a baby but that she grows a year every few weeks. However, she doesn’t stop growing when she reaches her own age, according to her new mother, so it doesn’t take much time before Lena is ready to be married and move out on her own – and become a mother herself.

The village stays untouched by the war but of course we all know that it’s only a matter of time before reality overrules fiction and imagination. This separates the book into two sections – the first being the villagers creating their new beautiful dream of a life in peace, and the second following Lena, trying to protect her two young children by taking them on the run, away from the village.

I do not wonder why we were left alone as long as we were. Why our village was skipped by marching Romanian soldiers with orders to send all Jews and Gypsies to the other side of the border for the Germans to deal with. What aches in every part of my body is that we did not hear their cries, the lives ending. Death by machine gun, death by starvation, death by sadness. Along we went, our lives day to day, morning to night. A million mothers, a million fathers, a million sons and daughters screamed at once, and all we heard was the good wind shake the trees out. (p. 143)

I didn’t quite buy the premise of this book, the idea that so many adults in a village would get in on this and go through with it. That in a blink of an eye, women are ready to switch their husbands – or maybe I believe that, but I had trouble believing that everyone in the city went along with the fantasy that peace could be achieved like that, by starting over. Still, I liked the book. I really liked it. The story is beautiful and the idea of creating a new world like that is so pure in it’s naive simplicity.

And it did get me thinking about identity and the power of the mind over reality and faith versus knowledge. I guess it all comes down to perception, what you perceive is reality. How much reality do you need in order to believe in something? And what happens when what you believe in, turns out not to be true? When your carefully constructed reality shatters? And if you just keep on believing in something stubbornly enough, does it actually take on a reality of it’s own?

This is a very atypical World War II book. It follows in the tradition of Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful which is about a father trying to protect his son from the harsh realities of a Nazi death camp by creating stories. But even though the focus is in some ways more on the way people handle tough situations and extreme crisis, it has the heart-breaking moments you’ve come to expect from any World War II story on top of the struggles Lena goes through as a young girl, having to completely rethink who she is and what her story is.

I haven’t seen many reviews of this book. I don’t think a lot of people have  been reading it and even though I have some issues with it, I still enjoyed it a lot and it made me think. It touches upon subjects that are interesting for us all, I think, and I really hope that more people will pick this book up and give this first-time author a chance.

What do we have now, he asked himself. If we die, every single one of us? The story, he thought, remained. Once told, it does not ever go completely away. It has no throat to slit. (p. 231)

  • Title: No One Is Here Except All Of Us
  • Author: Ramona Ausubel
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books
  • Year: 2012
  • Pages: 328 pages
  • Source: Own Collection
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5

If you liked this novel, you might also like The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell, Night by Elie Wiesel, Maus by Art Spiegelman and The Reader by Bernhard Schlinck that all deal with World War II.

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Resolutions …

The last couple of years, my boyfriend, a mutual friend and I have challenged each others with books. We each choose a book for the two other – a book, that we think the recipient will like but it a bit out of their comfort zone. We also each write our own individual goals and then we share them with each other on Google Drive and update them throughout the year, keeping track on how the other two are doing. Last year, the only one completing his goals, was my boyfriend – and I even bet him, that I would finish mine and if I didn’t, I would have to buy him a book… Otherwise, I would have received a book, but alas, I have to get him a book of his choice.

Anyway, one of the things I really liked about my goals last year, was that I read one book by each of my favorite authors. I so enjoyed it that I am going to repeat that this year. Also, I read one book by a Danish author and since I am Danish, I figure, reading one Danish book a year is the least I can do. Also, I want to explore some authors that I haven’t read enough – or nothing – by and since I get too easily carried away by lovely fiction, I also have to challenge myself to read some non-fiction.

And finally, I have a small list of 5 books, that I want to get through this year as well as the 4 books, I didn’t get to read from last year’s list.

So far, I am only signed up for one challenge – the epic readalong of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series – and I’m not sure if I’m going to sign up for any more. Last year I missed having more free room to read whatever I wanted and since I couldn’t narrow my list of reading goals further down than 24 books, I will only sign up for challenges I really truly will enjoy to participate in – one of these probably being joining up for at least some of the discussions in Caroline’s Literature and War Readalong 2013.

My 2013 Reading Goals

Read 52 books.

End the year with fewer books on my to-read list than I started it with (To-read: Jan. 1 = 195  books)
  1. Read one book by each of my five favorite authors:
    1. John Irving
    2. Stephen King
    3. Haruki Murakami
    4. Joyce Carol Oates
    5. Terry Pratchett
  2. Explore the following authors (ie read at least one book by each):
    1. Margaret Atwood
    2. Philip Roth
    3. John Updike
    4. Toni Morrisson
  3. Read (at least) one book by a Danish author
  4. The Christmas Classic: Alexander Dumas: The Count of Monte Christo
  5. Virginia Woolf: Orlando
  6. Richard Adams: Watership Down
  7. Evelyn Waugh: Brideshead Revisited
  8. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
  9. Read 3 non-fiction books (at least one about parenting)

+ the books I didn’t finish for my 2012 list of reading goals:

  1. Don DeLillo: Underworld
  2. Finish Sherlock Holmes
  3. One non-fiction about collecting
  4. One non-fiction about philosophy: Coppleston vol. 1

Chosen by friends (2 books – 0 read)

For Henrik: The Fortress of Solitude
From Henrik: Thomas Ligotti: Teatro Grotesco
For Peder: Salman Rushdie: Shalimar the Clown
From Peder: Martin Amis: Lionel Asbo

Total: 24 books. 
You can follow my progress with these resolutions here.

2012 Year in Review

So another year has flown by and here we are again, looking back and looking forward.

This post is one of my looking back posts, looking back on the books I’ve read throughout 2012 and trying to make some sense of it all through various statistics and more. I’ve already posted a list of the 10 best books I read in 2012 here so this post will focus more on what kinds of books, I read, broken into various categories. For a total list of the 44 books, I’ve read this year, see here.

Women v. Men

So I’ve read 44 books this year which is okay. Of these, 13 were written by women and the other 31 were (of course) written by men. I don’t care all that much about if books are written by men or women just as long as I read something by both genders. I’ve never counted this before so I went back. In 2011, 14 books out of 39 were written by women and in 2010, 26 books out of 58 were by women. So it varies quite a bit how many books I read by female writers – from 30-44%. And that’s okay. I have no need to absolutely read half and half – I’m just interested in reading good books. I would see it as a problem if I only read one gender but since I don’t, it’s not an issue. That being said, I would like to start reading some of the Orange Prize winners – but more on that in a later post.

Own books v. borrowed/rented books

I read three books I rented from the library this year – The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl and Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. I don’t use the library all that much since after I got the Kindle and … well, because I really love buying books. Of these three books, I would love to own both The Woman in White and Battle Royale.

I read three books borrowed from my friend Henrik – The Message to the Planet by Iris Murdoch and Neverwhere and American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I would definitely like to own the two Neil Gaiman books! I also read three of my boyfriend’s books: The Gunslinger (Dark Tower #1) by Stephen King, The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell and Racing Through the Dark by David Millar.

Kindle books v. dead tree books

I only read three books on my Kindle this year. But one of these was Clarissa, the longest novel in the English language, and it took me almost all year to finish that one so I did actually read a lot on my Kindle – many pages, at least, if not many books. I like reading on the Kindle even though I don’t do it all that much. I like having the option of getting books with a moment’s notice and reading them – especially since it usually takes a couple of weeks to get most books.

Fiction v. non-fiction books

I read five non-fiction books this year: How to Make Your Child a Reader for Life by Paul Kropp, Underground by Haruki Murakami, Racing Through the Dark by David Millar, Den gule trøje i de høje bjerge by Jørgen Leth and It’s Not About the Bike by Lance Armstrong. I’m not a huge non-fiction reader anymore – I simply love fiction too much – but I do like to add a bit of non-fiction to my reading so I’m quite satisfied with having read five.

Challenges

I signed up for 6 challenges this year, one of which is continuing in 2013. I finished all the five challenges that ended in 2012.

Mount TBR Reading Challenge: I signed up to read 25 books from my TBR pile – that is, books owned prior to January 1, 2012. I ended up reading 31 books bught before 2012 so most of my reads this year was bought earlier and when you then add library books (3), Kindle books (3) and books borrowed from friends (6), that means I only read one book bought in 2012…! I do like getting books read from my shelves but I would like to read more books in 2013 published in 2013 (or some of the many I missed in 2012).

The Chunkster challenge: I signed up for the ‘Do These Books Make My Butt Look Big?’ option and committed to reading 6 chunksters (two which are between 450-550 pages, two which are 551-750 pages and 2 which are greater than 750 pages. I ended up completing this goal in May but ended reading 13 chunksters in total – not counting Clarissa since I read that one on my Kindle, and the Chunkster challenge doesn’t count ebooks… So 14 chunksters in all!

Haruki Murakami challenge: I signed up to read one book by Murakami and I read Underground, so challenge completed.

Neil Gaiman challenge: I signed up to read 1-3 books by Neil Gaiman and I read Neverwhere and American Gods.

Clarissa read-a-long: I count this as a challenge since it took all year long! I signed up for this read-along, really not knowing what I had got myself into and even though it was not always very enjoyable, I did finish this huge novel.

My Private Reading Challenge

This is the challenge, I give myself for the year as well as the books, my boyfriend, our friend Henrik and myself challenge each other to read.

This year, Henrik challenged me to read Message to the Planet by Iris Murdoch and my boyfriend challenged me to read The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell. I finished both and liked them, particularly the Murdoch novel.

I challenged myself to read 52 novels. I didn’t quite succeed – finished on a respectable 44 books as well as 6 audiobooks (which I don’t count).

I also challenged myself to read more books than I buy – I think I succeeded in this even though I began the year with 181 books on my to-read shelf and end it with 182 books since I also read borrowed and rented books as well as Kindle books. This challenge made me realize that I need to state my goal clearer so next year, the goal will be to end the year with fewer books on my to-read shelf than I began the year with.

I challenged myself to read a list of 20 novels and 3 non-fiction books – and failed. I read 18 of the novels and 1 of the non-fiction books so I didn’t make it through the last 4.

So I didn’t really succeed in any of the challenges I sat for myself. I blame Clarissa for this …! At least, if I had known that I would read Clarissa in time, I would have put that on my list of challenges for myself – but I didn’t and it took so long to get through the novel that I think I would have finished both the books on my list and the 52 books in total I had challenged myself to read.

So where does that leave me?

Well, after all the numbers and statistics and dry stuff, how do I really feel about my reading in 2012?

I ended up reading 22.845 pages which is quite a high number for me. It’s the third highest number since I started keeping track in (late) 2007. 44 books is only the fourth best year (which means it’s the second worst year) so not all that good. With that being said, I read a lot of good books this year and I really enjoyed my reading of various books related to Charles Dickens and Drood. I also read and liked some intimidating books – Les Misérables, Shalimar the Clown by Salman Rushdie – and I discovered how much I enjoy Neil Gaiman’s novels. I think I had challenged myself to too many things so I felt rather stifled in my reading towards the end of the year so I will try to not decide beforehand on too many books for 2013.

So that’s it for me this year! I hope to see you next year and I hope you have a Happy New Year! 🙂

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December Wrap Up

So as the year is coming to an end, I’ve busied myself with finishing the last novel I will read this year, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I made it and it was a delightful way to end the year. As I’m writing this, it’s the second to last day of the year, the Christmas tree is still looking pretty with it’s lights, flags and other decorations, the kids and the dog are asleep and even though it’s raining, it just feels so calm and peaceful. A perfect night to look back on what has been and forward to what will be.

This year saw me reading my way 44 books. Even though I had hoped to reach 52 books for the year, I’m happy to make it to 44, especially since I read a lot of chunksters. December saw me finishing 4 books.

  1. Jonathan Littell: The Kindly Ones. The genocide of the Jewish people during World War II told from the point of view of a SS-officer. Violent, boring, extremely long, fascinating. A very uneven book but with various redeeming factors. 3 stars.
  2. Elie Wiesel: Night. Night is the total opposite of The Kindly Ones. Extremely short, beautiful, haunting. A single Jewish survivor of various Concentration Camps bears witness to what he lived through during the last few years of the war. 5 stars.
  3. Ramona Ausubel: No One Is Here Except All Of Us. The people in a tiny Romanian village try to cope with the impending doom as the Nazis are getting closer. They shut themselves off from the world and try to start over. Not completely selling me on the premise but I liked it. 4 stars.
  4. Neil Gaiman: American Gods. Does a god exist if no one believe in him? Is there room in America for gods? Join Wednesday, Shadow and various people and gods, dead and alive, on this thrilling ride to discover whether the Americans believe in the old gods or in the new gods of Media, Internet and so on. 4 stars.

So that was it this month. Three books connected to World War II and then one last book which was something completely different. I enjoy it that way – both the themed reading as well as the changing of pace and theme.

Skærmbillede 2013-12-31 kl. 12.23.31

But this picture is not really making me all that proud of myself. I really thought I would make it to 52 books this year. The previous years I’ve challenged myself to read 100 books but with two kids, I finally realized that was impossible. So instead I challenged myself to 1 book a week. And failed. I still believe I could have made it if I didn’t read all those chunksters, but hey, the most most important thing is to read the books one wants to read so I’m not going to sit down and cry about this. 2013 is another year 😉

And according to Goodreads, I did read 22.845 pages – so that’s pretty good, I think.

Anyways, a Year in Review post will follow so if you feel like it, you can see all kinds of statistics and other stuff, I felt like looking into about my reading in 2012.

(And yes, I know I’m still behind on writing reviews, but I promise, I will get them written!)

Related posts:

Elie Wiesel: Night (review)

 “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”

– George Santayana

nightThere’s a lot of debate in Denmark right now because some have suggested that Jews didn’t walk on (certain) streets in Copenhagen while wearing a Star of David or a kippa/yarmulke because they will then be in danger of being attacked. It’s strangely appropriate that I should be reading this book right now, then.

I’ve also just finished reading Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones about the extermination of the Jews from the point of view of an SS officer. 983 pages. So I needed something from the other point of view. Something showing the Jews and their suffering from their perspective. Something showing them as the humans they were and are and not as the animals, the Nazis tried to make them be in order to justify the extermination of them. It’s strange that Littell’s book made me think so much more with all it’s many pages whereas this brief book didn’t so much make me think as it made me feel. And it definitely didn’t make me want to think because thinking of what Wiesel writes, is too devastating.

Wiesel’s book is written to bear witness. To tell what it was like to be in Auschwitz and Buchenwald. To tell the world what happened to the Jews during World War II. But in some ways, he didn’t succeed in showing them as humans. Or at least, not all the time. Because what the book shows is that if you treat humans like the Nazis treated the Jews, at some point you take everything that’s human out of them and all you leave them with, is survival instinct. And that is what makes a boy not react to his father’s cries as he is being beaten to death. That’s what make a boy unsure whether the babies he saw thrown in the fire, was alive or not. That’s what makes a boy run and run and run, through the snow and without any food or drink, on a foot that just had surgery. That’s what makes a boy survive being separated from his mother and little sister by a man saying just eight words: “Men to the left! Women to the right!” (p. 29)

Hitler and the Nazis did succeed in making the Jews into animals. They were starved and beaten and mistreated and tortured and used in ways most of us would never do to an animal. And when they were dead – sometimes even before they were dead – their bodies were burned or buried in huge mass graves. Unmarked graves.

“It is obvious that the war which Hitler and his accomplices waged was a war not only against Jewish men, women, and children, but also against Jewish religion, Jewish culture, Jewish tradition, therefore Jewish memory.” (p. viii)

But despite all they did to accomplish this, to erase the Jews from ever existing, they still failed. And they failed because of people like Elie Wiesel. Like Primo Levi. Like Anne Frank. Like Imre Kertész. Like Art Spiegelman. And like so many others. Who bore witness to what had happened to them or to their families. Who made sure that no one would ever forget. And thereby did their part in preventing it from ever happening again. Now we just need people to listen. To read.

And to get people to stop attacking Jews for being Jews. Or other people for being who they are born to be.

It’s hard to write a review about a book like this, it’s hard to rate it anything but 5 stars, it’s hard to write a review about it that says more than ‘just go read it!’

“The witness has forced himself to testify. For the youth of today, for the children who will be tomorrow. He does not want his past to become their future.”

– Elie Wiesel

  • Title: Night
  • Author: Elie Wiesel
  • Publisher: Penguin
  • Year: 2006 (1958)
  • Pages: 120 pages
  • Source: Own Collection
  • Stars: 5 stars out of 5

If you liked this book, you might also like The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell, Maus by Art Spiegelman and The Reader by Bernhard Schlinck, books that all deal with World War II, or One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn about being in a death camp/labor camp.

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Jonathan Littell: The Kindly Ones (review)

THE-KINDLY-ONESSo if you’re looking for a book detailing the logistic issues of genocide, this is your book. 983 pages about the genocide of the Jewish people during World War II told from the point of view of SS-officer Maximilian Aue. Yeah. What’s not to like?

Actually, quite a bit. But not as much as you would think with it being a book about an SS-officer being involved in the destruction of the Jewish race. And that was one of my issues with the book. But now, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s take a step back and look closer at the book itself.

Even though this is not so much a book you summarize as it is a book that makes you think, I still wants to give a quick idea of what the book is about. Maximilian Aue is a young man, working his way up in the army. He struggles to get a break but finally succeed, not least because of powerful friends. We get to follow him to Stalingrad, Auschwitz, Berlin in 1945 and other places of importance, Babi Yar for instance. Before reading this novel, I had never heard of Babi Yar which is apparently probably the largest two-day massacre during The Holocaust. It took place in a ravine close to Kiev on September 29 and 30, 1941 and 33.771 Jews were killed on these two days – and later they killed other victims too at the ravine (source: Wikipedia). It was interesting to learn about this, however, even though the book featured scenes like Aue taking a little girl by her hand, leading her down in the ravine, getting her to lay down on top of corpses and letting others shoot her, it was written in a way that didn’t move me in the least. I tried to explain this with Aue being without empathy and somewhat of a psychopath, but the problem is that Aue does appear to feel remorse at some points and to see that what he is participating in, is wrong. And since other of the soldiers participating in Babi Yar are breaking down because of what they have to do, I as the reader should feel something too. Maybe the intention is to show that the killing of the Jews became just another chore, causing a lot of logistic issues, that it all became just another new normalcy but it was too early in the book for this – as readers we need to be shocked at scenes like this and it’s a problem, if the author can’t get us to feel anything at scenes like this.

There’s a lot of questions we don’t get answered in this book, most of these because Aue is such an unreliable narrator. Delusional even. He experiences things and narrates things that can’t possible be true. And then, it turns out they are. Other things we believe to be true, but we never get confirmation. We just have to make up our own mind about Aue’s actions, his relationship with his family and his experiences – and especially about who he is. The book also raises questions about memory – how far can you trust your memory? You think you remember something, yes, but is it actually true?

Would this book be more powerful if the narrator had been a normal person, just caught up in the Nazi war machine instead of a delusional man with sexual feelings for his twin sister? Instead of a man who always resented his French mother and idolized his absent German father and therefore of course works for the promotion of the German Reich? Yes, I think it would. I think this unreliable, sick and delusional man is to easy to see as a nasty perpetrator. It’s too easy that a man like this would take his issues out on an entire people if given the chance – and Hitler’s delusions definitely gave him and others like him the chance. However, the people who was in charge of the Concentration Camps were not all twisted people like Maximilian Aue. Of course some of them was. But not all. And I think it’s a bit easy to have a man like Aue as your main protagonist and narrator when most people participating in making Hitler’s dream for Germany come true, were just ordinary people. Would it have been more horrifying then? Yes, I think so – and more true. I think his actions are to easy to dismiss because of his childhood issues and deviant sexual desires (and just to make it clear, I’m not talking about his homosexuality although that of course was deviant in the eyes of the Nazis). It would have created a whole other set of moral issues and complexities if the protagonist of a book like this, had been a completely normal man, maybe even a father, and to detail how he could justify – or at least live with – his actions.

This is one of those books which most people either love or hate. I, however, fell squarely in the middle. There are parts of it that are disgusting and parts of it that just seem wrong or too much but other parts are fascinating and it does tell the story from a point of view I at least haven’t read before. Is it a good book then? Well. For the first 350 pages or so, I really didn’t like it. Too much going back and forth between commanding officers, too much stating of military ranks. Just plain boring. And there are some linguistic parts that are so dull. Littell does gets props for mentioning Kant’s Categorial Imperative though.  However, when Aue got himself to Stalingrad, it improved somewhat and it was better for most of the remaining 600 pages. Will I recommend it to others, then? Not sure. It’s not for the weak-hearted, definitely. It is interesting if you are interested in the World War II, in what makes people able to perform atrocities. But it’s not a good book so don’t expect that. It has created a lot of controversy so it can be worth reading to know what the fuzz is about too.

There are so many accounts from the point of view of the victims, especially the Jewish victims. And that is exactly as it should be. But it’s good that there are books written from the other point of view as well, I think. Attempting to give us the point of view of the perpetrators of this series of horrendous crimes, maybe trying to explain how it got so far out of hand, how ordinary people were able participate in or at least secretly condone these atrocities.

Does the novel then give an answer to this? Well, yes and no. It does suggest an explanation as to why and how ordinary men turn into monsters in order to deal with what they had to do to men, women, children. But it doesn’t really explain it – probably in part because of the narrator – but how could you really? Of course, the book raises some interesting questions. Would we have condemned the Endlösung as much if Germany had actually won the war? I definitely think Littell has a point here because victors are never wrong. And maybe that’s the whole point of the book, that as long as you are on the winning side, you can justify anything. Were the Germans all war criminals then? No, not according to Aue. (I don’t know if he speaks for Littell too, on this point.) Aue plainly states that there is no such thing as inhumanity, just humanity and more humanity (p. 589). The people performing these war crimes, were just unlucky to be born in Germany at this point in time and really, had no choice. If they wanted to live, to feed their families, some things were necessary to do. He freely admits that some people lost their heads but he also removes the blame from a lot of the people who performed unspeakable acts. But again, Aue is not a good representative for the German people. He is too twisted and the novel looses some of it’s power and importance because of this. So ultimately, we don’t get an answer to how Hitler managed to seduce so many people, to tap into a already existing hates and distrusts and make it grow. Or really, much of an answer to anything.

Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the poop … lots and lots of poop …

  • Title: The Kindly Ones
  • Author: Jonathan Littell
  • Publisher: 
  • Year: 2009 (2006)
  • Pages: 983 pages
  • Source: My boyfriend’s collection
  • Stars: 3 stars out of 5

Lisa Shearin: All Spell Breaks Loose (Raine Benares #6) (review – audiobook)

All-Spell-Breaks-Loose-final-cover-186x300I have reached the end of this series! And there was much rejoicing! Now, don’t get me wrong. It has been an allright experience but it hasn’t been more than that and the books feel very similar. Except for specific plot details, I feel like I should just quote my review of the fifth book in the series, Con & Conjure, because I’m not sure how much new I have to say about the series as a whole or the narration of the audio books.

So things have never looked more grim for Raine Benares, the spunky seeker. After having been bonded to the Saghred, a soul-stealing stone, since early in the first book in this series, things have been cumulatively going from bad to worse but now, things are really bad. Sarad Nukpana, psychopath par excellence, has finally succeeded in getting the Saghred and after a goblin attack on Mid, Raine, her boyfriend Mychael, her former umi’atso-bound friend Tam and others decides to head to the Goblin capital of Regor to get the Saghred back from Nukpana and put the renegade prince Chigaru Mal’Salin back on the throne as well as reunite him with his girlfriend who Nukpana intends to marry. But to get there, they have to rely on Raine’s arch enemy Sylvanus Carnades since he’s a mirror mage and the only one who can get them to Regor and back safely.

Only issue – or not really only – but one of the big issues is that Raine has lost her magic. The Saghred has shut her down. She tries to hide this and it is actually rather helpful for sneaking around in Regor, but of course she can’t hide it for long and that of course creates a whole new host of problems.

The trip to Regor gives Shearin the chance to let us meet more of Tam’s family as well as Nukpana’s mother, Tam’s former teacher Kesyn Badru and more. Several of these are quite interesting although not quite as interesting as cousin Mago or Nachtmagus Vidor Kalta, who’s probably my favorite character in the series – him or Imala Kalis, the head of goblin security.

I missed Vegard a bit in this book. The big guardian is left behind on Mid to be stand-in for Mychael and make sure that the student population is not killed by the goblins – together with Raine’s pirate family. It makes sense to the story line, but I still missed Vegard’s attempt at keeping Raine safe – including sitting on her – and her flamboyant cousin Phaelan.

So the Saghred is of course hugely important in this whole series. And I have some issues with that. This rock seems to have a consciousness – at least it bears a serious grudge against Raine. I’m not sure that the idea of consciousness in objects really works in this world and parts of the plot hinges on that. I know it’s minor issue if you’re just able to suspend disbelief, however, it did mean that the final showdown didn’t quite work for me, even though it was otherwise very well executed.

This novel marks the end of the story arch that has been developed through all six books in the series. This doesn’t mean that this series is necessarily over. Lisa Shearin does leave room to take the characters up again and write some new adventures for Raine and Mychael on Mid so for people really enjoying this series, there’s hope. I’m not sure I will read another Raine Benares novel but I might read another Lisa Shearin novel. I think there’s a lot of potential in her writing.

  • Title: All Spell Breaks Loose (Raine Benares #6)
  • Author: Lisa Shearin
  • Narrated by: Eileen Stevens
  • Publisher: Ace/Audible Frontiers
  • Year: 20112
  • Pages: 303 pages
  • Time: 9 hours 19 minutes
  • Source: Own Collection (Audible)
  • Stars: 3 stars out of 5

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