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Posts Tagged ‘Amsterdam Publishers’

On Holocaust Memorial Day it is fitting to feature a memoir of someone who survived the atrocities and went on to make a life for themselves, and so, today I am honoured to share a review of Remembering Ravensbrück: From Holocaust to Healing by Natalie B. Hess.

  • Title: Remembering Ravensbrück: From Holocaust to Healing
  • Author: Natalie B. Hess
  • Publisher: Amsterdam Publishers
  • Publication Date: 27th January 2020

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

In her luminous and engrossing memoir, award-winning writer and teacher, Natalie B.Hess, takes us from a sheltered childhood in a small town in Poland, into, through, after the horrors of the Holocaust.

When her parents are rounded up and perish in the Treblinka concentration camp, a Gentile family temporarily hides six-year-old Natalia. Later, protected by a family friend, she is imprisoned in her city’s ghetto, before she is sent to a forced-labor camp, finally Ravensbrück Concentration camp, from which, at nine, she is liberated.

Taken to Sweden, bu the Swedish White Cross busses, she adapts to and grows to love her new home, becoming a “proper Swedish School girl,” until, at 16, she is claimed by relatives and uprooted to Evansville, Indiana. There, she must start over yet again, mastering English, and ultimately earning a PhD in literature.

As a married young mother, she and her husband move to Jerusalem where they and their three children experience life as Israelis, including the bombing of their home during the Six Day War. Back in the States, they settle into life in Arizona until Natalie’s husband dies unexpectedly when a teenager runs a stop sign and hits his car. In her grief, Natalie moves to Philadelphia to be with her daughter and discovers that life still holds surprises for her, including love.

Hess’s compelling portrait in which terror is muted by gratitude and gentle humor, shares the story of so many immigrants dislocated by the tyranny and war. Through her experience as a child separated from her parents, a teenager, young woman, wife, mother, college professor, and later a widow, Hess shows the power of the human spirit to survive and thrive.

My Thoughts:

From the very opening pages of this memoir, I felt a great connection with Natalie, the things she saw and how she interpreted them felt somewhat natural. And the stark reminder that everyone has a story inside them is never more true when you meet someone new or even just see someone in their day to day life. Take for instance the woman getting on the bus, does she need help? Does she want help? Is she proud of her independence and fiercely going to defend it? What has happened in her life to that point? Could she perhaps have lived through a war that forced her to rely on wits, courage and strength that she wasn’t aware she had?

Keep those questions at the back of your head as you read on about Natalie B. Hess.
As a six-year-old girl growing up in a well-to-do family, Natalia has been protected by many things, but she has never been short of love and affection. And it is this love that keeps her safe and alive, her parents taking steps to hide her when the Nazis were sending Jews to concentration camps. Seeing the situation through the eyes of a six-year-old makes the events more poignant and powerful. Her fears felt so real, I was reading with a tremor of dread. What was going to happen? Would she be added to the list? Would she be ok? Moved from the ghetto to a forced-labor camp, and then onto the infamous Ravensbrück, Natalia quickly matures and I felt a great sadness for her losing the sparks of childhood naivety. She like so many her age not being children, not playing or enjoying games but fearing for their lives and existing in a world that knew only cruelty.

After the liberation of Ravensbrück, Natalia’s life takes on the theme of travel and finding a place where she fits. Life in Sweden feels comfortable, she has a safety, a family, school and she feels “Swedish”. But relatives in America have reached out, and soon she is on a ship and bound for the other side of the world, to the land of opportunity.
It is through her steely determination that she proves her education should continue at the level it was, and not have to start back at the beginning. Losing more of her original identity and her beloved Swedish language, Natalie emerges. Thinking and speaking in English, she finds her place in the world, and follows a path towards qualifications and a career. But something is lacking once she has achieved these goals … everyone around her from training seems to be getting married, Natalie’s great humour and easy-going ways soon have the reader chuckling as she recounts dates.

I found the family’s time in Jerusalem interesting and I certainly took a lot from it, the Six Day War in 1967 was not something I knew much about at all, and so after reading about it in Natalie’s memoir, I wanted to find out more.
But I have to admit that one of the most touching and saddening parts of this memoir was how Natalie coped with the loss of her husband. The details of her thought processes at that time made me stop and think, how she felt so adrift and lost when it came to looking at the mountains of paperwork or the wee things like remembering to pick up the charger for the mobile phone … the things she’d not had to do because there was always someone else that did them. The sense that we form a team with others, and how we rely on them for their presence, comfort and support is often a strong force that can keep us moving on, and to lose it, well that can rip apart the very threads that hold our world together.

There are parts of Natalie’s life that felt so unfair, so hard. But equally, there are parts when happiness and love are so abundant in her life that it felt that things had turned a corner for her. But through it all, she remained the same, strong and courageous. Despite the hardships, the terror she faced, Natalie looked at it with what seems like a level-headed approach. Looking for a way to survive, looking for the next step forward and ultimately coming out of it stronger. Her story is powerful, it’s heartbreaking in places, but above all, there is so much that can be learned from this and I would urge readers to pick this book up.
Learn something from this amazing woman, even if it is just something as simple as asking the old woman in the street if she needs help before assuming she does.

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Celebrating Indie Publishing today has a review of a book I read at the end of 2019 and it’s stayed with me ever since. The book in question comes from a publisher I discovered late last year, but they are proving to be favourite when it comes to one of my top genres to read, WWII historical fiction.

  • Title: Hidden in the Shadows
  • Author: Imogen Matthews
  • Publisher: Amsterdam Publishers
  • Publication Date: 1st December 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Escape from the hidden village is just the beginning

September 1944: The hidden village is in ruins. Stormed by the Nazis. Several are dead and dozens flee for their lives.

Instead of leading survivors to safety, Wouter panics and abandons Laura, the love of his life. He has no choice but to keep running from the enemy who want to hunt him down.

Laura must also stay hidden as she is Jewish. Moving from one safe house to another, she is concealed in attics and cellars. The threat of discovery is always close at hand.

On the run with no end in sight, the two young people despair for ever seeing each other again.

As cold sweeps in signalling the start of the Hunger Winter, time is running out.

Wouter’s search now becomes a battle for survival.

Where can Laura be? Will they ever be reunited?

Hidden in the Shadows is an unforgettable story of bravery and love, inspired by historical events.

My Thoughts:

This sounded like a unique and fascinating book when I read the description, I can’t think that I’d ever read a book quite like this one before so I was keen to find out more. I was certainly intrigued by the idea of a hidden village in the woods and the lengths that people had to go to to hide from the Nazis.

Following the tale of Wouter, readers are taken on an emotional journey as he flees from the danger of the advancing Nazis, who are systematically clearing the area of any Jewish people and anyone they deem a danger to their regime. With an army of people ready to help where they can, offering safety, food, clothing or even links to The Underground, Wouter runs to safety where he can find it.
But for me, the most poignant tale had to be that of Laura. She flees the village after the Nazis discover it and runs blindly to any form of safety she can find. Never knowing whether it’s truly safe or who she can trust, she has to rely on others to hide her and the others who fled the village.

With so much danger and unease woven throughout the narrative, this was a book that I became heavily invested in. I cared about Wouter and Laura, I cared what happened to them and hoped they would find their way back together again. Watching these characters growing, seeing events from their perspectives really made me think. The way that Imogen Matthews writes Laura as a young woman slowly finding her strength and courage was moving. This portrayal was superb and I liked this character more as I read on, seeing the challenges facing a young Jewish woman in hiding in 1944 was deeply moving, I got a great sense of the fear, anxiety and panic felt by Laura as she moved from safe house to safe house, never truly knowing if this might be the last journey she would make.
The same can be said for Wouter, his growth as a character was interesting to see, finding out his reasons for being in the village in the first place, the lengths he would go to to avoid capture … it made for poignant reading.

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I’ve decided to make today a Celebrating Indie Publishing day, sometimes there are just so many brilliant indie books that I won’t have a chance to squash them all in on Fridays. So I’m sharing a review of a book I discovered by chance. Today’s post sees a delve into the world of a historical novel, WWII to be precise. The book in the spotlight is The Knife-Edge Path by Patrick T. Leahy, published by Amsterdam Publishers in 2019.

  • Title: The Knife-Edge Path
  • Author: Patrick T. Leahy
  • Publisher: Amsterdam Publishers
  • Publication Date: 6th December 2019

Copy received from publisher for review purposes.

Description:

Driven by destitution in war-torn Berlin, a beguiling woman is cornered into accepting a precarious role in espionage to keep from being thrown out on the street.
As Geli Straub becomes the seductive Mlle. Simone Miroux, on orders to discover whether SS officer Kurt Langsdorff is all he seems to be, her plot to betray him falters on conflicted feelings. Drawn past the point of no return into his life, she cannot sell him out.
How, then, is she to save him without shedding the identity of the woman who deceived him, and on whom her life depends?

My Thoughts:

All too often espionage tales feature a lead character that goes deep undercover, risks everything for the good of their country … willingly. But The Knife-Edge Path is different, here we have a protagonist who is left with little choice but to take on a guise and act as a spy for the SS.

Geli Straub plays a dangerous game when she “agrees” to become Mlle. Simone Miroux for an SS officer to spy on one of their own. Asking favours of her new SS friend is dangerous, and initially she thinks nothing of using her connections for information, cigarettes … whatever it is that she might need. However, the life of a double agent is a precarious one, never knowing who’s watching and if everyone is who they say they are. For Geli/Simone this is only one aspect that is making life difficult. Whether as Frau Straub or Mlle. Miroux, she is a target of suspicion, her motives are questioned and her life is in danger.

Delving into the world of WWII espionage, the author takes readers on a journey filled with intrigue and danger as his characters face perilous situations and risk everything for what they think is right. As she gets to know SS officer Kurt Langsdorff, Simone Miroux sees there’s a side to him that is at odds with his SS facade and develops feelings for him that she knows she shouldn’t have, clashing with her mission and potentially putting everything as risk.

The writing is everything I would look for in a book set in this era, crisp details of the characters and their lives, the unnerving feeling of danger lurking ahead, the harrowing details of atrocious acts carried out in the name of the Third Reich and above all, it’s hugely emotive.

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