Tag Archives: Book Opinions

Book Opinion: Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes

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Adolph Hitler.

I was raised by parents and grandparents who lived through WWII and the Great Depression. I didn’t realize until about ten years ago, that the America I grew up in was very post war in its sensibilities. I was surrounded by the greatest generation and their independence and strength. I was raised on those values, and one thing that has always fascinated me because of its extremity is WWII era Germany. I couldn’t understand it, and Adolph Hitler was and is, the ultimate boogie man. One minute you see him smiling and petting his dog in what looked like a scene that anybody would be in, the next minute you see him screaming and shaking his fist, spittle flying, weird little bangs separating, thousands of sycophants Seig Heiling and snapping up that infamous salute.

The pageantry created by the Nazis was second to none. Red, black, and white go so well together after all. The uniforms were flashy and they made every effort to show mainly tall, well-built, handsome, blue-eyed blondes to reinforce their agenda. The parades, the bonfires, (hey, are those BOOKS in there?) the snappy flags and the shiny black cars. Then you find out about the beatings, murder, destruction, concentration camps and world domination ambitions, and the contradiction that was Nazi Germany becomes something that you try to figure out, but can’t.

When I saw this book at Jo-Beth Booksellers, I couldn’t resist. I read the book jacket, so I knew it was satire, but I had to see what Timur Vermes imagined the Furher (sorry, I don’t know how to do umlauts) would do if he came back. What I found was more an indictment of modern civilization than an indictment of Herr Hitler, although I guess you can’t really make him any worse than he already is.

So anyway, Adolph wakes up on a beautiful, blue sky, sunny day in a vacant lot somewhere in Berlin. At first, he looks around for signs of the war going on, but sees none. He is in full uniform, it’s a little smudged and smells like gasoline from a cleaning attempt, but overall, he’s in pretty good shape. He winds up being taken in by a newspaper kiosk guy who tells him the year and helps him out. He also hooks him up with tv producers because he thinks the Hitler thing is an act.

Hitler is a smart guy obviously and figures out really quickly that something strange has happened and he wants to get his political career going again. To make a long story short, he learns about modern technology and people and finds all of it ridiculous, still hates Jews etc., and becomes a big celebrity. And of course, nobody believes him. The entire country is furious that he won’t reveal his real name, because they don’t believe him, and he’s ready to call in the SS to take care of the people who keep asking. Just like vampires, werewolves, and witches, modern society doesn’t believe in the monster, and ultimately, it’ll cause them trouble.  By the end, you can see that if he remains persistent, the modern sheeple are going to end up following him.

I enjoyed the book overall. It made me think about how ridiculous modern society is. It pointed out yet again, that even though a threat, or a negative anomaly can be as plain as the nose on your face, we often, in our enlightened modernity, deny it, even as it’s taking over our lives. I’d kind of like Vermes to write a sequel, where the monster really comes roaring back, in all of his muderous, evil, mastermind glory, not funny this time.  It would be the most successful horror story of all time.

If you enjoy satire, you might want to give this one a look. It really did have a number of LOL moments, and the way the speeches he makes are laid out in the book, you can almost hear that old black and white boogie man screaming, and shaking his fist, spittle flying, and weird little bangs separating.

Have a great day, and spend part of it with a great book. 😊

 

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Book Opinion: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

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I have an English degree and I have been reading intensely since I was a small child.  I used to just read whatever was put in front of me without regard for the actual writing.  As I’ve gotten older however, unless a book just hooks me with an entertaining story, I tend to put poorly written books in the donate box.  All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, will NOT end up at Goodwill, but will stay front and center on my bookshelf.

I am fascinated by WWII.  My parents were children during it, my grandfather was an air raid warden, and growing up in the 1970’s I was bombarded by stories from that time.  It has only been recently that I’ve realized what a post-war world I actually grew up in.  All The Light We Cannot See offers a unique perspective on the war and a unique way of representing the thin red thread that connects us all.

The heroine of the story is Marie-Laure, a young girl living with her father in Paris.  At the age of six, she loses her sight and her father creates a three dimensional model of their neighborhood so that Marie-Laure can memorize where everything is so she can get around.  He takes her out with her cane and has her lead them home.  He also takes her with him to the Museum of Natural History where he is the key master.  She spends her time exploring the space and all of it’s treasures which end up informing her future.

At the same time, young Werner is growing up with his sister Jutta in an orphanage in a mining town in Germany.  Werner is brilliant, and his quick mind causes him to live in dread of the day he will be forced into the mines.  They find an old radio, which Werner works on and makes funtional.  The children listen to it at night and hear broadcasts from France (they can all speak and understand French because the house mother is from France) about science. His mind continues to expand and he becomes an expert in radios.

When the Nazis approach Paris, Marie-Laure and her father leave the city, possibly carrying a priceless treasure from the museum and go to Saint-Malo to stay with her great-uncle Etienne.  Simultaneously, Werner’s brilliance with radios is noticed and he is chosen to attend a school run by the Nazis.  We are taken on a back and forth journey between Marie-Laure’s life in France, with glimpses of the French Resistance, the constant threat of sudden arrest, and the general quest to just survive the Nazi assaults; and Werner’s life in Germany as he struggles with things that happen at school, the pressure he feels from his beloved sister to resist what she is afraid the Nazis will turn him into, and HIS general quest to just survive the maze of treachery and horror that follows Nazi bureaucracy wherever it goes.

Eventually, the teenage Werner is thrust into the fighting by way of his magical radio skills and his life intersects with Marie-Laure’s life during the siege of Saint-Malo.  Although they part, the story of their intersection continues into the next generation and for the next many years.

This story makes you ponder so many things with regard to war, and people being forced to fight for things they don’t necessarily believe in or agree with.  It causes you to marvel at the strength of human beings and their spirit.  It really reinforces the notion that we are all connected in ways we cannot imagine, and the things we do have impacts far beyond our immediate sphere of influence.

If you are in search of a beautifully written, multi-level story, give All The Light We Cannot See a try.  I think you’ll like it.

Have a beautiful day 🙂