The Tattooist of Auschwitz - It’s only a short book, but it took me forever to read. Even though I am a HUGE fan of historical fiction, there was something about this book that stopped me from devouring it in one sitting. In fact, I could only seem to read a few pages before I had to put it down, walk away and take some deep breaths.
This book was a fictionalised true story, and perhaps it was this uneasy marriage between two genres that unsettled me. I was so overcome by the horrors of Auschwitz – the sights, the sounds, the smells – that I could not fully appreciate the beautiful love story between Lale and Gita. I would have liked to know more about them, to uncover their full stories, and not just skim the surface of their romance. I’m not convinced that a fictionalised account was the best vehicle for such remarkable people.
Despite this, it was a powerful book, and one which provided an insight into the daily life-and-death struggles of the prisoners, and the random (and sometimes evil) nature of privilege and punishment.
Relatively recently, I read Before the coffee goes cold (see thought bubble here). It was a classic ‘what if’ magical realism tale set in Japan. The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig, is in the same genre, and was voted Goodreads Fiction Book of the Year for 2020. Instead of being set in a cafe, however, the magic happened in a library somewhere between life and death, where every book represented an alternative future depending on choices made.
This book was Sliding Doors on steroids. Nora Seed couldn’t see a way out of her depression, and decided to end it all, which is how she ended up in the extraordinary Midnight Library. I have to confess, having spent eons of my own life in a library as a reader, student, teacher and teacher-librarian, the concept of a Midnight Library was simply delicious!
Jorge Louis Borges wrote, “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” However, Nora’s experiences of the Midnight Library were not all heavenly. As Nora lurched from alternative reality to alternative reality, she did not experience heavenly peace. Rather, she lived multiple lives, experiencing joy and pain in each. Ultimately, she understood herself and those around her more clearly, and discovered that not all choices needed to be tinged with regret.
Nora’s potential pathways were many and varied, and I wondered how many people would actually be so accomplished in so many different fields. Ultimately, even though it wasn’t my favourite book of 2020, it was an enjoyable, quick read. (And it showcased a library, which makes it a winner for me.)
Please find here an assorted mix of what I tend to read - new books, old books, birthday gifts, gifts to myself, books from my to-be-read pile, Book Group books, fiction, non-fiction, memoirs - basically a weird assortment of goodies!
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