City of Thieves by David Benioff

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How hard is to retrieve a dozen eggs? If nowadays is very easy, in Leningrad during the nazi siege it was very different.

This is the task assigned to Lev, a seventeen years old boy arrested by the police and accused of thievery, and to Kolya, a soldier accused of deserting his group. The dozen eggs are the key to freedom and salvation, otherwise they are going to be executed.

The characters met in the jail, and from that moment the adventure to get the eggs begins. They will firstly explore Leningrad and then the fields out of the city, where partisans are fighting the german troops.

The story of Lev and Kolya brings us in the streets of the sieged city, where people suffer daily frost, hunger and bombardments, and where survivors do everything to stay alive, also the unimaginable.

The same is out of the city, where the german threat is even more real, and so Lev and Kolya will have to do everything they can to keep surviving.

City of thieves is a compelling novel, full of adventures and humanity. It’s hard to leave the two guys while reading the book, and it’s even harder to forget them when the book is come to the end.


* City of Thieves by David Benioff ★★★★★

*I read this book in italian

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La città dei ladri by David Benioff

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Quanto è difficile procurarsi dodici uova? Se oggi è semplicissimo, nella Leningrado durante l’assedio tedesco è tutta un’altra storia.

Ed è questo il compito che viene assegnato a Lev, diciassettenne arrestato dalla polizia e accusato di furto, e a Kolja, cosacco accusato di diserzione. Quelle dodici uova per i due rappresentano la salvezza, altrimenti li attende la legge marziale e l’esecuzione.

I due ragazzi si conoscono in carcere, e da quel momento inizia la ricerca delle uova, che li porterà prima ad esplorare Leningrado e poi al di fuori della città, dove partigiani e truppe tedesche si combattono.

La storia di Lev e Kolja ci porta tra le strade di una città sotto assedio, in cui all’ordine del giorno sono il freddo, la fame e i bombardamenti, e in cui i superstiti fanno di tutto per continuare a sopravvivere, anche l’inimmaginabile.

E fuori dalla città è lo stesso, con la minaccia tedesca che incombe anche più concreta, e anche i due protagonisti fanno di tutto per continuare a sopravvivere.

La città dei ladri è un romanzo coinvolgente, ricco di azione e umanità. E’ difficile abbandonare Lev e Kolja durante la lettura, ed è ancora più difficile dimenticarli una volta finito di leggere il romanzo.


* La città dei ladri by David Benioff ★★★★★

*Ho letto questo libro in italiano

Atonement by Ian McEwan

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1935, Summer. Briony Tallis, thirteen years old, wants to become a writer; at the present she has devised a theatre piece she wants to put on the scene with the help of her evacuees cousins, but she feels she is able to understand the full spectrum of human emotions and behaviours.

This arrogance will bring her in misinterpreting the events she observes: her big sister Cecilia and Robbie Turner – the son of their housekeeper – understand they are attracted and maybe in love, but of this relation Briony sees only Robbie’s desire, and labels him as a maniac.

From Briony’s conviction a true drama will derive, and Briony’s certainty will cause an irreparable injustice and the breakage of family relations. Growing up Briony will understand the error and the truth of what really happened, but it’ll be impossible to go back in time, and Briony is left with her desire to atone her faults.

The first part of the novel is set during the summer of 1935, and it’s climax is the accusation that Briony moves against Robbie. The chapter follow various point of views: Briony, her sister Cecilia, their mother, Robbie, Briony’s cousin. The second part of the novel is set during WWII, and the main protagonist is Robbie in France, retreating towards the English lines, in the meanwhile Briony is learning to be a nurse.

The last part is set in the modern times, and the main character is an old Briony, now a successful writer. In this part we understand we are dealing with a meta-novel, and that McEwan is talking about the Tallis family, but he wants also to talk about the role of the writer and writing, that can change what exists and leave a different memory on the paper.

This consideration is certainly valid, but I’m still uncertain about how much I liked this novel. The plot twist at the end is clever, but I detested Briony for her arrogance, her conviction to understand as a child, and her arrogance in the adulthood in believing she did what she could in atoning her sins as writer-goddess.


* Atonement by Ian McEwan ★★★☆☆

*I read this book in english

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

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1945, WWII. The area of East Prussia and Poland is between two fronts: on one side the German army and on the other the Russian one. The area is crossed by refugees who try to survive. The final goal is reaching the Gotenhafen port, in order to board one of the ship assigned to the rescue of civilians and wounded soldiers.

The author proposes different point of views from four young adults, Johana, a medical trainee from Lithuania, Florian, a german soldier, Emilia a fifteen years old from Poland and Alfred, a sailor working at the harbour for people evacuation. Reading four voices allows the reader to have a broader view on the historical situation in the east Europe (Poland oppressed by the two factions, the art thief by Nazis Germany,.. ) and multiple voices narrating the Wilhelm Gustloff’s tragic story, an event few know about, but dramatic for the amount of people involved.

Lots of WWII events are known by a minority, and this novel is able to fill some of this need for knowledge. The idea of alternating the protagonists’ voices and structuring the narration in short chapters give rhythm to the novel, the outcome is that the reader is more involved in History than in the single character’s story: it’s difficult to feel for characters we know a few about (or ones who seem quite suspicious).

By Ruta Septys I’ve read (and liked a lot), Out of the easy, that was set in 1950 New Orleans.


* Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys ★★★★☆

*I read this book in english

The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth

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Wrote by Kate Forsyth I read The Wild Girl, that I still remember despite the time passed from the reading time and that I absolutely suggest as a beautiful and hard read. Considering these premises I had great expectations for The Beast’s Garden, retelling of The Springing Lark set in a nazism setting.

Ava is from German origins, one of her sisters work as a secretary in the SS offices, but overall her family is against Hitler’s doing. Family friends are the Feidlers, of hebrew origin; Rupert in particular is a friend of Ava, sharing her love for music.

During a night of raids Ava is able to help her friends thanks to the intervention of Leo von Löwenstein, a German officer met by chance and fascinated by Ava’s beauty and character.

This way it begins the relation between Ava and Leo, and soon it becomes a marriage. The times are hard and Ada finds hard to trust completely her husband, him belonging to the army. In the meanwhile Ada starts to help Jutta, Rupert’s sister, in her undercover operation to help the last Jew in Berlin.

The novel is overall nice and the narrative style very pleasing, but I think that the plot is quite weak: in general it’s hard for non-European authors to deal with the theme of nazism and the implications related to WWII, in this case some events are plot driven and they have a few meaning in the overall story (e.g. when Ava meets Leo’s mother and grandfather). On the other hand the main character often behave quite silly, in particular taking into account the historical setting: Ada is bold, she does not reflects on her words and this despite being part of undercover operations.

The choice of the author to retell the story of The Springing Lark is quite interesting because the fairy tale is less known than others, but the output is not convincing, and the main problems are related to the love story between Ava and Leo that begins as love at first sight.

It’s possible that my tepid comment is function of the high expectation I had, but the author got me used to better stories.


* The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth ★★★☆☆

*I read this book in english

[ARC] The Zig Zag Girl (DI Stephens & Max Mephisto #1) by Elly Griffiths

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The Zig-zag girl is a magic trick: a girl enter in a cabinet and the magician inserts some blades, cutting the girl in three pieces and then, et voilà, it’s easy enough to put her back and she comes out of the cabinet. Round of applause.

Unfortunately one day the detective inspector Edgar Stephens receives three boxes that contains three-part of a girl, and a series of hints bring him remember about the Magic Men group where he belonged during the WWII.  The magic men where a group of illusionist instituted by the MI6 to craft illusion for the sake of german pilots.

Edgar gets back in touch with Max Mephisto, who invented the zig zag girl trick, to try getting back in touch with the other magic men and find a solution for the girl’s murder. This will force him to remember painful memories from the past that he tried to forget for his whole life.

The Zig Zag Girl is a crime novel where different elements fit well together: illusions, memories of war and a general melancholy of the main characters that are well described during the story along with their dreams, regrets and desires.

It’s a nice novel with a well-structured solution that is not evident (despite some hints put the reader on the correct path) and it seems to be the first of a series about Edgar and Max.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me the copy necessary to write this review.

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* The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths ★★★★

*I read this book in English

Il pugile: La vera storia di Hertzko Haft by Reinhard Kleist

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Questa graphic novel fornisce un nuovo punto di vista sulla seconda guerra mondiale e sulla deportazione degli ebrei nei campi di sterminio, diverso da quelli di Maus o di La seconda generazione. Quello che non ho detto a mio padre.

La storia, tratta dal romanzo di Alan Haft, racconta la storia di Hertzko Haft, sopravvissuto ai campi di sterminio anche perchè combatteva come pugile in incontri organizzati per intrattenere i nazisti.

Hertzko viene strappato giovanissimo dalla famiglia e dalla ragazza che ama e che era in procinto di sposare, e solo grazie a un indomabile desiderio di sopravvivere riesce a superare la guerra e emigrare negli Stati Uniti, dove avrà una breve carriera da pugile.

La graphic novel racconta la vita di Hertzko senza censurarne il dramma e la violenza, lo stesso protagonista è spesso autore di azioni tremende, ma motivate dal desiderio di sopravvivere.

Il pugile è un racconto interessante che fa luce su aspetti meno noti di un periodo storico drammatico.

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This graphic novel provides a new point of view on the WWII and on the deportation in the holocaust, a different one from Maus from example.

The story, from Alan Haft novel, tells the story of Hertzko Haft, who survived the extermination camps also because he used to fight boxing games to entertain the nazi.

Hertzko loses his family and the girl he loved and he was going to marry, and survives the war only thanks to an indomitable obstinacy, ending as an emigrant to USA, where he will have a brief boxing career.

The graphic novel tells Hertzko’s life without taking away the drama and the violence, the same protagonist sometimes does tremendous things, impossible to forgive but done for surviving.

The boxer is and interesting story that provides hints about less known facts of that dramatic historical period.

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Il pugile: La vera storia di Hertzko Haft by Reinhard Kleist ★★★★☆