Two new books I’ve just read and loved. Coming from utterly different parts of the worlds, and of our history, each of them is full of insights into aspects of our worlds’ societies that we don’t normally touch or think about.
The first is City of Thieves by David Benioff. It takes you back to the German’s siege of Leningrad (for 4 years !) during World War II due to which over one million people died. The people trapped inside the blockade were desperate, starving and dying, trying to survive with whatever creative solutions their human spirit and will was still capable of. This is an adventure story of what happens to two intrepid survivors, the unlikely duo of a 15 year old Jewish boy and an AWOL Russian soldier. With amazing glimpses into the pervasive Soviet mindset as well as the foibles of war and those who fight it, how the boy and the AWOL soldier (both in grave danger of being captured and killed by either side) manage to outwit and survive various hair-raising, steamy, often wacky escapades makes it a real page-turner (with me up until 3 A.M. as I had to finish it!). What touched me was what we didn’t know about that horrible siege and what reinforcement there is seeing how our indomitable human spirit – no matter who or where we are and what we experience- keeps pulling us through amazing feats of endurance with our built-in will to live. Filled with humor, great glimpses of life and culture on another side of our world and heavy- breathing suspense, it’s a helluva read.
The other one I strongly recommend is The Help by Katherine Stockett. Another page turner. It’s set right in the good ole USA in the early 60’s in Mississippi (did you learn to spell that with a tune, like I did – MIS-SIS-SIPPI? ). It’s an intimate, behind-the-scenes view of the lives and accepted attitudes and beliefs of both the Junior League (read establishment) ladies in Jackson, MI and of their help. Played against the background of the inherited Southern life style, it’s about a brave, secret project launched amid tremendous hostility by a white and black woman. It’s insightful, thoughtful, but most of all revealing to any Northerner who didn’t live that life or truly feel that entrenched heritage or its effects and tacit acceptance by both sides. It’s such a compelling read to us who only knew about the civil rights struggle in more general and emotional terms—who maybe understood the principles but never lived and breathed the reality daily. So well-done and provocative, it pushes you to see what happens next. Don’t miss it.