Monday, April 9, 2018

The Room on Rue Amelie by Kristin Harmel

This was yet another in a string of what seems like many books lately that deal with the Holocaust from the perspective of people in France (both Jewish and non-Jewish).  I liked it, but I wouldn't say I loved it.  I did enjoy the structure in that there was a prologue set in the early 2000s which introduces two of the characters without specifying who they are.  So throughout the wartime narrative they are always in the back of your head as you try to piece together who was going to survive (I did guess, I didn't think it was that hard to).

Ruby is a young American who falls for a Parisian man on the eve of World War II.  Against her parents' wishes she marries him and follows him to France, staying in Paris even after the war breaks out.  Through her husband she becomes involved in the French underground - in particular she becomes part of the escape route for Allied pilots who are shot down over France.

She is also neighbours with a Jewish family and befriends the young daughter, Charlotte.  So we get some insight into how Jews were treated through Charlotte and her family.

Finally, we are introduced to Thomas, a British pilot.  We also get to see the war through his eyes.

Because getting into more detail would give the story away, I'll stop here.  The only real enjoyment is the suspense aspect so I don't want to ruin that.

What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton

I have to say I liked this book more than I expected to.  If you follow this blog regularly you will know I don't read a lot of non-fiction and, when I do, it is almost never political.  But I have always admired Hillary Clinton, and someone gave me her book, so I gave it a try.  And I was very pleasantly surprised.  While of course it deals with many political issues (the US electoral process, the current state of America, Russian interference in US politics, etc.), the book is largely a very personal account.

Clinton gives us insight into what she was thinking and feeling during the 2016 election campaign and, in particular, after her crushing (and surprising loss).  She is very analytical in her thinking, yet enough emotion comes through to make her very relatable, at least to me.  I love how she dealt not only with the obvious politics of the situation, but also had chapters on her relationships with her parents, her husband, her daughter and various advisors and friends.

She also took a very evidence based approach to trying to decipher what went wrong - something that seems to be generally lacking in the political arena these days.  And she didn't hesitate to take blame for her own actions - she clearly feels tremendously bad for letting her supporters, and women in general, down.

I came away from the book with even more admiration for Clinton than I had when I started.  This must have been a very difficult, though likely cathartic, book to write.  It also made me wish I could have her over for dinner - the conversation would undoubtedly be fascinating.