Apart from a chapter of my WIP, I have done little writing this month other than responding to my granddaughter’s helpful comments on my children’s book, Ella Midnight. We had an amazing video conference where she went through the book like an experienced editor, such confidence at nine-years-old. She thinks the book should be published and so it will be, on March 29th.
My book sales are reasonable this month with all funds being split between the Australian firemen and those who have lost everything in the fires. Amazon Prime have also selected my first two books to go into their February deals in Australia. I won’t get too much money as they put the price down, but I will get more exposure, which is worth it. The last time this happened, my sales shot up. Here’s hoping.
This month with the cold, wet weather I have binged on some box sets and read rather sparingly. For crime lovers, I can recommend the Spanish Crime series on Channel Four catch up, Night and Day. The protagonist is a female forensic pathologist and this was so much better than Silent Witness because, like so many European dramas, they take time to develop the story over several episodes (12, in fact). I also watched Bonfire of Destiny, dubbed from the French Le Bazar de la Charité on Netflix. This was based on a true story of a charity bazaar in 1880s Paris. The building caught fire and 120 society women died, no men. Find out why by watching it.The first episode horrific and something that will stay with me. It becomes rather predictable after that, but if you like Downton Abbey type stories it’s worth watching.
I have read three connected books. Two set in World War 2 and two set partly in Paris, while 2 were set partly in Czechoslovakia. Two I would recommend.
My favourite was The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah a novel of the French Resistance. It tells the story of two very different sisters. One young, naïve and utterly courageous, the older sister, dismissive of her sibling, set in her ways, judgemental and determined to keep her head down until a German officer is billeted in her house. The characters are so well drawn, so believable and as the story progresses, their development is convincing. Focussed mainly on a small village, the effects of the war creep into a every aspect of life and you are drawn into the older sister’s struggle to survive and the decisions she makes. What would I do in those circumstances? You can only find out by living through it. It’s a tearjerker in the end. How could it not be?
In contrast The Tattooist of Auschwitz is based on a true story. It tells the story of a young Slovakian man, Lale, who is sent to Birkenau in early 1942. The author spent three years talking to this man about his story before he died. She wrote it first as a screenplay before turning it into a book and it became a bestseller. I skim read it in a day. It’s a difficult book to assess. I can’t help feeling there is a measure of bravado about the book which doesn’t altogether ring true. Little things take you out of the story like him being in a position to swap pilfered jewels from dead Jews for food and medicine. At one point he asks for penicillin from two Polish builders to treat his girlfriend for typhus. As penicillin wasn’t used to treat any infection until 1942, I can’t think how he would have known about penicillin.
The book is written in the present tense, in short sentences, with little character development. It’s an easy read but easily forgettable. Something one should not be able to say about a book written in this setting. Disappointing.
My third book, The Museum of Broken Promises by Elizabeth Buchan has all the depth of writing which the previous book lacked. Set in Paris and Prague, it tells the story of a middle-aged woman looking back on her life. She is English, was an au-pair in Paris but then went to Prague with the Czech family before the revolution which swept away the communist regime. There she fell in love with a musician and what happened damaged her life. After her divorce from a Frenchman she sets up a Museum dedicated to Broken Promises. How bizarre, I first thought, but I loved the vignettes where people offered exhibits and explained how they had been let down. A lace nightgown given by an old lady on her deathbed, an expensive chess set – these stories are poignant, full of feeling. In contrast is the starkness of life in Prague under the watchful eyes and ears of a system of utmost control. People still tried to find joy, love and music but never without danger. I finished this book, knowing that it was brilliant, however, maybe I was not in the mood for something so dark, so impersonal as Prague in those days.