Reviews of New Books: Jacob Gitlin Library

Book Covers JGL March 2020

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The Age of Light Book coverTHE AGE OF LIGHT by WHITNEY SCHARER. A brilliant portrayal of the tumultuous working and romantic relationship between photographer Man Ray and model Lee Miller in Paris. As an older woman, Lee is asked to write about her relationship with Man. Scharer intersperses Lee’s memories of the 1930s with her later years when she fulfilled her own dream to be a photographer. A page-turning story depicting the wild spirit of an artist’s soul.
The Last Collection Book CoverTHE LAST COLLECTION by JEANNE MACKIN. Told from the alternative perspective of fashion designers Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel, and the American artist who befriends them both. The novel set in 1930s France under the threat of a Nazi invasion highlights the rivalry between the two whose ideas about women’s fashions and politics differed. Mackin skilfully sets the story of these creative women against the backdrop of their exotic lives.
At The Wolf's Table book coverAT THE WOLF’S TABLE by ROSELLA POSTORINO. A novel based on the true story of the women conscripted to be Hitler’s food tasters. Rosa Sauer whose husband is at the front has been conscripted to be a taster at Hitler’s secret headquarters. Living under such stressful conditions caused them to divide into those loyal to Hitler and others who were not. Secrets and resentments grow as it becomes clear to them that the Germans may be on the wrong side of history.
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill book coverTHE BOOKISH LIFE OF NINA HILL by ABBI WAXMAN. In this witty novel Waxman introduces us to Nina Hill. She works in a bookshop and spends her time reading, and talking to her cat Phil. All this changes when she is notified that her father, who she never knew, has included her in his will. She suddenly has a large family who wish to welcome her into their fold. Another intrusion into her ‘bookish’ life is a handsome man who is equally passionate about quizzes.
The World That We Knew book coverTHE WORLD THAT WE KNEW by ALICE HOFFMAN. During the Nazi purge of Germany, a mother desperately seeks a way to save her 12-year-old daughter Lea. Turning to her faith she finds help from a rabbi’s daughter, Ettie who creates a mystical Golem from magic and clay in exchange for train tickets to escape herself. The Golem, Ava, is compelled to keep Lea safe from harm. Hoffman expresses the agony of the Holocaust and humankind’s capacity for love.
Pain book coverPAIN by ZERUYA SHALEV. Iris, an Israeli woman survived a suicide attack ten years previously and had to come to terms with the aftermath of physical pain as well as the loss of the love of her youth. Now after years of living without joy despite being married and having a family she reunites with him. However, her son is soon to be drafted and her daughter has fallen under the influence of a cult like leader. Iris has to make a choice — between passion and commitments.
Fly Already: Stories book coverFLY ALREADY: STORIES by ETGAR KERET. A short story collection by Israeli award winning author Keret displaying his love for humanity, brilliant revelations and wit. His characters grapple with parenthood and family, war and games, memory and love. These stories surprise, entertain and move. The thread that weaves these pieces together is our inability to communicate and see the world around us.
My Beautiful Detour book coverMY BEAUTIFUL DETOUR by AMY OESTREICHER. Before her prom, Amy planned to attend college followed by a career on Broadway. However, she woke up months later from a coma learning that she may never eat and drink again. She slowly recovered but with life’s everyday miracles came memories of sexual abuse by a trusted mentor. Amy discovered the resilience to survive and find her inner strength. She offers strategies to empower individuals after trauma.
The Lost Kitchen book coverTHE LOST KITCHEN by MIRIAM GREEN. The heartfelt story of a daughter painfully losing her mother to Alzheimer’s. Miriam’s love for her family is immense and she advises the reader on how to weather these painful times, savouring the days for what they are. Miriam weaves poetry, recipes and anecdotes into the details of her family’s struggle to maintain balance and laughter as Naomi deteriorates knowing they need to keep her memories alive.
Recover from Burnout book coverRECOVER FROM BURNOUT by JUDY KILPIN. Life coach Kilpin discusses that burn out is a condition that affects men and women from all walks of life. Her book suggests practical steps to address this legitimate syndrome, which affects our body, mind, emotions and relationships. If you find yourself pleasing others at your expense, giving more than you have then you need to read this book. Kilpin suggests ways to set your pace to survive and flourish.
Range book coverRANGE by DAVID EPSTEIN. The author provides a wealth of thought-provoking material suggesting that one should strive for broadness throughout one’s career. Nobel laureates in science are more likely to have artistic pursuits outside their field. On examining successful athletes, artists, musicians, inventors and scientists, Epstein discovered that generalists tend to be more creative than those who only heighten their knowledge in one specific area.
The Drama of Celebrity book coverDRAMA OF CELEBRITY by SHARON MARCUS. In this compelling book, Marcus will change the way you think of celebrities. Drawing on scrapbooks, personal diaries and vintage fan mail, she traces celebrity culture to its nineteenth century roots. Her theory is that celebrities are elevated by a combination of the press and the public. She focuses on legendary actress Sarah Bernhardt who became a superstar through her lifelong engagement with the media.
The Life and Afterlife of Houdini book coverTHE LIFE AND AFTERLIFE OF HARRY HOUDINI by JOE POSNANSKI. The author takes the reader on a tour of this escape artists life as well as other present day magicians who were inspired by him. Posnanski tells us that Houdini’s genius was for publicity and romantic grandstanding. Close to a century after his death, his magic endures through his charismatic personality and ability to conjure captivating illusions. He remains an iconic figure in cultural history.
Life and Love in Nazi Prague book coverLIFE AND LOVE IN NAZI PRAGUE by MARIE BADER. An account of Jewish life in occupied Prague, told through moving letters. It is the tragic story of a late-life love affair between Marie Bader and her cousin Ernst Loewy. The letters paint a vivid picture of her life under Nazi occupation revealing the heightening anguish she suffered until her deportation to Theresienstadt in 1942. Marie’s great-grandson found these letters hidden in a suitcase in his parent’s attic.
Bitter Reckonings book coverBITTER RECKONINGS by DAN PORAT. The author sheds light on eight landmark cases where kapos were on trial with the best-known case that of Rudolf Kastner. He provides insight into the young state of Israel in the aftermath of the Holocaust when some survivors were alleged to be collaborators and denounced to the authorities. Porat invites us to put aside moral judgement and consider what it means to be a victim in extraordinary circumstances.

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