Would you walk a mile for someone you love? What about 300 miles? In John Meyer’s Shadows, Shells and Spain this adult fictionalized travel memoir tells the story of Jamie Draper’s journey on the Camino de Santiago trail.
Jamie Draper was a happily married man who loved his wife Pamela very much. But when she surprised him with a divorce, it had caught him off guard. Ever since he received a postcard addressed to him from Spain, it had sent him on a journey. He quit his job as a history teacher in Canada and moved to Palma, Spain, hoping to reconnect with his wife and discover why she so abruptly left him. He then starts a journey to follow the Camino trail to find his wife by following the subtle hidden clues in her letters to him. Along the way he makes interesting friends and explores the trail with some intriguing strangers. He meets a British woman named Brie Bletcher, who’s estranged from her husband Martin. When Jamie tells her his story, she joins him on the trip. Gaining clues and traveling along a striking trail they hit some snags from missing letters to some stained by the weather. When Jamie discovers that his wife is very sick in a new batch of letters, it gives his mission a new urgency.
This story takes place in present day Spain and some parts of Canada. These are beautiful landscapes on their own and John Meyer is able to bring them to life with vivid details. This being a fictional travel memoir I expected some heavy scene descriptions, but these were broken up by the curious characters that pop up along the trail as well as Jamie’s intereactions with Brie. The story was well written and grows more profound the longer he travels the trail. It had a bit of literary fiction, romance, mystery and drama all wrapped into one story. The theme, I felt, is about life, loss and love, and how to move on from grief. This would be ideal for people who love travelogues and who love tear-jerking novels.
Although I enjoyed reading this book, there’s a lot of factual and historical tidbits that slow the pace of the story. I wish this was streamlined so that I could get back to my favorite part, the characters. Although travel readers will enjoy the architectural highlights of each town and accompanying history. If you can’t make it to Spain, this is your next best option.
Pages: 287 | ASIN: B0756JF632
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Alice Guy Blaché was a pioneer of her trade with so many accomplishments, feats you could look up and applaud through history. Written fictitiously from the point of view of Alice herself, Mademoiselle Alice tells an intimate and redolent tale, painting Alice in the most relatable way. The reader has a chance to experience through Alice the era she lived in beautiful detail, alongside the relationships that added such color to her life. One, the romance between herself and the renowned Gustave Eiffel himself. Eiffel has no interest in love and yet develops a strong romantic tie with Alice. Their relationship is a cornerstone of Alice’s life and even as she moves on, it reflects throughout her work and pursuits to follow.
Mademoiselle Alice was a powerful and moving story. I applaud Janelle Dietrick and her dedication to bringing Alice Guy Blaché off the dusty pages of history and into present mind. The amount of research alone is worth its own accolade, and Dietrick chose to deliver beyond just that, combining the scholar and the storyteller to create a wonderful recollection of the life of Alice.
One factor that truly stood out to me as a reader, was Dietrick’s innate skill of drawing one in to the many emotions of Alice’s tale. From the budding and fleshed out romance between Eiffel and Alice, her apprehension and excitement when building her own studio, to her joys throughout her journey of motherhood. I found myself feeling the same as Alice and I continued further through her recollection and telling of her own life. Dietrick used the first-person narrative in a masterful and gripping manner, allowing readers to fully immerse themselves in the personality of Alice and her intriguing mind.
Usually, I find myself caught up in some novelists writing style; their sentence structure and syntax. I can honestly say that Dietrick writes such an enriching and powerful story. The writing style flows well. I can’t recall any particular moment while reading where I found myself jarred out of the story as I often have with other writers. There was a well weighted balance of descriptive setting, dialogue, interaction, and historical detail that kept me immersed and entertained.
I have a strong affinity for historical fiction but such does not negate that Mademoiselle Alice: A Novel stands up for itself as a wonderfully well written and fun review of the life of Alice Guy Blaché. You can tell that Janelle Dietrick takes pride in not only her work, but in the dedication to presenting the important role Alice has played in history. Her writing compels the reader to appreciate such without the dryness or brevity of a history book. She breathes life in to Alice, allowing the reader to really appreciate her as a relatable person.
Pages: 369 | ASIN: B074MB6QTH
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H.A.L.F Origins written by Natalie Wright is the third book in the H.A.L.F series. This book will please fans of the series, which is aimed at young adults. It takes a look at the characters that fans know and love, Tex, Erika and Jack Wilson. Tex and Erika are on their own adventures, running for their lives against the deadly alien virus that is spawning an epidemic around the globe. As well as predators attacking Europe and an organization whose conspiring to profit from chaos and forge a New World Order. It seems like these two have their hands full.
Tex and Erika need help from a Navajo healer when Tex falls gravely ill The healer is their only chance at helping Tex live. Thankfully, Tex emerges from the experience with vital information which will help stop the predatory M’Uktah from overtaking the human population. Sounds crazy, hey! Very intense.
I really enjoyed that this book had a pronunciation and definition guide at the start of the book otherwise I would’ve had trouble keeping up with whose who.
Another thing I really enjoyed was the sweet acknowledgment at the start of the book, as many acknowledgments are at the back and I didn’t realize that she had written so many words (300,000 to be exact).
The story is really fast paced and throws you immediately into the deep end of the action. The writing is really clever and immerses the reader immediately into the world of the characters. You can really tell that the author has crafted these characters with care, as they’re all very different and have a different tone. I’ve noticed with some of the other books that I’ve read, authors tend to just reuse personality traits, but that was not the case with this book at all.
With The Makers and predatory creatures who want to enslave the human race, I found this book to be very enjoyable and action-packed. It was very sweet to read Erika and Tex’s budding romance, as he’s half-human and she’s into someone else. That was relatable as hell, I mean, apart from the fact he’s half human. These two broke my heart again and again. Why did they make everything so complicated!?
The complexity of the characters within this story is what kept me on the edge of my seat. Although I generally like it when characters are undoubtedly good or bad, it’s refreshing for me to read characters that aren’t always like this. This was the case with the main characters within this book, as you learn more and more about them as time goes on.
I really enjoyed this book. Is it the last one in the series? I hope not.
Pages: 377 | ASIN: B07263P84J
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The Legend of the Three Roses follows a magician’s apprentice and an assassin on a thrilling journey through a new series of books you’ve written. What was the inspiration for this book and the series that follows?
The story contains themes about morality and spirituality that I’ve been thinking about and wanted to “get out there.” My original idea was for a really grand epic featuring several parties all traveling to the same goal for different reasons. It would take place in a grand empire which grew prosperous due to a kind of sci fi concept. I never really took the idea seriously and hadn’t thought about it for a long time until I was suddenly inspired to simplify the story by making it about a boy and a girl, like many great stories. And I must confess, I borrowed a few ideas from some of the recent fantasy books I’ve been reading—things about medieval society and magic wards.
I really enjoyed the medieval setting of the novel. What themes did you want to capture while creating the world your characters live in?
I can’t say the world “Three Roses” takes place in is an accurate reflection of medieval Europe. I imagine the brick buildings of St. Mannington have a strong, advanced type of cement not found in the Middle Ages, when constructors commonly used mortar. Crossbows also weren’t around, but since this is a kind of make-believe Earth, I felt free to include any kind of invention as long as it was reasonably outdated in the modern world. Medieval Europe was of course a very Christian world, and I imagine many young people were like my main character, Kane, who is nearly pious to a fault. But in spite of being beholden to a religion that promotes peace and forgiveness, Europe was a very cruel place where people were treated like mere commodities and terribly punished. A quick Google search for “medieval torture devices” would definitely show you what I mean!
I always enjoy magic that is well thought out and believable. What decisions went into creating the magic system you use in your story?
The magic system was mostly inspired by a certain video game where potions are toxic. If you drink a potion, you can gain a boost to your stats or immunity to debuffs, but it costs you a little of your health. I never really thought of the possibility of potions being poisonous, and I thought it was an excellent way of keeping magic in check. I never want magic in my stories to be too powerful, because if it if it is, it can lead to story problems. When you have characters seem like gods, they can seem unrelatable and mere tools of plot convenience.
Where does book 2 in The Three Roses trilogy take the characters and when will it be available?
Right now, book 2 is all in my head. It takes place in Lonsaran, the rival kingdom of Kane and Callie’s homeland. They’ll have little choice but to settle there and look out for each other. The good news is that they’ll discover what the Three Roses are; the bad news is that Rainer the assassin is still alive … and he’s thirsty for revenge.
Four years ago, the Son of Man returned to Earth, seemingly to begin a new age of enlightenment. But two years later, he vanished without a trace …
Today, nineteen-year-old Kane Bailey–a nobleman and sorcerer’s apprentice–works and studies in his master’s tower in the middle of his nation’s capital. In spite of making a few mistakes (such as nearly blowing up a spellchamber), he shows the potential of being a great sorcerer. But his dreams of working with magic come to an end when he’s caught in the middle of an assassination attempt on the King’s life.
Upon getting captured by the assassin, Kane is swept up by lofty ambitions, terrible greed, and maddening bloodlust. Cut off from his sorcery, he’ll need to rely on his wits and knowledge to survive, as well as the trust and friendship of a young woman who may be taking on more than she can handle.
And a question lingers: What are the “Three Roses,” and what do they have to do with the impending war?
Posted in Interviews
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A little bit romance novel, a little bit suspenseful thriller, and a thorough introduction to the world of women’s cycling, Wheeler by Sara Butler Zalesky is an enjoyable and well-written story of a strong female protagonist battling both physical and emotional challenges. Spanning just a few months in professional cyclist Loren MacKenzie’s life, Wheeler is a whirlwind of a read. It begins in the heat of her cycling competition season when she meets handsome actor, Graham Atherton, roadside after a well-timed popped tire and follows their blossoming romance as well as Loren’s cycling competitions across Europe. It’s not all easy riding for Graham and Loren though, as Zalesky weaves intricate relationships between Loren, her teammates, family, and a sinister former boyfriend who is dangerously obsessed with Loren.
Readers who are familiar with professional cycling will doubtless appreciate Zalesky’s attention to the sport, and even readers who have no prior knowledge will enjoy learning about the strategy, training, and teamwork involved in cycling. Zalesky expertly creates a believable and enthralling team dynamic, following Loren and her team through both victories and crashes. Crafting relatable characters and developing story lines over the course of the novel is one of Zalesky’s strengths. Though the first half of the story feels rather one-dimensional with clichéd characters (the hyper-driven female athlete; the handsome, Shakespeare-quoting actor; the jealous ex-boyfriend), Zalesky develops her characters so that by the second half of the story, each of these characters has a well-defined history and far exceeds expectations.
Whirlwind romances are, of course, fun to read and daydream about, but the almost instantaneous and passionate relationship that Loren and Graham form feels forced. Their relationship is full of Shakespeare quotes and French puppy-love nicknames (hundreds of variations on mon amour and ma cherie are tired after awhile). But midway through the novel, Zalesky seems to hit her groove and relies less on these easy wordplays for content, allowing Loren and Graham to have more meaningful conversations. This is pleasing for readers, who may not have realized the novel they were reading would have more Shakespeare than they had read since high school.
Overall, Wheeler offers readers an intriguing literary escape into the intense world of women’s cycling and creates a protagonist that readers will consider a good friend by the end of the story. While few people could withstand the physical challenges that Zalesky puts in front of Loren, it is the emotional challenges she faces that make Loren such a wonderful character. Wheeler examines challenging topics such as emotional and physical abuse, the difficulties of balancing work and relationships, and familial estrangement, and does not shy away from painful moments. Multi-dimensional, inspiring, and sometimes heartbreaking, Loren will have readers rooting for her successes and looking forward to a second installment. Hopefully Zalesky’s second novel will come soon, as Wheeler’s abrupt end may catch readers off-guard, feeling almost as if they’ve fallen off their bikes unexpectedly.
Pages: 456 | ASIN: B01I0DTSQU
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Mari Reiza, author of Room 11, gives readers two women’s accounts of the same events via their own dreamlike states. A comatose woman and her doting husband are tended by a dedicated but overly-involved nurse. The nurse, focused heavily on the needs of the adoring husband, gives her account of the meticulous care he shows his bedridden wife underscored by her own daydreams which reveal an intense yearning to take his wife’s place. In alternating chapters, Reiza allows the reader to hear the wife’s dreams loud and clear via her own tangled memories. Hers are dreams peppered with fantasies based on the events taking place around her.
The style Mari Reiza has chosen to use in writing Room 11 offered me quite a different reading experience. I enjoyed the alternating chapters revealing the two different points of view of both the needy nurse and the comatose wife. About halfway through the book, it became more obvious that Reiza was revealing dreams from the wife that painted a picture of her immediate surroundings and her husband’s desperate efforts to rouse her.
I did find it much easier to follow the nurse’s daydreams than the wife’s fantastical retellings. At times, the wife’s chapters became very difficult to follow. There are many lines that are effectively repeated to make an impact on the reader. Reiza has succeeded in expressing the wife’s distress over her own inability to have children. However, much of the wife’s narrative becomes a series of rambling and repetitive lines.
The author paints a clear picture of the man in Room 11, as the nurse refers to him throughout the book. His love for his wife is heartrendingly obvious. His dedication to her care and, most of all, her dignity in her current condition is indeed enviable. Any person who has been the caretaker for a relative or patient will relate to the exhausting amount of effort the man in Room 11 bestows upon his ailing wife day in and day out.
Throughout the dreams and musings of both women, multiple settings are incorporated into the story. Among them are Ghana and Northern Spain. Though the reader slowly discerns the main setting is in the United Kingdom, both women’s tales reveal troubled pasts beyond its borders. The author has created a vision of a tormented life for both characters. Living in vastly different economic circumstances, the nurse and the wife both expose the anguish of devastating losses. The two women share a common bond they will likely never realize.
As I read, I was both fascinated by and disturbed by the nurse’s infatuation with the man in Room 11. Reiza has created a memorable character with the nurse as she divulges dark, almost sinister, feelings toward her helpless patient. Her increasingly stalker-like behaviors leave the reader both intrigued and uncomfortable. It is a given that the reader’s compassion should be directed to the wife in her unfortunate state, but the nurse is a character much more worthy of pity.
Though the language is beautiful and the story woven by the two women is fascinating, I found their dreams difficult to follow. I feel that too much repetition, especially in the wife’s dream sequences, took away from the book’s overall appeal.
Pages: 128 | ASIN: B06XJ3X7JZ
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The False Prophet is set in a post apocalyptic America and follows Donald of Fisher, our unlikely hero, as he must confront an army raised to conquer the land. What was the inspiration for the setup to this exciting novel?
The question applies to the first novel, The Stonegate Sword as well as The False Prophet although it is not necessary to have read the first book in order to understand the second. The initial idea was to create a character with a world view similar to present-day America and place him in a society with very different values, such as Medieval Europe. I considered a time-travel approach, but then hit on the idea that in the future the world could enter a second Dark Age. So the main character, Donald of Fisher is a lore-man, steeped in the study of the past from an early age. Then circumstances forces him to take up a sword and take on the role of a warrior. The conflict between the evil figure in the west owes a bit to Tolkien and a bit to the prophecies of the last days in Biblical prophecy. I made no attempt to create the details associated with the Antichrist, except that if the imagery in Scriptures is taken literally, it sounds as if the final battles will be fought with antique weapons. I realize that this could be figurative language, but I decided to take it literally, and that implies, again, that a dark age lies in the future.
The story follows two characters, The False Prophet and Donald of Fisher, which I felt were two contrasting characters. What themes did you want to capture while creating your characters?
The story follows the archetypal “hero’s quest.” Don is the hero and must face adversity. The False Prophet is the anti-hero and he does not actually appear in the first novel, being only a rumor, a malignant force driving the forces of evil. In the second novel, he is revealed to be a ruthless despot of the kind with whom we are all familiar. The Prophet’s armies are the driving force behind much of the conflict that Don must face and overcome, though human frailties (his own and those of his companions) are other obstacles in his path.
There were many biblical undertones throughout the novel. Where do you feel you paralleled the Bible and where did you blaze your own path? And how did that help you create an engaging story?
The story of the novel does have some similarities to the Bible in that the Israelites were often raided by their enemies and the kind of weapons were similar. The military tactics I describe are probably not similar to those used in Bible days, although some of the principles are timeless. The use of walled cities reminds one of the Bible and also Medieval Europe. The political situation in the free cities east of the mountains reminds me of Israel during the time of the Judges, when there was no king, and “everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” The apostasy or falling away from the faith is prophesied in the Bible. The rediscovery of lost technology, for example, cannons, is a new path. The idea of a man of sin arising in the last days is found in the Bible.
The False Prophet is the second book in the Stonegate series. Where does book three take readers?
Book three will take place a generation later. The False Prophet was not destroyed, and the evil in the West rises again. It is up to the children of Don, Rachel, Carla and Howard to bring the saga to its final conclusion. Donald, now a middle-aged man, past his prime, attempts to mount an invasion of the West to overthrow the Prophet, but his attempts are met with disunity among his friends and overwhelming might of his foes. As to be expected, the victory depends on help from a totally unexpected quarter.
Stonegate remains the key, and Donald returns to that great walled city and his beloved Rachel just as the hosts of enemy are also closing in. Part adventure, part love story, this epic saga covers the vast panorama of New Mexico deserts and Colorado Rockies in a possible future that looks very much like the medieval past. But duty, love, courage, and honor remain and are even more important than ever.
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The Game Changer, written by Dave Dröge and set in Rotterdam, revolves around the life of creative businessman Henk van Wijnen-Swarttouw. Henk finds himself caught up within a web of trouble with the law after an art robbery that takes place in the heart of Rotterdam.
Meanwhile Henk’s daughter, Julia, attempts to reach for liberty and human rights through art that is confrontational and provocative. She showcases her talent within her parents art gallery, located in the famous Witte de Withstraat. Henk’s clear distaste for Julia’s “shock value” art drives a dividing wedge between father and daughter and he becomes obsessed with knowing every aspect of Julia’s life.
Through the help of German psychiatrist Von Stürmer, Henk and his daughter must come to grips with understanding her desires for a green sustainable future, whilst facing investigation on his own business practices.
Dave Dröge’s words are enriched with an artistic flair that allows the reader to feel as though they are more than just a spectator in the story of flamboyant Henk van Wijnen-Swarttouw. A mixture of modern era and a touch of old school, The Game Changer allows the reader to easily picture the charming life within Rotterdam. The wine, decadent buildings and lively characters of the novel piece together a picture of beauty and intrigue.
If you enjoy an element of lust in your novels, The Game Changer will satisfy your needs in an elusive room 33. However the relationships in this novel are often short lived and instead the novel draws focus towards the father-daughter relationship and the relationships with Henk’s business associates. Secret meetings, codes lined with dark, red leather and a detective are all part of the mysterious circumstances surrounding art and business.
Henk’s daughter Julia is a free bird, a lover of all things green and a passionate advocate for creating a green, sustainable future. Julia has plans to go to medical school however during her sabbatical she uses her father’s art gallery to display her provocative art. In retaliation, Henk becomes obsessed with his daughter as he fights to control every element of her life. This sometimes leaves the reader feeling slightly uncomfortable as he borders the line between concerned father and an obsessive stalker.
The Game Changer switches between first and third person easily in order to portray various characters points of view. Cor Figee, an account manager, is one character that I came to admire due to his unwavering moral compass, even in the face of adversity. Figee’s neighbour, Elenoor, is handicapped and with her low IQ is often the target of bullies and Figee heroically defends her- even if he needs to cross cultural boundaries. Hard working, he establishes himself with Russian businessmen and creates an honest lifestyle for himself and soccer mad son, Daan.
Many of the characters find themselves stumbling through life and the excessive drinking implies lavish lifestyles of ordinary folk, such as Johanna the barmaid. She indulges in liquor and is almost sycophant to Henk but proves her friendship to Henk loyal when the time arises. Henk’s German psychiatrist, although small in stature, proves to be an integral part of reviving the relationship between father and daughter.
Best read with a pot of fresh mint tea, I would recommend this for anyone who is interested in learning about life within Rotterdam whilst indulging in a spoonful of romance, crime and art history.
Pages: 384 | ASIN: B01N5CQY1A
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Part of the Family examines the experiences of the children who came to England from the Kindertransport during the Holocaust. I believe you delivered a compassionate view of this dark time in history. Why was this an important book for you to write?
Before this book, there was one document that attempted to set out in detail the Christadelphian involvement in the Kindertransport––and that was Dr. Chana Kotzin’s thesis that evaluated the reaction of a handful of Christian groups to the Jewish refugees in the 1930s. She was able to go through a lot of the correspondence that took place and really examine the refugee committee side of the Christadelphian involvement––but she was not able to look into the individual stories themselves and how the children lived when they eventually did come to a family. When I attended the Belfer Conference in 2015 at the United States Holocaust Memorial and Museum, the instructors emphasized 10 methodological principles when teaching about the Holocaust, and one of those standards very much resonated with me: translate statistics into individual people. History is not simply about statistics and generalities, but is rather about the lives of individual people. We constantly hear about the six million, and yet so often, the number loses its meaning, not simply because it is such a huge number, but because it is not focused on the individual. When the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust is mentioned, it should be remembered that these people were fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters. When we realize the individuality of the people that we are learning about, it makes them much more relatable and the lessons from their experiences become much more relevant and powerful for us. This was huge for me, and being a writer, lecturer, and teacher, I very much feel a responsibility to tell their stories. A number of the stories told in this book have not been recorded in any way before. As I interviewed the “children,” one of the major things that stood out to me was that they constantly used the phrase “I was part of the family.” Over and over, they emphasized to me that they felt loved and cherished. There were certainly exceptions, as there always will be––but I was amazed at the things that I heard from them. One man, whose story will hopefully be included in volume 2, when I asked him what he would say to the family that had housed him, if he could say one final thing to them, without hesitation, said “I love you.” Though he had not seen them for decades, he still felt that feeling very acutely and strongly––he had become part of the family. Thus, I began to ask myself why these people had such experiences–and the answer came out very clearly, as you mentioned in your review. The Christadelphian families did this and cared for these children because they felt a kinship and a love for the Jewish people. Their beliefs brought them to action––and for me, that was a very powerful statement about the importance of beliefs. In today’s world, it feels as though beliefs are often downplayed and that many are trying to put our the statement that doctrines and beliefs don’t matter––as long as someone is good. While I certainly stand for the idea of tolerance, I think that in attempting to all get along, we cannot lose the lesson that beliefs really do make an impact, and that they can influence us for good or for ill. Therefore, I hope that this book will not only inspire others to help one another, but will also encourage all of us to look at our own beliefs and ask ourselves what kind of influence our beliefs have on our own actions.
The Christadelphians were a small christian group who helped many children during this time. Do you think their compassion and determination were reflective of their religion or their personal moral character?
I think that the answer is certainly both. Recently I had the privilege of interviewing a woman who had come to England from Germany––and who had actually lived with two different families after coming to England. I think her story helps to explain the way in which the Christadelphians acted both based off of their strong beliefs about the Jewish people, and also personal moral character: This woman told me that when she first came to England, she was chosen by a family and completely ignored. This was not a Christadelphian family––and the woman didn’t know what religion they were, if any. But, they brought her to their house, put her in her room, and never spoke with her. Eventually, she said, she went hysterical. She started screaming, banging on the floors, banging on the walls––because she had no interaction with anyone. Because of that experience, the Jewish refugee committee was contacted, and she was removed from that family. From there, she went to live with a Christadelphian family in Birmingham. She stated that the first day that she met them, they had a German/English dictionary and tried to talk with her.
When she got to the house, they tried to help her learn English––pointing at their dog and saying “Billy” (subsequently, she thought that all dogs were Billys…).
She stated that she felt like part of the family. I think that the dichotomy between her two experiences can show what life with Christadelphians could have been like if they had acted simply out of a belief that they should help the Jews. When the Jewish children came to England and lived with the Christadelphian families, they did not have to treat them like family members. They did not have to try to learn German. They did not have to tell them bedtime stories. They did not have to try to correspond with the child’s parents back in mainland Europe. But they did. I think that housing the children and in that sense “saving them” could have been considered enough to say “I helped the Jews.” But, the Christadelphian families, for the most part, out of their moral character, attempted not only to help the children, but to give them the best life that they could provide––just as they did with their own children. We were privileged enough to get together with a professional videographer and put together brief interviews (5 minutes each) with Mrs. Ursula Meyer and Mrs. Rella Adler. Both of them share how the treatment that they were given was as though they were daughters:
Part of the Family is not only well written but it’s also well researched. How much research did you undertake for this book and how much time did it take to put it all together?
Oddly enough, I began the research for this book last December. I was simply blown away at how well things came together. Ursula Meyer was the first person that I was able to contact, and we conducted our interview on January 19th. From there, the project just came alive. I had Christadelphian families from all over the world contacting me to tell me that a Jewish refugee had lived with them throughout the war. One of my major rules, however, is that I don’t write about someone and publish it unless I can get their approval for what I have written. And thus, hearing about all of these Jewish children that had lived with Christadelphians presented a problem––how to contact them? A number of Christadelphian families had kept in contact with the Jewish children, and so they could actually get me in touch with them, but in other cases, once the Christadelphian parents passed away, and sometimes the children, the younger generation only knew that their family had housed a refugee, but sometimes didn’t even know their name. Attempting to find the refugees and interview them about their experiences was simply amazing. I’ve called all over the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. I’ve had conversations with people in Israel, Australia, Spain, and Sweden. Yet, perhaps one of the most exciting experiences was when I was presenting on the Christadelphians at a meeting of Kindertransport survivors, and one of the men seated at my table explained that he come to this very meeting because he had lived at Elpis Lodge, the hostel set up in Birmingham by Christadelphians! I had no idea––and here I had been having lunch with him! This book came together in a matter of months––something which still astonishes me. Yet at the same time, as things kept coming together, I found myself working at it all the time––often getting up at 4:30, just because I was so excited that another survivor had emailed me, and so I couldn’t sleep anymore.
Part of the Family is the first volume in a series. What will the next volume be about and what will the whole series encompass?
Lord willing, I hope to have the second volume finished this December, as well as an audiobook for this first volume at the end of August. The goal of the entire series is to tell the individual stories––and thus, my hope is that I can keep contacting survivors and their families to tell about their experiences when they were saved from Hitler by coming to England and living with Christadelphians. Thus, volume 2 will be more stories, and so will volume 3. I currently have about 35 testimonies that I would like to write!
In 1938 and 1939, via a movement known as the Kindertransport, thousands of Jewish children were taken from Nazi-occupied territories to safety in Great Britain. They came to a new family, a new country, and a new life. Approximately 250 of these children were sponsored by Christadelphians, a small Christian group. Often the Holocaust is considered in terms of statistics: how many perished and how many were affected, so much so that at times the individual stories are lost in the numbers. This series examines the experiences of the individuals who came to England as children, and lived with Christadelphians. Ten of these child survivors, and their families, participated in the effort to bring about this first volume. These are their stories.
Posted in Interviews
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Notes From a Very Small Island by Anthony Stancomb is very literal in the sense of its name. The book is mainly a collection of experiences surrounding the island of Vis. Croatia’s historical events and current culture were brought to the fore as locals looked towards what a future with the European Union (EU) might mean. The book brings to life, the characters, as seen through the eyes of the narrator and primarily focuses on day to day conflicts and situations that arise. Throughout the book, there are comparisons of the fast city life and the relaxed island life and factors that contribute to the differences and similarities.
We are first introduced to Dario, a local Disc Jock/ hardware store worker, who I assumed to be the protagonist of the story, and his wife and son; Sofia and Dino. Dario is from the island of Vis and prefaces most of the chapters in the book through humorous and political banter via his radio show. Over the first few paragraphs we meet Karmela, the housekeeper and Ivana, the narrator’s Croatian wife. We get an idea of who the narrator is by the establishment of his English nationality and his history in broadcasting, however, throughout the chapters, he was never identified by name and for me, this made the rest of the stories somewhat less personable.
The transition from London to the quaint island of Vis was not easy for the narrator and his wife. They left the city, their jobs, friends and two adult children behind, for a more scenic and native lifestyle. It was a move that was compounded by rebuilding, a theme that stood out in the majority of the book. Cricket seemed to be a cultural icebreaker in assisting the Stancombs in settling in.
It was only the mention of Facebook in chapter 13 that gave an idea of the era the narrator spoke from. A sizeable amount of the chapters had many historical references, much of it informed by locals like old Marinko. There were historical and political themes about the island as it related to their current realities and what it meant going forward for the locals and the narrator, should Croatia become a part of the EU.
Both the church and Dario had outspoken views in regards to the EU change. Urbanizing Croatia, adopting foreign lifestyles and fashions were just a few of the things they were concerned would undermine their freedoms or the simple things such as, Zoran’s bar after church service, their food, wine or culture. Attitudes to foreigners were evolving, the Craigs and Duffys, friends of the narrator, would end up testament to that.
Milena and Christopher, the narrator’s children, Milena’s boyfriend; Andrew and Ivanna’s Serbian cousins all exacted specific views from locals. The reason why this was so, was evident in the historical context of various nationals with Croatians. These dynamics are what established the island’s character.
I found the book relatively hard to follow, it fluctuated between the past and present too much, too quickly, with no transitional sentences or forewarning. There were several in text person references that were ineffective as well, as they weren’t general knowledge. The story was anticlimactic but there are surprises to look for. This is a book for a modern historical story enthusiast.
Pages: 312 | ISBN: 1910670456