Catching Katy

Reads, Eats, & Everything Else


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Lilac Girls

Still loving the historical fiction books and this one may be up there as my favorite. Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly was based on real people and real events, which makes it even better.

Three women are followed during and after WWII in Poland, Germany, and America. Their lives cross paths in different ways and they are involved in and affected by the war in very different ways. Caroline is in America, trying to help those affected overseas, especially children and worrying about a man she loves who ends up back in France. Herta is a German doctor who ends up working at one of the concentration camps. Kasia is a Polish teenager who ends up, with her sister, mother, and friend, at one of the concentration camps.

I have read enough WWII fiction and nonfiction that none of the story was necessarily surprising, but it was a more detailed story line about this specific concentration camp and what happened to a group of young girls. And even if you are familiar with WWII events, it never ceases to be completely appalling. What I enjoyed most about this story was that it continued after the war. Even after the liberation of the camps, the pain and damage, both mentally and physically, was incredible and I cannot even begin to imagine that life. But there were people like Caroline, who worked, even many years after the war, to continue to help.

I absolutely loved this story of hardship, friendship, family, and recovery. I definitely recommend it, especially if you like historical fiction.


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The Storyteller

New year, new reading challenge! I exceeded my 2019 reading goal, so I set my bar high this year with 50 books. You can follow my progress and books on Goodreads!

My first book of the year was a good one. I’ve read numerous Jodi Picoult books over the years. They are usually pretty heavy topics so I never read more than one of hers in a row. And this one was right up my alley for historical fiction and WWII. The Storyteller is fiction, history, mystery, and deception – all used to tell the stories of numerous people who are related in different ways.

Sage is a baker whose past scars haunts her daily. She attends a grief support group where she befriends an elderly man, Josef who is beloved in their community. Josef confides a huge secret that could have legal and moral implications for him, but also emotional implications for Sage. As she navigates what to do with the information he gives her, she connects deeper with her grandmother and meets someone new who sees past her scars to her true person. I don’t want to give too much away, but the information Josef confesses has to do with the Holocaust and the story goes back to that time for a good bit of the book, with lots of details. So if you are easily affected by tough facts from that time, this may not be the best book for you. But it is truly fascinating and appalling all at the same time.

I feel like I picked a good one to start the year, so here’s to another year of good books!


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The Dressmaker’s Gift

I love historical fiction, especially when a story takes place during World War II. I don’t know why, it’s just fascinating to me. I cannot imagine living during those year, especially in Europe.

The Dressmaker’s Gift by Fiona Valpy takes place in Paris during WWII but also in the current time. Harriet gets an internship working in fashion in the same building that her grandmother lived and worked at during the war. But that’s all that Harriet knows of her grandmother, Claire. All she has is a photo of her and two other girls who lived with her. Harriet just happens to end up living with the granddaughter of one of the other women in the photo, who takes her on a journey learning about her own grandmother and her role during the war.

The war-time story line is fascinating. Claire and the other two seamstresses work with the resistance against the Germans. Two of them end up at a camp and fight to stay alive. The present day story line I honestly could have done without. I found Harriet a little annoying and whiny. I think the story would have been great without that aspect of her finding her past. But that’s just my opinion. I still really enjoyed the book and if you like historical fiction, you should definitely check it out!


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Transcription

This book marked the completion of my 2019 reading challenge! 34 books finished on October 2 (my book posts are only on Tuesdays so they are a little behind)! I really have the train to thank as it gives me ample time to read every day. Especially on those odd days when there are mechanical issues and it takes 2 hours to get home.

I have read 2 other books by Kate Atkinson – Life After Life and A God in Ruins. Neither was my favorite so I haven’t read another of hers. But my friend who has also read those told me that Transcription was much more likeable. She is my guru for books so I gave it a shot. And of course she was right.

Transcription is historical fiction that takes place during WWII. Juliet is recruited to work for MI5 (think CIA in Great Britain) and ends up taking on various roles. She begins by simply transcribing conversations between an MI5 agent and some German sympathizers, but is eventually looped into the espionage ring by taking on alternate identities and sent in to form relationships with suspects. And of course it wouldn’t be an Atkinson novel without some time jumping. In 1950 post-war Britain, Juliet thinks she has left that life behind but realizes how difficult it is to escape when ghosts from her past begin appearing again.

Nothing is as it seems and trust that no one is who they say they are. This was an entertaining and riveting read. Some of the characters are loosely based on real people and the ideas are loosely based on real events (apart from the actual war, of course). I definitely recommend it. Enjoy!


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A God in Ruins

My coworker and I set out on the road last week to visit project sites in two states. And although we only had 5 stops to make, the sites were reallllly spread out – so it took 4 days. And LOTS of time in the car. 1,091 miles to be exact.

site visits

Luckily, my coworker and I are also good friends and enjoy books. So I found an audio book that was on both of our to-read lists. We had both read Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, so were not completely surprised to find that A God in Ruins by the same author had a similar structure – constant time shifts and a lot of characters. Not really the best structure for an audio book in my opinion. But we powered through – and almost finished before the end of the trip. Luckily, I left less than 24 hours later to drive another 500 miles round trip, so was able to finish it.

I wouldn’t say A God in Ruins is a sequel to Life After Life, but it is related in that in involves some of the same characters, but focuses on different characters. Sadly, neither my coworker nor I actually realized this. I honestly had forgotten what Life After Life was about exactly, much less specific characters from the book. That’s what 30 will do to ‘ya…..

Anyway, Life After Life focuses on Ursula, while A God in Ruins is about her brother, Teddy. It covers an entire century, from Teddy’s childhood to his death, as well as pretty much every person involved in Teddy’s life. Listening to this book, it definitely took a little while to figure out relationships between characters, though I did get there eventually. The time was what was really difficult to follow. Because although this is the story of Teddy’s life, it is not told sequentially. A good part of the book covers Teddy’s time in World War II and is very interesting. And Atkinson does touch on slightly at the end, as is the main idea of Life After Life, how one change of an event will affect the future of events and lives. There is really nothing special about Teddy’s life (other than fighting in the war), but that is the appeal of the story. A fairly ordinary man living and navigating through life.

I recommend it but not as an audio book. And read it only if you’re in the mood to really pay attention to detail and timeline. And again, reading Life After Life before is not required and wouldn’t even be helpful in anyway. Up next, another audio book as I am driving, yet again, for the Thanksgiving holiday. Hopefully this one isn’t quite as draining. If you have a good audio book suggestions, please send away!

godinruins

 


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Unbroken

This book just jumped to the top of my favorites list and nonfiction is quickly becoming a larger part of my book collection. I spent a few hours this past weekend finishing Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand because I didn’t want to put it down.

Fair warning: this book is long and has some pretty intense content. It is the true story of a record-setting Olympic runner, Louis Zamperini, drafted to fight in WWII and taken prisoner by the Japanese. When most people imagine the atrocities of WWII, they think of Europe and the Jewish death camps, which were bad enough. But what I never knew, or maybe I just didn’t pay attention to in history class, was that the camps in Japan were just as bad, if not worse. POWs as well as conquered eastern nations were kept in Japanese ‘work’ camps – where they were worked (to death in some instances), starved, demoralized, tortured, beaten, and treated as animals. Louie spent years in such camps and the details of what went on are almost unbelievable.

But this is Louie’s story (and I am not giving anything away by saying) of his fight for survival. It really is one of the most incredible stories I have ever read. Even if you hate nonfiction, I highly recommend this book. And soon, since the movie comes out this Christmas. Enjoy!

unbroken