Books Reviews

The Jewish Nursery School/We had to save them – Original Title “De crèche”

A Clash of Kings

The Jewish Nursery School/We had to save them – Original Title “De crèche”

Author: Elle Van Rijn


“This story is about courage, hate, and exclusion.” You can read in the final pages of this book. It is true.

This book came to my hands by chance, and I never thought I would be so impressed by it. I can’t remember the last time I read a book this quickly. I found two different English translations of it, so I’ll use its original title in this review.

De Crèche tells the story of a group of Jewish children in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. The children would be separated from their parents. They would go to this institution until it was time to go to the concentration camps. In the middle of such tragedy, these brave young women would against all the laws to keep them safe.

Elle Van Rijn’s narrative is thoughtful and sweet but never disguises the truth. The horrible truth those people were living in.

She makes you care

We can’t stop reading, you want to know more. You need to know more. The story follows a chronology; you can’t avoid feeling a shiver down your spine with each new measure from the Nazi government.

The protagonist is Betty, a 17-year-old girl full of dreams and hopes. But, she grows up fast throughout the story. Her dreams, boys, all those things a 17-year-old cares about, all lose importance because she is involved in something bigger.

Despite her age, she never stops fighting. Even after losing her family, she keeps protecting those babies with such devotion that you may drop a tear or two.

Elle Van Rijn is able to do what any great writer should: she makes you care about the characters. You almost can feel their fear. You also want to pick up those kids and take them out of there.

A tormented life

When I finished the book, something really impacted me: Betty survives the war, but despite everything she’s done for those children, she still feels she didn’t do enough. She still grieved for the ones she couldn’t save.

De Crèche is a book full of emotions and courage in a time when being brave could mean your death. It keeps the memory of those brave women alive, and I recommend it.

A Clash of Kings 

Author:  George R.R. Martin

I finally finished reading the second book in George RR Martin’s saga A Song of Ice and Fire and despite the fact that I felt the need to slow the reading down a bit, I really liked the way he worked the story.

As we read, the story grows further and further apart from what’s presented to us on the TV show and my interest rises. New characters gain a significant voice and the plot extends, taking on new shapes. You will get to know new places and people, and even have some past events finally explained in greater detail.

The story becomes more dense and it could prove complicated at first (specially for those who don’t even follow the TV series) but the amazing writing will help visualize the complex political intrigue, the crude bloodshed aswell as the mystic and magic which is rising throughout the whole realm.

The book is deeply involving, largely due to the characters that are so alive and complex, full of ambiguity and not the classic good vs evil dichotomy we’ve grown used to. At Westeros, most of the people do not fight for ideals but for power or even safety. There are no stupid opponents to facilitate anyone’s life, the characters are clever and learn with their mistakes, increasing the intrigue in all fronts.

George RR Martin does not romanticize life and its’ events, making sure the atmosphere is full of dark and somber lighting, battles are not glamorous and most of the scenes are raw and crude, just as they ought to be.

As a fantasy book, the author calls upon some mystical or magical elements, but he manages to do it in a way in which the story doesn’t lose credibility or it’s grasp on reality.

The story remains surprising and the third book is already on my ‘To Read’ list as we speak.

 

The Fault In Our Stars (A culpa é das Estrelas) – John Green

I met this story through my former students, sweet teenagers that love a good romance, filled with a lot of tears and crazy passions. At first, I ignored it, but then, I got curious. So, I saw the Twentieth Century Fox movie. Despite the depressing side, I liked the story, I liked the idea but… it seemed kind of superficial to me. So, I decided to read the book.
This is a very sad story and at same time it has that kind of optimism that only teenagers still possess. It focuses on the slight ironies which life presents to us and makes us think about our problems and “complaints” and… well, everything seems so ridiculous after reading this.
It’s an interesting story, not just another story about a person who happens to be dying from a terrible disease. This person has a life, has thoughts and dreams, has something more than this disease and this is what truly matters.
I love the provocative way Hazel thinks about her own condition, and tries to prevent it from becoming her whole life. She wants to live, wants to be ready, and even more importantly, she wants her family and friends to be ready for what seems inevitable and she makes damn sure that they know how to continue on with their lives without her. But life… well it’s weird and plays with us everytime.
 
In conclusion, some very good reading. Inspiring.

 

The Discreet Hero – Mario Vargas Llosa

The Discreet Hero is a book from 2013, translated to english in 2015. The writer, Mario Vargas Llosa won the Nobel prize for literature in 2010.
In The Discreet Hero, the protagonist Felício Yanaqué lives his life according to his father’s last teaching “Do not let anyone step into you.”, as a way to honor his memory. But life is tricky and Felício’s principles will be put to the test.
An unconventional hero, without the dramatic overtones of the movies, but filled with honor, Felício is a real life hero, those who no one will never know about, yet they can proudly shape their own destiny, with honesty. Our protagonist fights against the status quo, which he thinks is wrong, and never gives up, although, the world around him keeps saying that this is the rule.
But Felício is not the only hero in this book. Along its pages we can read two different storylines, unrelated at first, but in the end they will share a fate.
The main conflicts arise inside the characters, most of them very introspective during the whole story.
In The Discreet Hero, we see a series of complex family relationships where the reader is confronted with the differences between two generations. One, a generation of hard workers, who fought all life to have what they own now and the other, their spoiled sons who never had to fight for anything and who believe it’s their right to have anything they want.
The focus of the book is on loyalty and ethics (which the characters may or may not have) and the romance isn’t centered in a crazy young love, but in the maturity of the years and in the calm passion of difference.

 

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