Victor Gregg talks about his experiences during WWII. He states firmly that he blames only the decision makers for the atrocities of the war. The reason he has come forward at such a late time of his life is because he sees that nothing changes. The people are still being lumbered with the horrible decisions being made by governments. Gregg also states categorically that he is no pacifist, but that someone needs to speak up for all the victims.
First off, I love this cover.
Blood Tithe is a serial. Too many questions are left unanswered at the end for it to be anything else. Obviously, I recommend that you begin with this novel. I believe Blood Tithe is Soucy’s first novel and it bears signs of just that. But Soucy manages to overcome most of those problems by keeping his characters interesting and active.
“Once someone is altered, they can gather energy from every living thing. If they take that energy and wrap it around their heart, and then give it to another person, it creates a Blood Tithe. From then on, every time the original person collects more energy, the one he made the Blood Tithe automatically gets their fair share.” Glenn J. Soucy
I have been trying to remember what five-year olds are like while reading Blood Tithe. I can see a person his age falling for the temptation of the forbidden. You do not have to be five to fall for the forbidden. But five is how old Jeremy is when he goes against the commands of his parents and finds his life irrevocably changed. The point in his life when the sins of World War II genetic research comes back to haunt a community. I loved the tension Soucy managed to keep going full pace when Jeremy met Howler and his desperation during their subsequent meetings.
If Jeremy had been my son, would I have become afraid of him? Ideally, my answer should be a resounding no. As most of us end up learning, reality and ideals often do not blend. I really do not know which parent I would have become.
When we meet Jeremy at 13/14 life has become dire. He has done something he feels awful yet justified about in an eye for an eye sort of way.
In choosing to jump from Jeremy as little to Jeremy as teen-ager Glenn Soucy has undertaken a task that many authors shy from for good reason. Blending the two without getting details wrong or messing up on details is where we see that a stricter editor would have made Blood Tithe great.
Traudl’s brother Karl suffered from schizophrenia. After Hitler’s star rose in Germany, so did his ideas. This is the environment Traudl grew up surrounded with. When the government decided Karl had to be sterilised, the family thought it only right.
At the age of 21 Traudl was desperate for a change, for an opportunity to chase after her dream of becoming a dancer. When Albert Bormann suggested she get a job for the government she applied for one thinking she could pursue her dancing off-hours. But life did not turn out that way. Later she drifted into applying for a position as one of Hitler’s private secretaries and just happened to get it. She wasn’t especially qualified, she was just the first one through the door. She kind of drifts into a lot of things in the book.
Reading Traudl’s story puts me in mind of ending up with a cult. Hitler was an intense person who could turn even the best arguments on their heads. He was, the first couple of years, a kind of father figure to Traudl and made Traudl feel as though she was part of something special. Information beyond what Hitler and his compatriots provided was not allowed on the premises of the various bunkers and Berghof. Finally, Traudl was like many young people, available for the position of follower.
Then the picture begins to crack. The idealistic leader meets trouble and failure. His narcissism is showing more and more, but the brainwashed Traudl is so caught up in his personality and her own denial that she sticks with him until the bitter end.
Perhaps the way I’ve presented this autobiography reads as an attempt on Traudl’s part to excuse her own participation as part of Hitler’s staff. But I did not get that feeling while I read it. It does, however, present a very believable kind of human being. Perhaps I would have had more in common with her when I was 21 than I would like to admit.
The worst part of coming out for Traudl was having the neo-nazis come up to her to shake the hand that had shaken Hitler’s. For her that made a mockery of all of the suffering that he had been responsible for and that she, if indirectly, had enabled.
The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas is a book that all children ought to read, preferably in company with an adult so they can understand the topic better. The Holocaust has been described and fictionalized time and time again. However, there are some topics that can never be delved into enough.
This novel is about 9-year-old Bruno, a German boy who has no idea of the times he is living in. He just realises that times are changing, and not in a manner that he prefers. Then his father, the handsome Commandant, is commanded to go to a dreadful place with his family. Bruno is struggling to understand why Out-With has a fenced-in area where there are many people walking around in striped pyjamas. On his side of the fence people are dressed in uniform or regular clothing.
One day, while exploring along the fence, Bruno meets a friend – Shmuel. He is thinner than Bruno but that is the only difference Bruno can see. Bruno understands enough that he keeps the friendship secret, but has no understanding of what is going on.
The ending was perfect and the last words of the author were: “Of course all this happened a long time ago and nothing like that could ever happen again. Not in this day and age.” Sadly humans have not learned and we and them thinking continues.
Winner of the:
- Irish Book Award Children’s Book of the Year
- Irish Book Award People’s Choice Book of the Year
- Bisto Book of the Year
- Que Leer Award Best International Novel of the Year (Spain)
- Orange Prize Readers Group Book of the Year
Nominated for the:
- British Book Award
- Border’s New Voices Award
- Ottaker’s Children’s Book Prize
- Paolo Ungari Literary Award (Italy)
- Irish Book Award – Irish Novel of the Year Award
- Leeds Book Award
- North-East Book Award
- Berkshire Book Award
- Sheffield Book Award
- Lancashire Book Award
- Prix Farniente (Belgium)
- Flemish Young Readers Award
- Independent Booksellers Book of the Year
- Deutschen Jugend Literatur Preis (Germany)
2008 filmadaptation by Mark Herman
The movie has won several awards
Sarah’s Key was lent to me by my sister. Serendipity. I found it a page-turner. No question about it. The author manages to switch from present to past without effort. Tatiana deRosnay is a truly gifted author.
Sarah’s Key is about poor little Sarah Starzynski. The Germans come to collect her family. To protect her little brother she locks him in a cupboard and tells him that she will be back in a few hours. Alas. The fates want it otherwise.
There are two time-lines to Sarah’s Key. The first one, of course, follows Sarah. The second time-line follows the story of the journalist, Julia Jarmon, who delves into the story behind a hidden skeleton. Along follows the secrecy behind Jews in France during WWII.
Some truths are painful for a nation to acknowledge. Nevertheless, healing comes through shining a light on both what we want visible and what we want hidden.
The story is wholly fictional, but as Leo Bretholz (Holocaust survivor) says: “The perusal of Sarah’s Key evoked memories of my own experiences during the war in the Vichy zone of France.” It tells a terrible story, one that has happened over and over again in history. It reminds us of how easily we turn our heads from what is happening around us.
French film-adaptation (Elle s’appelait Sarah) in 2010 by Stéphane Marsil (won two awards and had three nominations)
“Holocaust in France was encouraged by French anti-Semitic trends which created a climate where the French offered assistance to the German forces, who without such aid, could not have carried out, to such ends, the Final Solution in France.” (Elizabeth Ciarrocca)