Way back in 1989, British author Philip Kerr published March Violets, a hardboiled mystery in which tough, tarnished private investigator Bernhard Gunther plunged into the depthless iniquities of Nazi Berlin in search of some small sliver of justice. This was followed up by two other moody period novels featuring Gunther – The Pale Criminal and A German Requiem, and all three books were subsequently published together as Berlin Noir, a trilogy that deeply influenced much of today’s WWII thrillers by such authors as Alan Furst, J. Robert Janes, Paul Grossman, Joseph Kanon and Jonathan Rabb. Quite few readers have mentioned Berlin Noir to me as one of their all-time favorites, and I agree. Continue reading “Crime: Philip Kerr – Back to Berlin.”
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safer Foer and A History of Love by Nicole Krauss were published in 2005 within a few months of each other. After listening to each novel recently on my commute to work, I was struck by the similarities.
Both novels incorporate aspects of “magical realism,” depict a quest by a child and portray the lasting effects of World War II on the survivors who made it to New York after losing a childhood sweetheart. Each novel is told by multiple narrators, has parallel plot lines set in multiple times and mysteries that unravel themselves as the plot progresses. Both have satisfying conclusion to boot!
Have Jonathan Safer Foer and Nicole Krauss written the same book.? They are married, and they deny that they even read each other’s manuscripts before they were finished. One can imagine them sitting in the same room, each at his/her own computer, channeling each other’s plots, characters and setting. I did a little googling, and this is what I found:
The two were introduced to one another by their Dutch publisher, well after their books were written. Chalk it all up to magic.
Of course they aren’t really the same book, but they are both poignant and engaging stories well worth reading, and especially listening to for the dramatic effects of the change in narrators.
Can anyone else come up with a favorite pair of books which complement each other so well, either deliberately or randomly?
~Beth K, Broadview
I haven’t really thought about the lives of ordinary Japanese people during World War II until I started to read The Street of a Thousand Blossoms by Gail Tsukiyama. The concepts that were deeply rooted in my mind were how the war and Japan’s soldiers brought disaster, tragedy, and despair to the Chinese people and to the foreigners who lived in China at the time, as seen in Iris Chang’s The Rape of Nanking or Empire of the Sun by J. G. Ballard. But the war also brought extreme tragedy to ordinary Japanese people.
The story starts in 1939. Two orphaned brothers, Hiroshi and Kenji, live with their loving grandparents. Hiroshi has a dream to become a great sumo wrestler, while Kenji is fascinated with mask-making for the Noh Continue reading “The Street of a Thousand Blossoms, by Gail Tsukiyama”
A war is not one story, but many.
Here are some novels that view the war through many eyes, reflecting the diverse experiences of civilians and soldiers around the world whose lives were drawn into the Second World War.
- The Cloud Atlas by Liam Callanan
When Louis Belk is deployed to Alaska to head off and diffuse a barrage of dreaded Japanese balloon bombs, he could not have imagined the strange, haunting freight drifting towards him across an ocean of air.
- The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard
As the world stumbles blinking into the light of peace, Aldred Leith feels the chill of war’s long shadow as he surveys a devastated Japan, wondering how human warmth and dignity can flare forth from the ashes. Continue reading “The War in Fiction, part 3: The Pacific”
A War is not one story, but many.
Here is the second of three lists of fiction that views the war through many eyes, reflecting the diverse experiences of civilians and soldiers around the world whose lives were drawn into the Second World War.
- A Place on Earth, by Wendell Berry.
As the war draws to its close, the lives of men and women in a rural Kentucky town are indelibly changed whether they are returning from the front lines or waiting back at home.
- Red Sky at Morning, by Richard Bradford
Humor and pathos punctuate this coming-of-age novel in which Josh, a witty 17-year-old, navigates Continue reading “The War in Fiction, part 2: The Home Front”