The Forger’s Spell by Edward Dolnick

Find in catalogWell worth reading on several levels. In this mystery, we know the perp, the man who forged the Vermeers and fooled Goering – so the mystery lies in how he was discovered. Along with this surprising and sometimes ironic story, Dolnick carefully shows just how a forger works and how experts checking out dubious paintings investigate. The techniques are  fascinating, but  I especially enjoyed the background issues Dolnick addresses. What psychology  leads buyers and experts to become gullible? In fact, what induces any of us to cling to errors of judgment, in the face of evidence to the contrary? Dolnick offers a thoughtful explanation of what determines the value of a work of art: why is an original Vermeer valuable while a beautiful, accomplished fake is not?

This book is a great complement to  “The Monuments Men, “ and to “The Hare with Amber Eyes,” all of which present different aspects of the Nazi theft of art treasures.

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Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Life After LifeI was really taken by KA’ s concept—that the main character is born and dies and is reborn repeatedly, going over the same set of relations, years, and problems, yet with new variables and with a growing, ominous and usually partially helpful fore-knowledge of what could be about to happen to herself, her friends and family, and to World War II Europe. What Atkins depicts is not quite reincarnation—nothing so neat and orderly as that! This is sort of like an old picaresque novel hyped up on drugs, with adventures layered on ever repeating yet mutating loops. This concept was flawed for me only when the author had the heroine just happen to interact with Hitler and Eva Braun. That was the implausibility that broke this reader’s back.

Reviewed by Teresa

Those Angry Days by Lynne Olson

Those Angry DaysThis NY Times Bestseller is about the political tension in the early days of WW II. Specifically, the pivotal roles that FDR and Charles Lindbergh played as to whether or not the US should enter the war. Parts of it are a bit dry and too detailed for me, but it was a subject I knew nothing about. Particularly interesting were the “dirty tricks” played by politicians of that era, as well as the biographical information about Lindbergh.

Reviewed by matkat

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book ThiefIf I was told I could read only one other book for the rest of my life, I would choose The Book Thief – and I would hardly be upset. The language is masterful: poignantly beautiful, elegantly simple, and searingly powerful. The premise for the book is unique and tragic and achingly human. Ironic, considering the novel is narrated by Death. The Book Thief chronicles the life of a young girl growing up in Nazi, Germany, from the perspective of Death. This book is one of those everyone of every age, should be sure to read in their lifetime. More than once, if possible. While reading, you will find yourself slowing and even stopping, wanting to savor the perfection of the words, or digest the magnitude of emotion and implication captured in a single, misleadingly simple sentence.

Reviewed by Maddy

The Grace of Silence: A Memoir by Michele Norris

Deserving a very wide readership due to its life-changing potential, the lessons here may be learned on many levels. After her father’s passing, Ms. Norris, an experienced investigative reporter, was shaken to her core while researching her family’s history: her beloved grandmother had worked as a pancake company rep while dressed as an “Aunt Jemima” figure, and her father as a newly returned WW II veteran in his twenties had been shot in the leg in his hometown of Birmingham, Alabama.

This moving and honest memoir reveals what Michele learned trying to resolve her need to understand why her family had covered these facts with what she eventually accepts as “a grace of silence” to save both her and the victims of prejudice from disabling bitterness.

The painful history of American blacks before, during, and after WW II is not the main focus of the book.  The story is a larger one that encompasses and investigates our nation’s unspoken (or hidden) conversations about race. And larger still, a person of any race will appreciate the need to know more about one’s family in order to give more sense to one’s life.  Also, if you are a parent, you know the question, “How much should I tell my child of my life’s struggles?” is a serious and difficult one to answer.  But according to Michele, the grace of silence should also be our own as we listen to our elders speak of their history before they are gone. 

 A very powerful book.  I could envision an entire college course being built around its concepts–Race, Parents, and the Difficulties and Rewards of Conversation–that affect us all in so many ways.

Rebiewed by Laura

A Hatred for Tulips by Richard Lourie

This is a small book and a very fast read.  It is a historical fiction account of a Dutch boy growing up in Holland during World War II.  He is recounting the story to his brother who he had not seen in 60 years.  Is it possible that because of poverty, hunger, and disease an innocent child could commit an act so devious that it would be remembered for years after in infamy?  I enjoyed this account and may choose other historical fiction books because of it.

Reviewed by Jill