When the papers say that people in London are behaving normally, they’re telling the truth. Everyone is pretending as hard as possible that nothing is happening … I don’t think Hitler will destroy London, because London, if its legs are blown away, is prepared to hobble on crutches.
In summer 1939, war was brewing. Eileen Alexander was a bright young graduate just leaving Cambridge and newly smitten with Gershon Ellenbogen, a fellow student who had inadvertently involved her in a car crash. Her first letter to him, written from hospital, sparked a correspondence that would last the length of the war and define the love of their lifetimes.
Love in the Blitz is a remarkable portrait of one woman’s coming-of-age. Her previously undiscovered letters are vivid, intimate, and crackling with intelligence. She is frank about sex and her ambitions, hilariously caustic about colleagues, rationing rules and life on the homefront, and painfully honest about loving a man away at war. The discovery of these magical letters must count as the greatest literary find of the 21st century.
I received a copy of this book from William Collins Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A chance discovery, these love letters give a young woman’s insights into wartime Britain. The book begins with a history of the letters and a history of the woman and the wartime period. There are many letters, only a few are featured. They are honest and reveal the young woman’s beliefs, feelings and motivations.
This educated and privileged perspective of wartime living is intrinsically valuable. The letters ramble in parts and are full of the writer’s idiosyncrasies. Rather like a good fictional character, these are flawed but more relatable because of this.
This is a book for those who like wartime history, love stories, personal observations and reflections.
This is the story of one remarkable young woman’s unimaginable journey through the rise of the Nazi regime, the Second World War, and the aftermath. Mania Lichtenstein’s dramatic story of survival is narrated by her granddaughter and her memories are interwoven with beautiful passages of poetry and personal reflection. Holocaust survivor Mania Lichtenstein used writing as a medium to deal with the traumatic effects of the war. Many Jews did not die in concentration camps, but were murdered in their lifelong communities, slaughtered by mass killing units, and then buried in pits. As a young girl, Mania witnessed the horrors while doing everything within her power to subsist. She lived in Włodzimierz, north of Lvov (Ukraine), was interned for three years in the labor camp nearby, managed to escape and hid in the forests until the end of the war.
Although she was the sole survivor of her family, Mania went on to rebuild a new life in the United States, with a new language and new customs, always carrying with her the losses of her family and her memories.
Seventy-five years after liberation, we are still witnessing acts of cruelty born out of hatred and discrimination. Living among the Dead reminds us of the beautiful communities that existed before WWII, the lives lost and those that lived on, and the importance to never forget these stories so that history does not repeat itself.
I received a copy of this book from the author and publisher in return for an honest review.
This memoir is something everyone should read. It’s honest, sad and shocking. It gives a personal testament to the atrocities of The Holocaust during WW2. The contrast of ordinary family life and the genocide that ripped it apart is portrayed poignantly and effectively in this first-hand account.
The childhood and family memories are relatable, but what follows is unimaginable. The courage Mania Lichtenstein demonstrates as she survives, the horror that destroyed so many resonates and is a lesson to us all.
The importance of never standing by and letting something so terrible happen again is the message of this memoir. It makes its point eloquently but with transparent emotion.
Mania’s writing is poignant and shows the reader the life sentence of grief she carried with her, despite her remarkable survival and the life she achieved.
Praise for ‘Living With The Dead –
Adena Bernstein Astrowsky
Adena Bernstein Astrowsky describes an important and tragic chapter in world history in “Living among the Dead.” In sharing the story of her grandmother through WWII and the Holocaust, she reminds us that we must remember these experiences so that they are never allowed to happen again. – Harvey Mackay, author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive
I was honored when asked to read and review Adena Astrowsky’s book, Living among the Dead. What stood out for me is how different this book is from many of the other Holocaust books. I was most impressed with two things: 1) the amount of important documentary information which is often not known or forgotten, and 2) the details about her grandmother’s life in labor camps. I feel it is a very important and well-written book that the world needs to read. As I told Adena, she did a “Mitzvah” (a good deed) for the world by documenting her grandmother’s story in such an excellent way. – Ben Lesser, Holocaust Survivor, Author, Speaker, and Founder of Zachor: Holocaust Remembrance Foundation
An inspiring story of values and tradition from generation to generation by a granddaughter who has dedicated her life’s work to being a prosecutor of victim-crimes. Narrative history of the Holocaust through discussions with her grandmother “Bubbie” who wrote poetry during the Holocaust as well as her thoughts through the years. “Bubbie’s” poems, such as The Nostalgic Past, could easily be adapted to middle and high school class lesson plans. – Jay Levinsohn, teacher
Even though it is incredibly difficult to read about the soulless cruelty inflicted upon Jews and other groups during World War II, it is imperative that we do so. The idea that the recurrence of the demonization of an entire race could ever happen again should seem not just implausible, but impossible. Tragically, however, we find ourselves in a world reeling from a resurgence of hate and violence. Against this backdrop, Adena Bernstein Astrowsky’s Living among the Dead can help serve as an important wakeup call. Kudos to Astrowsky, Mania Lichtenstein’s granddaughter, for preserving her grandmother’s wartime experiences. “I was in elementary school when I first learned that my grandmother was a Holocaust survivor,” says Astrowsky. That early exposure to stories of the unthinkable cruelty inflicted on her grandmother left an indelible mark. Through their eyes, Living among the Dead — a collection of Lichtenstein’s writings and her granddaughter’s observations — becomes a gift of immeasurable importance for us all. This book should be found in every library from middle school on up. Readers will come away feeling a range of emotions. Mine is of enormous sadness tempered with gratitude and the eternal hope that these lessons are not lost on this and future generations. – Linda F. Radke, President, Story Monsters LLC, formerly Five Star Publications, Inc.
Living among the Dead is Adena Bernstein Astrowsky’s loving and careful reflection of passages from her grandmother’s private journal that Mania Lichtenstein kept as a way of coping with the memories of what she’d survived in World War II. In addition to these notes written by Mania Lichtenstein, Astrowsky also spent years talking with her grandmother about her experiences, difficult as though many of these conversations were. So do we need another Holocaust book? The answer becomes obvious when one sees the rise of hate groups. Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, agnostics, and atheists— we are all brothers and sisters. But when hatred and discrimination, born almost entirely from ignorance and fear, enter the mainstream of our lives, we very much need this book. Living among the Dead is another valuable brick in the “never again” wall that demands constant attention and refortification. – Paul M. Howey, writer and editor
Wonderful book – a treasure of individual strength, family love, community solidarity and Jewish History. – Marcia Ruth, retired writer and editor
Using both her own words and her grandmother’s, Astrowksy weaves the story of survival against all odds during the Holocaust. Before I had even finished the book, I felt I knew “Bubby” and could hear her unwavering voice through her poetry and her amazing story of war and strife in Eastern Europe. – Kimberly Klett, Museum Teacher 2003-04, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Executive Deputy Director, Educators’ Institute for Human Rights
Living among the Dead is a riveting, heart-felt glimpse into one young girl’s path into and out of the Holocaust. A childhood once filled with joy and innocence was replaced with utter despair as she lost her entire family and had to learn to survive on her own. While her survival was nothing short of a miracle, the true significance of this story is the ultimate triumph of good over evil through a life well lived, and a legacy secured. Living among the Dead transforms the study of the Holocaust from a distant event to a personal journey. As a teacher, I believe reading this book will help my students develop a richer, more intimate understanding of this period in history, and better equip them to do the important work of sharing the lessons of the Holocaust with future generations. – Sarah Armistead, M.P.A., 8th Grade History Teacher
Adena Bernstein Astrowsky has dedicated her career to helping the most vulnerable of our society. She did this by prosecuting child sexual abuse cases and domestic violence cases within the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. She became the local expert concerning the prosecution of domestic violence related strangulation cases and taught extensively on that subject. Currently, she handles post-conviction cases on appeal and foreign extradition cases. Adena taught Sunday School at her temple for eight years, and in her last two years she co-taught “Character Development Through the Studies of the Holocaust.” Adena contributes articles to MASK (Mothers Awareness on School-age Kids) Magazine, often writing about children’s safety, drugs, law and order, etc. Once a month Adena volunteers at a local Scottsdale library with her therapy dog, Charlie, as part of the Tail Waggin’ Tales Program. Adena has also chaired events to raise money for the Emily Center of Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Recently, Adena was recognized for her professional and philanthropic work with an Amazing Woman Award from the Phoenix Suns and National Bank of Arizona. Adena’s greatest role, however, is as the mother of three very active children. She, and her husband, Brad, are kept very busy with their respective dance, theater, music, and athletic activities.
I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
This honest and humorous memoir gives a unique insight into sheep farming in the Cotswolds.
When their friendship leads to love, Sue is happy to share Aubrey’s boyhood dream of farming sheep. Sue shares life experiences, people who influenced their lives and the characterful animals integral to their farming dream.
It’s an engaging and immersive read, sharing life’s ups and downs, of farming sheep. Their dedication and respect for the animals are evident, and the reader soon realises that farming is a way of life rather than a job. Humorous and poignant anecdotes, fill the pages of this memoir. There are lots of interesting facts about sheep farming.
An inspiring and motivational memoir that proves dreams can be chased and won.
For most of human history, sudden and unexpected deaths of a suspicious nature, when they were investigated at all, were examined by lay persons without any formal training. People often got away with murder. Modern forensic investigation originates with Frances Glessner Lee – a pivotal figure in police science.
Frances Glessner Lee (1878-1962), born a socialite to a wealthy and influential Chicago family, was never meant to have a career, let alone one steeped in death and depravity. Yet she became the mother of modern forensics and was instrumental in elevating homicide investigation to a scientific discipline.
Frances Glessner Lee learned forensic science under the tutelage of pioneering medical examiner Magrath – he told her about his cases, gave her access to the autopsy room to observe post-mortems and taught her about poisons and patterns of injury. A voracious reader too, Lee acquired and read books on criminology and forensic science – eventually establishing the largest library of legal medicine.
Lee went on to create The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death – a series of dollhouse-sized crime scene dioramas depicting the facts of actual cases in exquisitely detailed miniature – and perhaps the thing she is most famous for. Celebrated by artists, miniaturists and scientists, the Nutshell Studies are a singularly unusual collection. They were first used as a teaching tool in homicide seminars at Harvard Medical School in the 1930s, and then in 1945 the homicide seminar for police detectives that is the longest-running and still the highest-regarded training of its kind in America. Both of which were established by the pioneering Lee.
In 18 Tiny Deaths, Bruce Goldfarb weaves Lee’s remarkable story with the advances in forensics made in her lifetime to tell the tale of the birth of modern forensics.
I received a copy of this book from Octopus Books in return for an honest review.
This biography explores significant forensic science developments and Frances Glessner Lee’s role in them. Focusing predominately on North American forensic science, the book sets the scene by highlighting defects of the legal-medico and Coroner’s system, before the development of modern forensic science.
Details of Frances Glessner Lee’s ancestry, upbringing and life, show how remarkable her legacy is, at a time when women were sidelined by society. This is a biography of a notable woman, interwoven with developments in forensic science. For those who enjoy historical biographies, her life is intrinsically interesting. Frances’ interest in making miniature figures and pieces is documented, something which she later used for teaching purposes in forensic science.
Early developments in forensic science and crimes and the development of the medical examiner role and autopsy are explored through case studies and historical characters. Lee’s role in developing a department of legal medicine is documented in detail. As are the model scenes she creates, these are illustrated.
This is a factual, interesting biography, which will appeal to those, interested in the origins of, and players in, forensic science in North America.
Bruce Goldfarb is the executive assistant to the Chief Medical Examiner for the State of Maryland, US, where the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death are housed. He gives conducted tours of the facility and is also a trained forensic investigator. He began his career as a paramedic before working as a journalist, reporting on medicine, science and health.
He collaborated with Susan Marks – the documentary filmmaker who produced the 2012 film about Frances Glessner Lee and the Nutshells titled Of Dolls and Murder.
June 2019 is the 50th anniversary of Judy Garland’s death
August 2019 is the 80th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz
October 4th the motion picture JUDY starring Renee Zellwegger and Jessie Buckley is released in the UK
An irresistible mixture
of memoir, biography, cultural analysis, experiment and hero-worship about one
person’s enduring fascination. This is for anyone who has ever nursed an
obsession or held a candle to a star.
Judy Garland has been an important figure in Susie Boyt’s world since she was three years old; comforting, inspiring and, at times, disturbing her. In this unique book, Boyt travels deep into the underworld of hero-worship, reviewing through the prism of Judy our understanding of rescue, consolation, love, grief and fame.
Layering key episodes from Garland’s life with defining moments from her own, Boyt demands with insight and humour, what it means, exactly, to adore someone you don’t know. Need hero-worship be a pursuit that’s low in status or can it be performed with pride and style? Are there similarities that lie at the heart of all fans? nd what is the proper husbandry of a twenty-first-century obsession, anyway?
I received a copy of this book from Virago Books in return for an honest review.
I didn’t know quite what to expect when I picked up this book. A biography of Judy Garland, whose films I have always liked, or a memoir of the author, whose life is somehow entangled with the iconic star? In truth, it is both of these, and something more, an insight into celebrity and obsession in the twenty-first-century.
Honestly written, with no filter, this is an intense book, the author truly believes that her love of Judy, someone who she never met, has and does have a profound effect on her life. Many of us have obsessions, some of us with celebrities, I love the Osmonds. I grew out of my blinkered obsession in my mid-teens, but I still like their music, and listen to it today. Few of us are so affected, but this makes riveting reading.
Aside from the biography, illustrated with wonderful images. there is the memoir, which is very readable sometimes amusing and poignant. The author also highlights obsession as an entity and explores through her experience, whether this is a positive or negative force.
Worth reading for the intrinsic interest value alone. It is thought-provoking and resonates.
‘When Judy sang to me as I grew older she seemed to confirm things that I’d all my life held to be true:’
* Things that are hard have more of life at their heart than things that are easy.
* All feelings, however painful, are to be prized.
* Glamour is a moral stance.
* The world is crueller and more wonderful than anyone ever says.
* Loss, its memory and its anticipation, lies at the heart of human experience.
* Any human situation, however deadly, can be changed, turned round and improved beyond recognition on any given day, in one minute, in one hour.
* You must try to prepare for the moment that you’re needed for the call could come at any time.
* There are worse things in life than being taken for a ride.
* If you have a thin skin all aspects of life cost more and have more value.
* Loyalty to one other is preferable to any other kind of human system.
* Grief is no real match for the human heart, which is an infinitely resourceful organ.
Susie Boyt was born in London and educated at Camden
School for Girls and Oxford University.
After a nerve-racking stint in a lingerie boutique and an alarming spell
working in PR for Red Stripe lager and the Brixton Academy, she settled down to
writing and is the author of six acclaimed novels including The Last Hope of Girls, which was short-listed for the John Llewellyn Rhys
Prize, and Only Human, which was short-listed for the Mind Award. Of her last
novel, Love & Fame The Sunday Times said ‘she writes with such precision and wisdom about
the human heart under duress that the novel is hard to resist.’
Susie wrote a much-loved weekly column about life and art for the Financial TimesWeekend for fourteen years and still contributes regularly to their books and fashion pages. Last year she edited The Turn of the Screw and Other Ghost Stories for Penguin Classics. Susie is also a director at the Hampstead Theatre in London and works part-time for Cruse Bereavement Care.
She lives in London with her husband and two daughters. She is the daughter of the painter Lucian Freud and the great grand-daughter of the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud.
My Judy Garland Life was Book of the Week on Radio 4, shortlisted for the Pen Ackerley Prize, extracted in U.S Vogue and staged at The Nottingham Playhouse in 2014.
High priestesses are few and far between, white ones in Africa even more
so. When Diane Esguerra hears of a mysterious Austrian woman worshipping the
Ifa river goddess Oshun in Nigeria, her curiosity is aroused.
It is the start of an extraordinary friendship that sustains Diane
through the death of her son and leads to a quest to take part in Oshun
rituals. Prevented by Boko Haram from returning to Nigeria, she finds herself
at Ifa shrines in Florida amid vultures, snakes, goats’ heads, machetes, a
hurricane and a cigar-smoking god. Her quest steps up a gear when Beyoncé
channels Oshun at the Grammys and the goddess goes global.
Mystifying, harrowing and funny, The Oshun Diaries explores the lure of Africa, the life of a remarkable woman and the appeal of the goddess as a symbol of female empowerment.
I received a copy of this book from Eye Books in return for an honest review.
The cover of this book draws you in, it is vibrant and interesting and makes you want to see what’s inside.
The book is in two parts, the first associated with the meeting with the Austrian Oshun priestess in Africa, and the second with other worshipers in Florida. The professional writing style is easy reading, even if some of the content, especially in the second part is complex. The prose reads like a fictional story, full of vivid imagery, authentic characters and amazing content and events. Its historical details provide a believable setting for the diaries and it resonates.
The African experience is insightful and political, it gives meaning to some of the headlines of the time that I recall. The meeting with the charismatic, dedicated priestess, is enthralling, and it is a page-turning read.
The second part of the book is equally as honest and detailed, this is where the author truly understands what she is exploring. It is an interesting read, with the first part with its astute political comment, is the best part of the book.
A recommended read, if you enjoy adventure, culture and spiritual experiences.
Guest Post – Diane Esguerra – Goddess for the #MeToo Era
Looking for a ballsy, bewitching goddess with green credentials to follow? Then look no further: Oshun, the ancient river goddess of the Yoruba people of West Africa, is the one for you.
Sure, there are plenty of cool female deities around to choose from – if goddess worship is what you’re into. Amaterasu No Kami, the Japanese Goddess of the Sun and theAborigine Holy Goddess Mumuna -Who-Made-Us-All, have sizeable followings. Even old favourites like the European Great Mother and Diana and Isis the ancient deities of Rome and Egypt still appeal to a surprising number. So, what is it about Oshun that makes her so special?
Well, for a start she’s not only a goddess of love but also of female empowerment. And she’s prepared to defend to the death women’s right to be respected by men and treated as their equals. If she sees them being given a hard time her anger can be volcanic. Yet with her love of gold, honey, bathing and carrying a mirror around to admire her beauty, Oshun is quintessentially feminine and proud of her abundant sensuality.
She’s a hard worker, too, who played a key role in the Yoruba creation myth. According to the legend, primordial male gods pushed aside the female ones – including Oshun – and decided they would go about creating the earth themselves. They failed miserably. Oshun set herself up as the ringleader of the female deities and protested vigorously on their behalf to the chief deity, Olodumare. He/She gave the order that the female deities should be given the chance to have a go at creation, too. And as it turned out they made a much better job of it, and the earth as we know it came into being.
Indeed, the chief divinity was so impressed with Oshun’s efforts that He/She issued an oracle to the effect that only stupid people think a woman won’t amount to anything in life, and that negative language should never be used against women. The divinity even goes so far as to say that men should kneel and prostrate themselves before women as they have to shoulder the massive responsibility of giving birth to humankind.
Compare this respectful, life-affirming ancient African myth to the creation myth in the bible. Here, not only is Eve held responsible for tempting Adam, and therefore triggering humanity’s fall from grace, God also decides to make her well and truly suffer for it – giving the green light to the patriarchal societies that inevitably followed:
To the woman, he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain, you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:14-16)
While we’re on the subject of children, Oshun is also a fertility goddess who has the power to grant them. During the annual Oshun Festival which is held in the goddess’s birthplace – the Sacred Groves of Oshogbo in Oshun State, Nigeria – women come from as far away as China in search of a cure for infertility.
Nature is deemed precious in Oshun’s Sacred Groves. Hunting is forbidden, fishing too – even the trees can’t be chopped about. Woe betide the person who attempts to do so!
To get a closer idea of how this goddess might appear in human form look no further than Beyoncé. The most famous black female singer on the planet once appeared at the Grammy’s channelling the goddess. This multi-talented, beautiful and sensuous woman isn’t afraid to speak out for women’s rights and against injustice. And in the video which accompanies the track Hold Up on her Lemonade album, she writhes around and levitates in water before emerging in torrents of it and descending a long flight of steps in a golden gown. She then proceeds to roam the neighbourhood smashing open fire hydrants with a baseball bat in Oshun-like anger at her husband Jay Z’s alleged infidelity.
But you don’t have to be a famous singer to tap into the power of this very special goddess. Dress yourself in yellow or gold, light a candle, place a few of Oshun’s favourite items nearby: a bowl of water; a mirror; peacock feathers; honey; a couple of oranges, and then summon the goddess with the following incantation: Yeye, Ye Ye O…Yeye, Ye Ye O…Oshun.
Sit back and enjoy!
Diane Esguerra is an English writer and psychotherapist. For a number of years, she worked as a performance artist in Britain, Europe and the United States, and she has written for theatre and television. She is the recipient of a Geneva-Europe Television Award and a Time Out Theatre Award. She is previously the author of Junkie Buddha, the uplifting story of her journey to Peru to scatter her late son’s ashes.
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What happens when pregnancy and the first few weeks of a baby’s life don’t go as planned? How have advances in modern medicine and perinatal genetics redefined our perceptions of what is possible?
The First Breath by Olivia Gordon is a powerful medical memoir about the extraordinary fetal and neonatal medicine bringing today’s babies into the world. Unveiling the intense patient-doctor relationship at work with every birth, this book reflects on the cutting-edge medicine that has saved a generation of babies, the combination of love and fear a parent feels for a child they haven’t yet met and what can happen before a baby’s first breath.
Olivia Gordon was twenty-nine weeks pregnant when a scan found that her baby was critically ill. Thanks to a risky operation in utero and five months in neonatal care, her son survived.
The First Breath is the first popular science book to tell the story of the fast developing fields of fetal and neonatal medicine. It explores motherhood and the female experience of medicine through Olivia’s personal story and sensitive, intimate case histories of other mothers’ high-risk births.
The First Breath asks what it means to become the mother of a child who would not have survived birth only a generation ago, showing how doctors and nurses save the most vulnerable lives and how medicine has developed to make it possible for these lives to even begin.
I received a copy of this from Pan Macmillan – Bluebird via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The story, this book tells is amazing, the sheer scope of the medical advancement, over the last twenty years is well documented here. It’s not just about the science, and the pioneering doctors, there is also the unashamedly human side to this story. The personal experiences of the author, and the mothers, fathers, doctors and nurses interviewed by her.
The balance of facts and case studies is good. The science is complex and will not suit everyone, but it is written, in an easy to understand way, and illuminated by personal experience. The ethical side of this medical advancement isn’t ignored, as the reader is presented with both the facts and the human outcomes.
The experiences of the parents, particularly the mothers, is the best part of the book for me. They are courageous, honest and inspiring.