Mini-reviews: The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies; Once by Morris Gleitzman; and The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison

welshgirlTitle: The Welsh Girl
Author: Peter Ho Davies
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Mariner
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: Outside, the technicolor sunset is giving way to the silvery sweep of searchlights over distant Cardiff as a hand tugs the blackout curtain across the sky.

Goodreads blurb: Young Esther Evans has lived her whole life within the confines of her remote mountain village. The daughter of a fiercely nationalistic sheep farmer, Esther yearns for a taste of the wider world that reaches her only through broadcasts on the BBC. Then, in the wake of D-day, the world comes to her in the form of a German POW camp set up on the outskirts of Esther’s village.

The arrival of the Germans in the camp is a source of intense curiosity in the local pub, where Esther pulls pints for both her neighbors and the unwelcome British guards. One summer evening she follows a group of schoolboys to the camp boundary. As the boys heckle the prisoners across the barbed wire fence, one soldier seems to stand apart. He is Karsten Simmering, a German corporal, only eighteen, a young man of tormented conscience struggling to maintain his honor and humanity. To Esther’s astonishment, Karsten calls out to her.

These two young people from worlds apart will be drawn into a perilous romance that calls into personal question the meaning of love, family, loyalty, and national identity. The consequences of their relationship resonate through the lives of a vividly imagined cast of characters: the drunken BBC comedian who befriends Esther, Esther’s stubborn father, and the resentful young British “evacuee” who lives on the farm — even the German-Jewish interrogator investigating the most notorious German prisoner in Wales, Rudolf Hess.

Okay, I have waited way too long to write this review, and now I don’t have anything detailed to say. I know I liked The Welsh Girl – especially the setting. I enjoy reading World War II fiction that shows how different parts of the world were affected by the war, and the author did a good job demonstrating how the Welsh felt about the Germans, and about the English.

onceTitle: Once
Author: Morris Gleitzman
Genre: Middle grade historical fiction
Publisher: Square Fish
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook download from SYNC‘s summer giveaway program
Audiobook reader: Morris Gleitzman
Audiobook length: 3 hours and 8 minutes
First line: Once I was living in an orphanage in the mountains and I shouldn’t have been and I almost caused a riot.

Goodreads blurb: Felix, a Jewish boy in Poland in 1942, is hiding from the Nazis in a Catholic orphanage. The only problem is that he doesn’t know anything about the war, and thinks he’s only in the orphanage while his parents travel and try to salvage their bookselling business. And when he thinks his parents are in danger, Felix sets off to warn them–straight into the heart of Nazi-occupied Poland.

To Felix, everything is a story: Why did he get a whole carrot in his soup? It must be sign that his parents are coming to get him. Why are the Nazis burning books? They must be foreign librarians sent to clean out the orphanage’s outdated library. But as Felix’s journey gets increasingly dangerous, he begins to see horrors that not even stories can explain.

I really enjoyed this audiobook. I came to love Felix, and his innocence at the beginning of the book is precious and painful, because the reader has outside knowledge of what is truly going on in the world. As strange as it sounds, there is a lot of humor in this book. My biggest complaint, though, is that it isn’t really a complete book. It reads more like part one of a larger work, and I wish there was more of an ending. I’ll have to look for book two, but I’m getting weary of starting series.

silent wifeTitle: The Silent Wife
Author: A.S.A. Harrison
Genre: Thriller
Publisher: Penguin
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from the public library
First line: It’s early September.

Goodreads blurb: Jodi and Todd are at a bad place in their marriage. Much is at stake, including the affluent life they lead in their beautiful waterfront condo in Chicago, as she, the killer, and he, the victim, rush haplessly toward the main event. He is a committed cheater. She lives and breathes denial. He exists in dual worlds. She likes to settle scores. He decides to play for keeps. She has nothing left to lose. Told in alternating voices, The Silent Wife is about a marriage in the throes of dissolution, a couple headed for catastrophe, concessions that can’t be made, and promises that won’t be kept.

This book has been compared to Gone Girl, and I can see the similarities, but there is a big difference. I couldn’t relate to either of the players in that book, but I could relate to Jodi in The Silent Wife. In fact, she is a character who exists in plentiful numbers in the real world, women who live in denial of how bad their marriages really are, or how badly they are being treated by their husbands. And, because of that, I found myself sympathizing with her. This was extremely disturbing to me, because I, the reader, knew from the beginning of the book that she was going to kill her husband. And, yet, a little part of me didn’t blame her one bit. This made for a really thought-provoking, unsettling read.

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12 Responses to Mini-reviews: The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies; Once by Morris Gleitzman; and The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison

  1. irene says:

    O.k. I’ve place holds on the first two, but I’m not sure I should read the Wife one, might be too much for me. It is a little disturbing.

  2. bermudaonion (Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion
    says:

    I think comparing Gone Girl and The Silent Wife is really unfair. I liked both books a lot but they’re not that similar.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Kathy – I didn’t find them all that similar, either – I think that’s just a marketing thing.

  3. Anna says:

    I can’t remember if I have The Welsh Girl or not, but after seeing that you liked it, I’m going to have to search through my unread WWII shelves.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Anna – I remember buying it a loooooooooooong time ago – just finally got around to it. :)

  4. Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf
    Twitter: myeclecticbooks
    says:

    The Silent Wife sounds like one I should look into!

  5. Serena
    Twitter: SavvyVerseWit
    says:

    Silent Wife and the Welsh Girl sounds like good ones for me.

  6. I am so glad you liked The Welsh Girl. I haven’t run into too many other people who have read it. It was one I really enjoyed. The Silent Wife is one I’ve got my eye on.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Wendy – it was a great read – I think I would like to find some of his other works.