Elisabeth: The Princess Bride, Austria-Hungary, 1853 (The Royal Diaries) by Barry Denenberg
*** out of five stars.
This faux diary is based on the real life of Elisabeth, princess of Austria. It only encompasses the time during which she met and wed her husband. However, the most interesting part of this book is the appendix. It tells you what happened to the princess and her family members after she was married (which is far more gripping than the material presented in the diary). Photos of Elisabeth and her relatives, a detailed family tree, and additional sources to further read about her are also included.
This book is geared towards children or preteens, so it’s a very quick read. I read it in the span of an hour or so, and it was fairly interesting. It wasn’t the epitome of fine literature as the prose is quite simple, but it kept my interest. I needed something light and fun after reading my last book, and this was just what I needed.
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
** out of five stars
This unfinished work by Nemirovsky is set in France during the Nazi occupation. She had originally planned to include five sections in the novel, but was only able to complete the first two before she was sent to a concentration camp.
The first section is titled “Storm in June,” and is a sampling of different residents of Paris, and how they fled for their safety. Many critics have said that the reader gets a feel for exactly how those people felt, but I found that this was not true. Each character or family had a chapter, and as soon as you became somewhat involved in their story, you were sprung to another point of view. I wasn’t able to grasp fully the scale of the event and the emotions that the characters experienced; because of this, I found most of this section to move along slowly. I didn’t care about the people involved, and found myself anticipating the next section. It needed to be reworked and edited, and maybe she should have focused on two characters instead of the five or so she included. This part really bogged down my mind, and I had trouble keeping my eyes open for more than three pages.
Part two, “Dolce,” focuses on the German occupation of a small village. I connected more with this section because the character development and descriptions were able to flourish. She includes a story of a young French woman who has a love affair with a German (even though her husband is fighting in the war), and must hide it from everyone in her home and town. Nemirovsky did a great job at describing the conflicting emotions between hatred and sympathy for the occupying soldiers. There was a lot of tension between the villagers because of this conflict, and that leads to some interesting events. However, because it took me such a long time to complete “Storm in June,” I had sort of mentally checked out of this book and just wanted it to be done. In retrospect, I probably should have taken my time and enjoyed the story more.
The appendix of this novella was the most interesting. It included Nemirovsky’s notes and what she planned to do with the rest of the book, a short section on her life and what eventually happened to her, and (the best part) letters that she and her husband wrote concerning this work and her eventual deportation to Auschwitz.
Overall, I don’t know if I would recommend Suite Francaise. Maybe pick up a biography of Irene instead, and read one of her completed works. Even though I enjoyed “Dolce,” I think there are other books out there (such as Sarah’s Key) that detail the German occupation of France in a more interesting manner.
Pocketfull of Rye by Agatha Christie
***1/2 out of five stars.
When a wealthy businessman is found dead in his office with rye in his shirt pocket, investigators are unsure of what to think. There was no logical reason for the rye to be there – until Miss Marple, and elderly amateur detective, comes along and presents a plausible explanation that involves a popular nursery rhyme. The deeper the investigation went, more clues were revealed and suspicious individuals came out.
I thought this was classic Agatha Christie, with the usual red herring here and there, but I found the end to be not that plausible. I was waiting to be blown away with the end, as I usually am with her work, but this time I was left unsatisfied. However, the story was a fun, quick read, but I would not recommend this as someones first Christie book. If you want to read her books, start with And Then There Were None or Evil Under the Sun.