June seems to be the month of the Nazis for me. Which is weird because usually I avoid anything war related since it can be so dark and depressing. And yet, two of the books I’ve enjoyed the most this month featured Nazis. Go fig, right?
In the Garden of Beasts
By Erik Larson
This is the first book I read. In May, Mr. Larson visited our Salon 615 here at the library and spoke about his latest work. I love Erik Larson and have read everything he’s written (and I highly recommend everything but Thunderstruck - that one about did me in). However, with this one I was a little concerned because of the subject matter.
After hearing Larson speak, though, I was intrigued. His book features the American ambassador to Berlin, William Dodd and his family in Berlin in 1933-34. This was period of history I was mostly unfamiliar with. Most people know about the later part of the war, with the concentration camps, etc., but in the beginning the Nazis were party animals. Berlin in the 30′s was like a frat party run amok, and if you didn’t like it, you either left or they shot you.
My favorite quote from Larson’s book was also mentioned during the author’s talk: at one point after being named Chancellor, in discussing all the finger- pointing that was going on, neighbor against neighbor, etc., Hitler states “we are living at present in a sea of denunciations and human meanness.” Ok, when you can out-mean Adolf Hitler something is seriously wrong.
Larson’s book was good – dark, but not a total buzz kill. It was interesting to see an aspect of the Third Reich that I was previously unfamiliar with. Highly readable.
A Vintage Affair
By Isabel Wolff
The second book I found only by chance. I regularly shelve new books, and one day I came across this one. Thinking the cover was neat, I opened it, thought the story sounded good, and checked it out. I expected it to be something along the lines of Sophie Kinsella and her Shopaholic series since both authors are British and writing about fashion.
The main premise of the book is that Phoebe has decided to open a vintage clothing store in London. Now I’m not a fashion guru, so I don’t know that I gave all the mentioned clothes their appropriate portion of shock and awe, but they did sound pretty and lighthearted.
The Nazis snuck into the book through a surprising side story that soon captured my attention. Phoebe visits the home of an older lady to potentially buy some of her clothes and ends up getting pulled into the past. All because of a little blue overcoat she finds tucked in the back of the ladies closet. Throughout the book, we learn how it was to live in Avignon during the war – but I’m not going to give more details than that.
This book had its fun moments, usually via the cupcake dresses that hung on the wall in the store. But it also had a little more depth and breadth than I was expecting. Surprisingly good for something that looked like fluff. I’m not sure that I would have been as interested in the Nazi moments, though, if I hadn’t just finished the Larson book.
So those are my Nazi books. Both were really good, but for really different reasons, hence the Nazis Two Ways title (or maybe I’ve just been watching too much Food Network). If you’re looking for something different, check one of these out.