16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Poignantly, despairingly wonderful.,
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This review is from: A Train in Winter: A Story of Resistance, Friendship and Survival (Hardcover)Perhaps it's me but, looking at other reviews, I find it strange and not-a-little disconcerting that anyone could begin to write of this book; "OK its a bit slow to start but good ending" or "This was a great read" or "Great book to handle in terms of size, font size and the fact it's a hardcover": as if they were somehow reviewing a fictional novel! However, one reviewer seems to 'get it' in saying: "This is one of those books that you don't actually enjoy reading, but you feel the better for having read."
Earlier reviewers have gone into detail re the book's content and narrative drive but essentially, this second world war-time factual account of 'man's desperate inhumanity to man/woman' is effective on several levels. In both quality and quantity, the research is faultless. The depiction, too, of people and events is impeccable if soul-searing. Indeed, when you read of the extremes of brutality and privation that these woman survived it's not impossible to see, when eventually the small minority made it back to their towns and villages, family and friends, how their stories were initially disbelieved. Indeed, one brief quote (from many similarly terrifying incidents) is enough to exemplify this: "One night, Marie-Claude heard terrible cries; next morning she learnt that because the gas chambers had run out of Zyklon B Pellets, the smaller children had been thrown directly on to the flames. 'When we tell people,' she said to the others, 'who will believe us?' "
From this, too, you will realise that if you're in any way of a less-than-robust mental constitution, shall we say, this book, the second 'part' particularly, is not really for you. It's just too much to bear, at times. The so-called 'good ending' (!) referred to earlier by one reviewer, is actually 'Appendix: the women': 17 pages concisely and unemotionally detailing the deaths and manner of such of not only those who perished but of their wives, husbands and children left bereft and orphaned.
Read this book at your discretion...but read it!
PS I intend no real disrespect to those reviewers I mention, above, sorry...I'm just a little incredulous.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 12 Jan 2012 10:36:13 GMT
Pierre Bovington says:
Simply, the best review I have read on Amazon
In reply to an earlier post on 12 Jan 2012 13:26:37 GMT
Gerry Mac says:
Many thanks for your comment, Pierre. Always nice to be appreciated. I just tend to call things as they affect me...and that book affected me.
Posted on 14 Jan 2012 13:11:21 GMT
S. Ramsey-Hardy says:
Thanks for you interesting review. I would like to mention that I do not agree with some of your comments about other reviews. For example, the "font size" (which you dismiss) might well be of considerable importance to some readers. And I too found the book a little "slow" and hard-going to begin with, because of the large cast of characters whose individuality was -it must be said- only lightly sketched-in. Correct me if I am wrong, but your review appears to suggest that because of the remarkable nature of this story, critical comment is therefore out of place. I suggest that no book is above criticism and comment, whatever the nature of the subject.
In reply to an earlier post on 15 Jan 2012 17:08:16 GMT
Gerry Mac says:
Hi. Many thanks for your comments...always good to get feedback. You say, "Correct me if I am wrong"...
Re my thoughts about font size, etc; I began by saying that "I find it strange and not-a-little disconcerting that anyone could begin to write of this book..." The objective word here is "begin" ie in reviewing anything, I suggest, let alone a novel, we prioritise our thoughts in respect of the item's most salient features and so it seemed to me that concerns re font size, hardback, etc, would, dare I say, NORMALLY come quite far down a list of a novel's principal issues. And IF eye problems, etc, were a concern, wouldn't someone check that out prior to reading/buying the novel and THEN, with that problem attended to, comment on its novelistic qualities or lack thereof?
As for the comment by some reviewers...and yourself... that the book was "a little slow" to begin with, I stand by my view that such a comment is more suited to a critical review of pure fiction than a novel of this kind. The latter part of your comment where you say it was "hard-going to begin with, because of the large cast of characters whose individuality was -it must be said- only lightly sketched-in" seems to me to be a much more valid critical judgement. And, in fact, one with which I have some sympathy.
Then there's the notion that my "review appears to suggest that because of the remarkable nature of this story, critical comment is therefore out of place". Having re-read what I said, I honestly don't know how you arrived at such a conclusion. You may think it's being pedantic but I genuinely believe that our written words should be chosen most carefully and with precision...and read equally so. The only 'place' where such a view MAY have been invoked is where I cautioned against reading the novel IF... ie "you will realise that if you're in any way of a less-than-robust mental constitution, shall we say, this book, the second 'part' particularly, is not really for you. It's just too much to bear, at times." However, even here, I hope you come to realise that such a comment was directed at one's emotional 'strength' and had nothing at all to do with the book's literary merits, per se.
Finally, it was good to engage with your thoughts. Thank you, sincerely, for giving me the opportunity.
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