Three Compelling Books I Read in February 2023

After a couple of months of not getting to read much for pleasure, February turned out to be just what I needed to get back in the habit of reading. My favorite genre, historical fiction, really came through for me last month.

The Diamond Eye, by Kate Quinn

The Diamond Eye, by Kate Quinn

I listened to this historical novel on CD. I was spellbound from disc one until the very end of disc 11. I yearn to write historical fiction so vividly. I long to captivate readers with fiction based in an era not their own. Kate Quinn has established herself as a master of the art and craft of writing historical fiction.

The Diamond Eye is based on a true story. Mila Pavlichenko lives in the part of the Soviet Union that is now Ukraine. She works at a library and adores her young son. When World War II transitions to the invasion of Russia by Nazi Germany, Mila does the unthinkable. She becomes a sniper for the Russian Army. And she excelled at it.

After her official kill count reaches 300, Mila becomes a national heroine and is sent on a tour of the United States to drum up support for the fight against Hitler. There, she meets President and Mrs. Roosevelt. Eleanor Roosevelt, seeing a bit of her own independent nature in the sniper, befriends Mila.

The book follows Mila through the war and how she constantly has to prove herself because she’s a woman and not automatically taken seriously. She’s called the usual names that men who are threatened by strong women call them.

It is a stunning novel and reminded me why I enjoy reading historical fiction. Yes, it’s fiction because conversations are imagined, but reading well-written historical novels is an enjoyable way to learn a lot of history.

The Home for Unwanted Girls, by Joanna Goodman

The Home for Unwanted Girls, by Joanna Goodman

This is another gripping historical novel. I was so impressed by Saskia Maarleveld’s reading of The Diamond Eye, that I looked for other books she had recorded. That’s how I found The Home for Unwanted Girls. I thought that was an interesting way to find another good book!

The Home for Unwanted Girls is about an unwed mother in Quebec in the 1950s who is forced by her parents to give up her baby girl. The book shines a light on the ugly history of the orphanage system in Quebec at that time. When the orphanage is turned into an insane asylum and the orphans are forced to take care of the patients, the outcome for the girls seems hopeless.

This novel follows the life of one of those orphans and the 15-year-old mother who wanted desperately to keep her. The mother never gives up on finding her child, even though she is told the girl died.

The Escape Artist: The Man Who Broke Out of Auschwitz to Warn the World, by Jonathan Freedland

The Escape Artist, by Jonathan Freedland

This book was spellbinding! It tells the stories of 19-year-old Rudolf Vrba and Fred Wetzler who did the impossible in April 1944. They escaped from Auschwitz! The book tells how Vrba studied the precision with which the Nazis conducted searches and exactly how long the guards searched when a prisoner was unaccounted for. He and Fred worked with two accomplices to plan the escape of Vrba ad Wetzler. Their two accomplices were to stay behind while Vrba and Wetzler escaped to take the truth of what was happening at Auschwitz out into the world.

It’s a fascinating read. It follows Vrba and Wetzler after their escape. The eye-opening part of the book was the aftermath of their escape. They testified and provided written descriptions of the horrors of Auschwitz. Their testimonies matched to the nth detail; however, their words and their physical conditions of malnutrition fell on deaf ears.

Winston Churchill didn’t want to bomb the rail lines going into Auschwitz because England bombed in the daytime. President Franklin D. Roosevelt didn’t want to bomb because it would be a diversion from plans. Jewish organizations in Europe refused to believe what was happening at Auschwitz because it was just too extreme. How can people do such things to their fellow human beings?

Along with the tragic murdering of Jews at Auschwitz, the fact that world leaders who had the power and where withal to do something about it in fact chose not to act is a gut punch.

My general takeaway from the book is that one’s life and future can be determined by someone else’s snap decision. Decisions were made on a whim by guards at Auschwitz every day that determined who lived, who died, and who escaped.

It’s a book that will haunt me.

Since my last blog post

I continue to try to get the word out about my second local history book, Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 2.

I also continue to ask people to go to my website, and subscribe to my newsletter. Subscribers receive a free downloadable copy of my first historical short story, “Slip Sliding Away: A Southern Historical Short Story.”

“Slip Sliding Away: A Southern Historical Short Story,” by Janet Morrison

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I know where you can get a good historical short story to read!

Take care of one another.

Remember the people of Ukraine.


22 thoughts on “Three Compelling Books I Read in February 2023

  1. That’s an impressive amount of reading taking into consideration your workload! Wow! I wish I had your discipline. They sound like fascinating books. I have ventured into a new bookstore they opened last year, just about three doors from me, I ordered a book on learning to speak German, and I thought of buying a few others but the book I started on January 2022, I’ve not finished yet. It’s a record, even for me… all the best Janet. Take good care. Hope your weather is fine. Here it’s suddenly like summer!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If I started a book 14 months ago and hadn’t finished reading it yet, I’d probably have to start over because I couldn’t remember what it was about! LOL! You’re trying to learn German and I’m studying Latin and Spanish on Duolingo online. I’m doing much better in Spanish than in Latin, since I at least studied Spanish 50 years ago. To give you an idea how education in the US has lost some of what it used to have… when my parents were in the 8th grade in one-room rural schoolhouses in the 1920s, they had to pass a Latin test before they could move on to the 9th grade! I wish it had still been taught when I was in grade school. It would have helped me with English and Spanish. Soak in the early spring warmth for me! It has suddenly turned winter here after several warm weeks. The trees and flowers that usually bloom in April and early May are blooming now, but it’s supposed to go down below freezing tonight and all the way down to 26 degrees F. Tuesday night. Our blueberry bush is in full bloom, so 26 degrees doesn’t bode well for our having blueberries this summer. The author copies of Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 2 arrived yesterday, so I’ll take 10 or 12 to the bookstore in Harrisburg as soon as it opens in the morning. I’ve drawn a map of the village as it was in the 1900s, and I hope they’ll also sell the maps at the bookstore. The bookstore owner told me last week that some customers had expressed a wish that the book came with a map. The railroad the village grew up around was upgraded to “high-speed” about 10 years ago. That necessitated closing all at-grade rail crossings, the funneling of traffic to a couple of new bridges over the train tracks, and some street name changes. It completely changed the look of the village. Drawing the map this weekend reminded me of just how much the village has changed. The population was 300 in 1950 and is now almost 20,000. Lots of changes. Some good, some not so good — but that’s life. It would be boring it things never changed. Take care over there, and get back to that book!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. You’re right, I think I should just begin reading that book from page one again! Well it has gotten unseasonably warm here and everyone is at the beach all of a sudden, a week ago they were making snowmen! But it won’t last, the temperatures will go down again before spring finally arrives. Very interesting about the schooling. Yes, I had Greek and Latin in High School and physics, chemistry and calculus as well. But most importantly we were taught discipline and respect. Now the students call their teachers by their first name and go to school in ripped jeans and flip flops! Education requires discipline and without it the results will always be deficient in quality. So good that you got the author copies! The change must be enormous going from 300 to 20.000 in a relatively short amount of time. Ok, wishing you all the best! And yes, I’m going back to that book! Hehehe…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you, Beverley. I hope you’re having a beautiful and peaceful Sunday afternoon. It’s sunny and nice here in North Carolina with many spring flowers blooming early, but it’s a little cool for my liking. It looks warmer than it is!

    Liked by 1 person

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