I just finished reading The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. A historical fiction, based on the real actions of Louise de Bettignies during World War I, The Alice Network is haunting and incredible. Unapologetic in its depiction of war and the suffering of occupied France, this book grips the reader from the first pages.
Louise de Bettignies, known as Lili in the book, was fearless and witty, quick and brave. Her network was one of the most efficient and effective operations in France. Operating in and around Lille, France, her network of informants could bring down new German fortified positions within days of their being established. The major information revelations in the book were pulled from real reports from de Bettignies. I don’t want to spoil major plot points, but this story had me reflecting whether I would have had the courage to do what these women did… Risking their lives to serve their country. The intimacy of their work, being close to information and power, knowing that getting caught would mean death but not necessarily a quick death. The solitude..the razor’s edge. The constant effort to remain hidden in plain sight. Perhaps my life situation now precludes me from truly knowing what I could do, and for that I am thankful. I hope I never have to know what I’m capable of but I do recognize the courage and sacrifice of women like Louise de Bettignies. Heroes, all. Lest we forget.
I just finished reading The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist’s Journey Into the Dark Side of the Brain by James Fallon. This was a recommendation from a colleague and did not disappoint!
Psychopathy is not something one can just casually assess
From chapter 1: What Is a Psychopath? (Fallon 2013, p. 13)
This book was really interesting, giving me pause to think about my own behaviours and tendencies. Some of the things I like least about my own personality: selfishness, impulsivity, pleasure-seeking, lack of motivation, certainly can be on that psychopathic spectrum but I am empathetic and caring, and I more often make decisions emotionally, rather than via cold logic. But it is still chilling to read that some of the shitty things about me could be shared with a psychopath.
The book is engaging and a very quick read. It balances the academic and the personal, and the outcome is a fascinating glimpse into the inside of someone else’s head- literally and figuratively.
In other news, I struggle to want to do any yoga and walking is boring. So no progress on the moving my body front. I have been drinking more water than usual, so yay me! Celebrate the successes, amirite?
Historical fiction, especially when it’s WWII related, is my soft spot. I really enjoy it and this book delivered. A young woman in Occupied Poland is forced to make choices to help her loved ones and she becomes part of the Resistance. As she tries to navigate her morality, religion and dedication to her cause, she becomes involved with a high-ranking Nazi official.
The brief descriptions of the Warsaw Ghetto, Emma/Anna’s reaction the true nature of Auschwitz and Bergen, and the daily fear of the Gestapo make this a gut wrenching read. My stomach was tight with nerves for this character for nearly the whole book, especially as Emma/Anna’s blinders come off and she starts to learn of the horrors around her.
This book is still a romance, even under the heavy weight of WWII. Don’t let my description above fool you. It was gripping and I liked. Easily my favourite book so far this year.
I don’t know why I do this to myself, forcing down books by authors I really don’t enjoy.
Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah is melodramatic and repetitive. The writer’s adage “show, don’t tell” has been lost on this woman. Descriptions are reiterated, often using the exact same language, until the reader can’t help but sigh in exasperation and think, “thanks for ruining it for me, Kristin.”
Characters are flat and predictable. However, the story of the Siege of Leningrad is interesting and I think I will make an effort to include more historical fiction into this challenge.
Overall this book is not worth your time. Nor was it worth mine, but here we are.
I decided to start off my reading challenge with a light, fun read. China Rich Girlfriend and its predecessor, Crazy Rich Asians, by Kevin Kwan, are easy and interesting.
If you know me, you know I have slight gossip blog addiction and this book sets you right in the middle of an impossibly rich, glamourous network of characters that are crazy. Gossip abounds, in fact the characters in this book make my favourite gossip columnist look like a fledgling bird to their agile and aggressive crows.
There is more than just gossip. Brand names are liberally sprinkled throughout, as are artists and musicians. The clothing and car descriptions are sumptuous but the food descriptions are next level… Just reading this book made me hungry and, sadly, much of the food in the book is not Whole30 compliant. I will have to wait another 29 days to go for dim sum. The hardships…
Incredible events and unimaginable wealth are the heart of this book. It is definitely an escapist read and was a good little warm-up for the work I have ahead of me with this reading challenge!