Turn of Mind – Alice LaPlante

Recently, I’ve managed to pick up a couple of books on mental health issues as it is something I see on a daily basis with work but also because the mind is such a mysterious and fascinating organ of our body and I liked the premise of this book. Read ‘Turn of Mind’, a mystery novel about a surgeon, Dr. White who is in her sixties and suffers from dementia. The book details her progression into the disease where she cannot remember her children, often thinks her dead husband is around, leaves home and walks the streets barefoot yet can go into her old clinic and see patients and diagnose them. The book gives one a good sense of what the disorder can do to a person and how difficult it can be for the patient and the caregivers. There is a twist to the story (what’s a good novel without a twist?) as there has been a murder in Dr. White’s neighbourhood and the prime suspect is the doc. So the book becomes a page turner as you try to find out whether the doctor murdered her friend or not and why. There are also her adult children, one of them who often runs to mommy to bail him out of financial troubles.

All in all, an interesting book,often sad when you read about this brilliantly intelligent woman who is literally losing her mind but remains somewhat unaware of it. The writing style is sometimes frustrating, as the story moves all over the place and is hard to follow (just like a demented person’s mind). The book is written is through the eyes of a person with memory loss issues, somewhat disjointed, which is a clever way of writing but again not the most appealing as there were times when I just flicked through pages as I would get tired of the details and wanted to get to the meat of the matter.

Excerpt:

“Fiona gave a little half smile. And how do you experience it, Mom?

As termites eating away at my emotions. Nibbling it at the edges at first, then going deeper until they destroy. Robbing me of my chance to say good-bye. You think , Tomorrow, or next week. You think you still have time.

But all the while the termites are doing their work, and before you know it, it’s no longer possible to feel the loss honestly or spontaneously. Most people start acting at that point. I’m not capable of that. Hence, no funeral. Hence, no tears. “

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In The Garden of Beasts – Erik Larson

Just finished reading a historical non-fiction which reads like fiction about Hitler’s Germany. Intrigue, wild romances and the horrors of Nazi Germany make this a fascinating book. What makes it especially interesting is that it addresses the question ( to some extent) that I have always had about that era. I have always wondered how and why the German people allowed such horrors to happen. Did they not know about the concentration camps and how Jews and other members of society were being treated and if they did, did they turn a blind eye? When we visited Munich years ago and went to Dachau, the infamous concentration camp just a short train ride away from the city, I just sat on the grounds of the camp thinking of what it must have been like for the people in the camps and how common people were living, knowing what could be happening to their neighbours, their friends.

The book is set in 1933 when Hitler is beginning to gain power and America sends an academic, William Dodd to Berlin as its ambassador. Dodd is not the popular choice for ambassadorship as he is looked down upon by the elite, wealthy consulate staff who would spend their own money to throw lavish parties while Dodd decided to make do with his $17,000 salary. The book chronicles Dodd’s take on the events in Germany, his personal battles, his daughter’s romantic escapades with Nazis and a Soviet spy and how no one really seems to take notice of Hitler’s evil intentions as a world threat. People in Germany seem to be numb to the atrocities of the Nazis. Hitler goes on a killing spree of his top officials – people he fears as threats to his power – some of them army generals, yet the army stays mute. So much so that the ailing President Hindenburg congratulates Hitler on suppressing a possible revolt and saving Germany.’

‘In the Gardens of Beasts’ is a must read for history buffs, especially those interested in the times of Hitler and the Third Reich. I just wish I had read this book before visiting Berlin this year as I would have tried to trace some of the paths of Dodd and other characters in the book.

The following pieces from the book sum up the state of Germany quite well. The second paragraph provides a vivid visual of the horror in Berlin during WWII.

Excerpt from Dodd’s diary  – “At a time when nearly every German is afraid to speak a word to any but the closest friends, horses and dogs are so happy that one feels they wish to talk………  At a time when hundreds of men have been put to death without trial or any sort of evidence of guilt, and when the population literally trembles with fear, animals have rights guaranteed them which men and women cannot think of expecting.”

And later in the book-  ‘Five years later, during the final assault on Berlin, a Russian shell scored a direct hit on a stable at the western end of the Tiergarten. The adjacent Kurfurstendamm, once one of Berlin’s prime shopping and entertrainment streeets,  now became a stage for the utterly macabre -horses, those happiest creatures of Nazi Germany, tearing wildly down the street with manes and tales aflame.’

Hello world!

Hi!

Welcome to my first attempt at blogging about books and movies. I love to read and watch movies and I often get asked for recommendations. I have tried to keep a list of books to recommend but as I am a fanatical list maker which end up on the backs of envelopes and receipts, I knew I needed a better system of archiving my favourites. So, here I am. I promise to keep it short and succinct as I have a short attention span and think most people will want to get a taste of the books and movies I review and not the entire book or feature film.

With warm wishes,

Sonia

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