‘And There Was Light’ by Jaques Lusseyran

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★★★★

This autobiography is absolutely spell-binding! The events it describes, the people included seem so incredible that at times I absolutely forgot that I was not reading a novel but an account of real and terrible events that took place in France during the WW2. Lusseyran was a real man, who went through incredible events and survived. In this book, he explains how he as a blind person became a key resistance leader and avoided death in the concentration camps. It is heartwarming and terrible at the same time.

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‘The Last of Our Kind’ by Adélaïde de Clermont-Tonnerre

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★★★

What if you discovered that your family committed war-crimes? What if you discovered this after having developed a relationship to one of the victims of these crimes? Can one say with certainty that you do not have the traits that lead your family to commit such atrocities? These are some of the questions that face Werner Zilch.

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‘The First Time Lauren Pailing Died’ by Alyson Rudd

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★★★★

Looking for brilliant character development and plotting with a new take on the well-tried theme of death, loss and starting over? Then a really, really recumbent that you pick up The First Time Lauren Pailing Died. As you might tell from the title, the main character is Lauren and she has multiple deaths, multiple lives and multiple families. The novel follows the reverberations of Lauren’s deaths on her parents, husbands and her own psyche.

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‘Fame Is The Spur’ by Howard Spring

★★★★

In the mid-1800s, a young working class boy is growing up in Manchester. Sixty years later, that same person is a statesman, a legendary politician and he is rewriting his own history in his diary – putting forwards a more forgiving version of his amazing rise in life. Fame Is The Spur is a fascinating and oddly riveting story for a book about an essentially dislikable main character. Although it was rather painful at the end, I could not get the story out of my head.

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‘The Extra Man’ by Jonathan Ames

The Extra Man

★★★

My heart goes out to Louis, who want to be a sophisticated confident man on top of the world. A gentleman anno 1890s and 1920s. But that is quite difficult when you live in 1992. When we first meet Louis, he is a teacher at a prestigious Prinston school and his life is very nice and proper. But then, as he sits alone in the teacher’s launch, correcting 7th grade essays, he notices a bra hanging out of a bag of a colleague. An irresistible urge comes over Louis: he has to try the bra on! He does, and as he admires himself in the mirror, the principle’s wife walks in. Left without a job, Luis sets out for New York, to live in the tiny filthy apartment of failed playwright Henry and explore his identity, sexual and otherwise.

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‘Homegoing’ by Yaa Gyasi

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★★★★

Why have I not read this book before?? I absolutely get why this immersive and thoughtful book has garnered so many awards and attention. It begins with young Effia in 18th century Ghana who is beaten by her mother but loved by her father. As a sort of escape from or banishment from her mother, Effie marries the European slave trader James Collins. Her sister Esi, whom Effie never meets, has a completely different fate in which she is kidnapped, beaten and sent across the Atlantic (by Effia’s Husband!) to be a slave. The novel follow their descendants for the next centuries.

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‘Thomas the Rhymer’ by Ellen Kushner

Thomas the Rhymer

★★★★★

Kushner has taken a historical figure, the minstrel Thomas from 13th century Scotland, and turned him into the centre of a part historical fiction, part fantasy masterpiece! Thomas is charming, musically talented and ambitious to become harpist to the king. One day he is taken away to Elfland by the Elf Queen herself, leaving behind a woman who loves him and kind hearted older couple for whom Thomas is the closest they have to a son. When Thomas finally comes back after seven years, their lives have moved on, and Thomas has changed too – becoming a magical figure. This is not just a book about how the endowment of magical abilities changes the life of one person (which is what most fantasy books are about), but also about the lives of those around the hero are altered. It is a fresh take!

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‘A Convenient Marriage’ by Georgette Heyer

The Convenient Marriage

★★★

Are you stressed out right now? Tons of stuff to do and need a bit of a break in which you can turn your brain of and forget about the world for a while? I recommend Georgette Heyer’s book A Convenient Marriage, for it is delightfully simple in plot and character development, but also written in such a perfect 18th century voice and with loads of humor, you cannot help but have a good time.

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