The Idiot by Elif Batuman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I loved this book! Selin, the 19 year old Turkish-American main character is quirky, smart and confused about life and love. She is so exactly an 18 year old college freshman – smart, but ignorant, rebellious and conformist. I had near-constant flashbacks to myself at the same age. The book is also really, really funny in places. Selin’s dry wit and acerbic commentary on all that’s going on around her are fantastic.
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This book made me feel many heartwarming emotions in a cold, lonely winter. At first, I got curious about the title. I obviously knew the story of Hansel and Gretel, which is about two siblings who were abandoned by their stepmother and stepped into witch’s candy house. However, I didn’t know there was an actual story behind the tale. I glanced through the summary before I read and realized the book is about WW2. I began to get interested in this event after I read an another book called The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, which caused me to view the war from a different perspective, especially as a child. So, the book strongly drew my attention at first sight. I found how the original story is also absorbed, and I enjoyed comparing two different, yet similar stories. It begins with one Polish family of a father, a stepmother, and two children. The children are abandoned by their parents with new names of “Hansel” and “Gretel” due to the severe situation. Just likethe “actual” Hansel and Gretel, they found a house owned by an old woman known as a “witch” by villagers, which can also be compared with the witch with candy house in the fable. However, this book gave me totally different feelings. Love saved people. I learned the power of love, not only between couples but also within families. I felt it strongly when the stepmother sacrificed herself for Gretel, who was being sexually abused by soldiers. In the beginning, she abandoned the children and did not behave well towards them. Nevertheless, she attacked the soldiers alone just to protect Gretel. She sacrificed herself for her stepdaughter in that hard situation. Sacrificing for others is not an easy decision. Sacrifice can cost more than just injury. Nonetheless, some people sacrifice their lives because they actually love others. “To protect” was the only reason why they gave up their lives and safety. While reading this book, I realized how love can easily transform the act of sacrifice and the significance of love in our daily lives. After I had finished the book, I called my family to tell how much I love them.
The Afterlife of Stars by Joseph Kertes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Young Robert and his brother Attila flee Budapest with their family during the Hungarian Uprising of 1956. Poignant and funny, amidst tragedy and trauma, this is beautifully written. Recommended for fans of The Book Thief.
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