Margot by Jillian Cantor – Book Review

Margot by Jillian Cantor
Published by Riverhead Book, an imprint of Penguin

We all know the story of Anne Frank, thanks to the diary she kept, published by her father. Less attention is typically paid to Anne’s older sister, Margot, although we know that she, like her sister, died before the end of the war. But what if Margot survived?

In Jillian Cantor’s Margot, Margo Frank is, indeed, still alive and living in Philadelphia after the war. She no longer goes by Margot, though. Now she is Margie Franklin, a Gentile who works in a Jewish law firm and refuses to ever remove her sweater, even in the heat of summer. Margie believes she is relatively comfortable in her life, but in 1959, the film version of The Diary of Anne Frank is in theaters and everyone Margie knows is seeing the movie and wants to discuss it, bringing up memories that Margie has worked so hard to bury.

Margot is an incredibly engaging read. At its core, it is a story of identity, of the ways you can and cannot change who you really are. What most concerned me, going into the book, was how Cantor would find a plausible way to get Margot to Philadelphia and even more so to make her deny her past, but the character motivations make sense, and even Margot’s survival contains echoes of the stories of other Holocaust survivors. What ended up being the best part about Margot, though, were the ways in which Margie’s circumstances challenged her to reexamine the life she lived Before, as well as the decisions she had made after coming to America.

Margot is a really lovely book, well-written and with real heart. Highly recommended.

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Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Joe’s America – Guest Post by Daniel James Brown, author of The Boys in the Boat

So hey, you know what I really want to read? The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, out today from Viking Books. The Boys in the Boat is the story of the University of Washington’s crew team and their quest for Olympic gold at the 1936 games in Berlin. Brown focuses in particular on one of the rowers, Joe, who has very little else in his life besides the crew team. Brown is here today to talk about the America Joe grew up in, and the similarities to the America we live in today.

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Seventy-eight years ago this summer, a tall, muscular young man with a blond crew-cut carefully strapped on a harness, took a deep breath, and lowered himself over the edge of a cliff in Washington State, clutching a sixty-pound jackhammer. All around Joe Rantz, dozens of other, shirtless, sun-bronzed young men were already at work, dangling from ropes over the abyss below, pounding away with their jackhammers at the solid rock face of what would eventually form the west anchor of the Grand Coulee Dam. The work was brutal, the noise deafening, the blistering sun relentless. Every move Joe made was potentially lethal. Rocks dislodged by his jackhammer bounced and ricocheted off the face of the cliff below him. Rocks dislodged by the men working higher on the cliff face rattled by on both sides of him. It was a full-time challenge just to avoid becoming the latest corpse laid out in the new mortuary at nearby Mason City. But Joe, like all the young men working at Grand Coulee in the summer of 1935, was profoundly grateful for the work, and for the 80 cents an hour that it paid. If he kept at it all summer, he might just have enough money to make it through another year at the University of Washington and keep rowing for the school’s varsity crew.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the work Joe Rantz did that summer. In fact, I have been pondering many aspects of Joe’s life for nearly six years now. It has taken me that long to research and write the story of how he and eight other extraordinary young men from the Pacific Northwest came together to form arguably the greatest collegiate rowing crew of all time. To understand their story, I’ve had to get to know all nine of boys pretty well, mostly through their letters, their diaries, and interviews with their children. In the process, I’ve had to live mentally in 1930s America—Joe’s America—for a long while now, only occasionally coming up for air and taking a peek around at America in the early twenty-first century. But now, with my book about their epic accomplishments—The Boys in the Boat—finished, I’ve finally remerged fully into the year 2013. And boy oh boy does it look familiar. Sometimes it feels as if I’ve never left Joe’s America. Continue reading Joe’s America – Guest Post by Daniel James Brown, author of The Boys in the Boat

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Jack 1939 by Francine Mathews – Book Review

Jack 1939 by Francine Mathews
Published by Riverhead, an imprint of Penguin

At the beginning of 1939 Jack Kennedy is a 22 year old Harvard student, FDR is in his second term as president, and Hitler is preparing to change the face of Europe. Although he is frequently ill, Jack plans to travel across Europe for his senior thesis during the spring semester – he isn’t about to let either Hitler or his own body stop him. For FDR, Jack represents the perfect opportunity: he is a smart and savvy young man with a reason to talk to nearly anyone in Europe and a diplomatic passport, thanks to the fact that his father, Joe Kennedy, is the US ambassador to England. Since the US has no spy service in 1939, FDR is handpicking a few select men to help keep him informed on what is happening in Europe. He recruits Jack, who quickly finds himself much more personally embroiled in what he is investigating than he could have ever expected.

John F. Kennedy is a figure who continues to loom large in the American psyche, but primarily as an adult who would be president, and less as a young man still in school. The existence of his university thesis, Why England Slept, which chronicled England’s failure to stop Hitler, is fairly well known, but I personally had no knowledge of his journey across Europe just as Hitler was beginning to launch what would become World War II.

Mathews’s version of Jack’s trip across the continent mostly follows his real itinerary, although some creative license is taken to fit her storyline. The story Mathews concocts to go along with Jack’s travels is both interesting and exciting. Jack is caught up in espionage and both he and his family are being threatened by an extremely dangerous man, a Nazi. The stakes couldn’t be higher – Jack’s life, family, and country are all in danger – and the tension keeps the pages turning.

Jack 1939 is an extremely engaging historical thriller, made all the more engaging for being set against a backdrop of real events

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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