Greetings, bloglings. I'm afraid I don't have much to report, the whole tainted chicken episode, while not lasting terribly long, did kind of knock my whole week for a loop. Thanks all, for your comments on the previous post, I am, indeed, feeling much better - in fact, I was better astonishingly quickly, which was great (and it was good getting to watch that inauguration).
I was happily reading about a book a week, which is a rate of reading I deem acceptable for myself given my turtle-like reading capabilities and many distractions like jobs and relationships with humans and televisions and blogs and things, but I've sadly fallen off the pace since I didn't much feel like doing any of the things I normally do through the week (speaking of, you should see my Google Reader! On second thought, maybe you shouldn't...it might make you scream or cry like it does me). Due to my failure to promptly review books that I've read, however, I do have a book to review! It's next weekend that's in jeopardy not least because I probably won't have a book to review (much less time to review it). *Sigh* But onto more depressing fare. Yes, that's right, it's time for my "annual" January Holocaust book, which thankfully, has not morphed into a January Holocaust-fest like last year.
I Have Lived a Thousand Years is Livia Bitton-Jackson's (born Elli Friedmann) memoir of growing up during the Holocaust. Her story begins as the Nazis invade Budapest. Shortly thereafter, Elli and her family are forced into a ghetto which then leads to their imprisonment and forced labor in a seemingly endless litany of concentration camps.
Aimed more at a young adult audience, I Have Lived a Thousand Years is written in a present-tense first person style that is reminiscent of a girl's diary. Though it may be aimed a younger audience, it doesn't gloss over the painful details of a childhood lived under the impossible cruelty of the Nazis, though it doesn't always give quite as many vivid details as others I've read. Somehow, though, it is not the most violent and tortuous situations that leave the biggest impression but the more understated moments, like the image of Elli running barefoot outside realizing she didn't get to say good-bye to her father, possibly for the last time, or the sound of the old men in the ghetto constantly chanting the Psalms in the days after the younger men are taken away.
The conundrum of reviewing the Holocaust memoir is that you can't. I can't very well sit and say "I enjoyed this or that," but Bitton-Jackson's memories are vivid and well-told. After the first few chapters, the writing flows easily and for a story of such painful events, it is surprisingly difficult to put down. Even though I've read my fair share of Holocaust memoirs, I was staggered by many of Elli's experiences not least the sheer amount of places she and her mother are taken by train to do forced labor over a relatively short period of time. The only minor quibble I could make with the writing is that the most dramatic language seems to arrive well before the most dramatic events. The narrative, well before the family is experiencing ghettos and concentration camps, is peppered with "Oh my Gods" and "Will I ever...?" that seem to indicate extensive foreknowledge which seems a bit overblown in a book that is written from a present tense perspective and an unnecessary effort to create drama. Soon, though, the events change to suit the language. While the writing continues in the same way, the drama and tragedy are totally real and well-suited to the language, and there is no longer a need for it to be manufactured by portentous language.