Tag Archives: Book Review

War Through the Generations: Two Girls of Gettysburg review

Okay, so I read this book back in January and it’s now … August. Yes, it’s about time I finish this review. My tardiness has nothing to do with the book. Much of what I read stayed with me: a sign of an enjoyable and meaningful book.

From the back cover:

Lizzie and Rosanna are cousins who share a friendship that should last forever. But when the Civil War breaks out, they find themselves on opposite sides. Lizzie joins the cause of the Union as her brother and father fight for freedom. Rosanna is swept up in the passions of the old South–and her love for a young Confederate officer.

Torn apart by their alliances and separated from each other, Lizzie and Rosanna are tested by love, tragedy, and the sacrifices they must make to survive. It will take one of the war’s bloodiest battles–at Gettysburg–to bring them together again, forever changed.

Two Girls of Gettysburg by Lisa Klein unfolds slowly. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, although at nearly 400 words, it might put off some readers. My advice? Keep going. It’s worth it.

Lizzie is a prickly narrator at first, defensive and insecure at times. Her cousin Rosanna is flighty and superficial. One thing I enjoyed about the story is how the author stayed true to the girls’ core personalities, yet showed how they changed and grew during the course of the story.

The historical detail is excellent and accessible for those new to reading about the Civil War. While we do see and hear about many battles, we also get a good feel for what life was like for those not in either the Union or Confederate Army. But there’s plenty of that as well. Not just battles, but the aftermath, and conditions the soldiers (and those who cared for them) lived in.

One thing that struck me was how one became a nurse. Rosanna is literally handed a basin of water and cloth and told to get busy. For Rosanna, this is a trial by fire, most definitely. And at first, she is only there because of her young Confederate officer. As the story unfolds, it turns out that this may be her calling.

Likewise, Lizzy has to put her dreams of further schooling on hold to run the family business. At first resentful, she soon takes to business, if not necessarily the family one.

And as the title and summary imply, the do meet again in Gettysburg and maybe they get to witness President Lincoln’s famous address.

There’s a lot to like in Two Girls of Gettysburg. It’s a great place to start if you’re unsure about Civil War era fiction.

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Reviews you can use

Em of Em’s Bookshelf posted a terrific review of The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading. You can read the whole review over on her blog, but I love the way she closes it:

All in all, this book does a great job of breaking down stereotypes and social groups. In the end, you’ll find yourself asking, what’s not to like about a geek girl cheerleader?

I’m beyond pleased with this review (our first! our first!). I saw it last night right before I went to shut down the computer and go to bed. I was so keyed up, I want to say I didn’t sleep. But I did. The only reason I know this is I woke from crazy dreams all night long.

Usually me + sleep = rock.

Be sure to stop by Em’s blog. She has a bunch of great reviews up.

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Review: Tamar, by Mal Peet

wwiiWar Through the Generations Reading Challenge

Tamar: A Novel of Espionage, Passion, and Betrayal
By Mal Peet

When her grandfather dies, Tamar inherits a box containing a series of clues and coded messages. Out of the past, another Tamar emerges, a man involved in the terrifying world of resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied Holland half a century before. His story is one of passionate love, jealousy, and tragedy set against the daily fear and casual horror of the Second World War — and unraveling it is about to transform Tamar’s life forever.

tamarIn the fall of 1944, Tamar and Dart, two Dutch SOE operatives, parachute into Holland. Tamar has the thankless task of organizing the fractured Dutch resistance. Dart is his wireless operator, a job with the average lifespan of three months in Nazi-occupied territory.

In the spring of 1995, Tamar, a fifteen year old girl living in London, is reeling from the possible suicide of her grandfather and a few years before, her father’s disappearance.

It’s difficult to review Tamar without giving away any of the plot twists, one of which I figured out very early in the novel. Even so, the suspense remained high and I wanted to see how the story played out. The parts of the story that dealt with the resistance and life in Nazi-occupied Holland were intense. I was white-knuckled during many of the scenes.

By contrast, Tamar of 1995 was jarring–at first. Tamar is a somewhat prickly first person narrator, although we soon learn she has good reason to be. Her father disappeared a few years ago, her mother works constantly and is remote, and her grandfather’s death may or may not have been a suicide.

As the story progressed, I started to really enjoy the segments in Tamar’s point of view. When Tamar’s distant cousin (emphasis on distant) enters the picture, we get not only his sharp observations but some comic relief. (And for you romantics, the hint of a love story.)

I loved the characterization in the novel. The bits and pieces of character information that surfaced during the novel made it all the more real. From Pieter  and Bibi at the Marionette House (who have a secret of their own) to the driver of SS General Hanns Albin Rauter’s car, who wonders if his beautiful Austrian fiancée will still love him now that he’s lost an ear to frostbite on the Eastern front.

Mal Peet worked actual events into the story, such as the ill-fated and accidental attack on Rauter’s car that resulted in the death of more than 250 men and Gestapo prisoners. 116 of those men were executed on the actual site of the ambush.

After witnessing the mass execution, Tamar returns to Marijke, the woman he loves, and they have this conversation:

“… We tell ourselves we’re different from them. That we’re not like the Nazis. But this morning, I watched while they murdered a hundred and sixteen people. So I wanted to kill them. The sickness in those men, those Germans? It’s in me, too.

She said, “Yes, it probably is. And that’s why we’re fighting, remember? We’re fighting for the right to choose not to be evil.”

He pulled his hand free of hers. “I’m not sure. I don’t know if we can be good after all this.”

“I don’t know either, but that’s not what I said.”

This, I think, is one of the essential messages of the novel, one that resonates today.

It’s also why I feel strongly, especially in retrospect, that the segments in 1995 work so well. War doesn’t end with surrender or victory. The repercussions go on, from generation to generation, in ways we see, and in ways we don’t.

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