4: What I read in October

I am doing NaBloPoMo this month. 30 blog posts in 30 days. Come join me. #nablopomo2019

Oh October, what did you do to my reading? You went by too fast, that’s what you did. I started my one book for October on the way to Germany and then barely finished it by the time Halloween came around. But hey, one book to review. It’s something.

Wunderland by Jennifer Cody Epstein 

I actually give this book 4.5 stars. I was wary to read yet another WWII story. While I think they’re important, they’re also difficult to stomach. This book isn’t an exception, but Epstein was able to surprise the reader with a new perspective.

The book is about the friendship between Ilse and Renate, who grow up in pre-war Berlin, and Ilse’s daughter Ava, who struggles to learn about her family’s history. The book begins in 1989, shortly after Ilse’s death, when Ava finds out about Ilse’s long-held secrets through a stack of letters from Ilse, addressed to Renate. The story then heads back in time, to Berlin in the late 1930’s when Ilse and her best friend Renate are teenagers. Through their eyes, we learn what life was like for German citizens leading up to and including WWII. The book bounces around then, from the past to the present, from  character to character, unfolding their interwoven story. It’s not a quick or an easy read, but it’s captivating nonetheless.

As each chapter unfolds, we get closer and closer to an answer to the ever-present question: how was it possible that decent people, who were unfortunate enough to live during Nazi time, got swept up in an ideology they should know to be wrong and turned against their own friends and neighbors? How did they rationalize what they were doing, how could they believe that they were working for “the greater good” of their country?

Epstein does a great job showing just how seamlessly the isolation of the Jewish people happened in Germany, and how the German population almost unwittingly fell in line with the propaganda. She doesn’t shade the horrible truth that was the consequence of their decisions, but not many WWII books try to give a glimpse of the dilemma people were faced with. The takeaway here is, that it never starts with the camps. It starts with a few people sowing seeds that then develop into believed truths and lead to action, and sadly, this is more relevant to note today than ever.

I felt the ending was a bit rushed, and there were a few questions left unanswered, which sometimes irks me, but overall this was a fantastic read that I would recommend, if you’re into WWII books.

What did you read in October? Anything you’d like to recommend? Leave a comment, and then add me on Goodreads to keep in touch.

  1. October was so busy that I didn’t read any books! Better change that this month :)

  2. I just finished The Beantown Girls by Jane Healy. It had a mostly light tone; I liked the Boston area references, since that’s where I call home these days. I hear you on needing a break, though, from WWII fiction. I felt that way after reading City of Theives by David Benioff. It’s a beautifully written novel, but deeply sad. Worth the discomfort of reading it, but it’s not light.

    Happy NaBloPoMo-ing…it’s great to meet you! :)

    1. Nice to meet you too and thanks for stopping by!

  3. I do enjoy books about WWII and so does my mom, so I’ll have to try and find this so she and I can both read it!

  4. I need to check out this book. I read her other book that was set in Japan during WWII – it was so good. One of my favorite WWII books. I also read a WWII book in October that I liked – The Huntress by Kate Quinn. It was about hunting down Nazi criminals after the war. It was very good, although it took a bit of time to get into it.

    My October reading was pretty meh, too. I managed to read 5 books but I was surprised I read that many as it felt like a very slow reading month with everything we had going on.

  5. I didn’t finish anything non-school related in October. However, this fall I read Bad Blood by John Carreyrou and American Kingpin by Nick Bilton. Bad Blood is the story of Theranos and American Kingpin is about the Silk Road. Both were fascinating pieces of investigative writing and are some of the best books I’ve read in a long while.

  6. I could never get into books about war but this one sounds interesting! I just started reading “an anonymous girl” and am hooked. It’s about a girl that is part of a psych study about morality and ethics and they ask very personal questions about things she has done wrong in her life, etc. I haven’t gotten very far yet but It’s very interesting!

  7. WWII books aren’t always my jam, but this one sounds like it has a good story!

  8. Don’t sell yourself short: You finished one book and it seemed to be a good one. It does sound interesting too. I am not really into war stories however I do like historical fiction so it could be something. Thanks for sharing

  9. Quality over quantity, so I’m glad you liked this one. WWII-era fiction is my favorite when it comes to historical fiction. There is just so many different stories to tell. This one sounds really well done. Sorry the ending felt a bit rushed though!


    1. You should definitely give this a go, if you’re into WWII-era fiction!

  10. I love books that are based in the times of the World Wars. Adding this to my list and can’t wait to get a chance to read it!

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