Mini Reviews: March 2017

Life has been crazy busy for me the past few weeks between working, reorganizing my house, and planning for a wedding. Happily enough, I’ve had plenty of time to read while sitting on the train every day. I haven’t had much time to sit down and write, so instead here are a few mini reviews for books I’ve read in the last month!

 

Except the Dying

Except the Dying – Maureen Jennings

The Toronto-based Detective Murdoch series is the basis for the Canadian television show Murdoch MysteriesThis period novel focuses on Detective William Murdoch as he investigates the death of a servant girl. I enjoyed the feel of this novel, as it was darker and grittier than any historical fiction I’ve read – and certainly more grim than the show. The novel drives you to discover who is guilty, and I was pleased that I was guessing until the end.

Rating: 4 / 5

 

The Couple Next Door

The Couple Next Door – Shari Lapena 

A couple goes to a party next door, leaving their six-month-old daughter at home. When they come back to find her missing an extensive police investigation is launched. Soon, everyone is a suspect, and everyone is pointing fingers. The novel has plenty of plot twists and multiple bait and switch scenarios, but the characters seem distant, and I couldn’t connect with them or their actions. While I was curious to find out what happened, I was never quite shocked or surprised enough to really love the story.

Rating: 3 / 5

 

Bonds of Wire

Bonds of Wire: A Memoir – Kingsley Brown

This collection of memories comes from Kingsley Brown, a Canadian Royal Air Force pilot in WWII who became a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft III, the location of the Great Escape. Brown was part of the forgery committee for the Great Escape, but his stories don’t focus on that. Instead, Brown shares moments of laughter, friendship, and kindness, focusing on heartwarming memories that surface even during the darkest of times. Brown shows us moments of pure humanity, and the bonds that men can create behind the wire.

Rating: 4 / 5

 

And finally…

I Don’t Wanna Be Sad – Simple Plan

This is the song that has been getting me through the past few weeks and I just had to share it. Simple Plan is my favourite band, and they’re Canadian! This song always puts a big smile on my face. I love putting in my headphones and cranking this up while I’m at work to help power through those tough projects. And hey, my boss has only caught me dancing once!

 

The Great Escape: A Canadian Story – Ted Barris

the-great-escapeOn the Cover: On the night of March 24, 1944, 80 Commonwealth airmen crawled through a 336-foot-long tunnel and slipped into the forest beyond the wire of Stalag Luft III, a German POW compound near Sagan, Poland. The event became known as “The Great Escape,” an intricate breakout more than a year in the making, involving as many as 2,000 POWs working with extraordinary co-ordination, intelligence, and daring. Yet within a few days, all but three of the escapees were recaptured. Subsequently, fifty were murdered, cremated, and buried in a remote corner of the prison camp.

But most don’t know the real story behind The Great Escape. Now, on the eve of its 70th anniversary, Ted Barris writes of the key players in the escape attempt, those who got away, those who didn’t, and their families at home. Barris marshals groundbreaking research into a compelling firsthand account. For the first time, “The Great Escape: A Canadian Story” retells one of the most astonishing episodes in WWII directly through the eyes of those who experienced it.

Published: 2012

 


 

The Review:

The Great Escape: A Canadian Story takes an in-depth look at the Canadian role in the events of March 24, 1944. Yet what I found interesting about this book is that it is so much more than the Great Escape. The book covers time before the war, including brief histories on many of the key players and the events leading up to the men becoming prisoners of war. The book also follows those POWs past the Great Escape, through the end of the war and their tiring journey home. In between lies a gold mine of information, illuminating the life of a POW, activities in the compound, and the dozens of ingenious ways that POWs refurbished, retooled, and reengineered their surroundings to make life bearable and escape possible.

The opening chapters of the book provide a substantial amount of information. POW names, ranks, flight squadrons, and histories of Canadian roots all blur together. What surfaces from this deluge are individual stories of flight crews evacuating flaming bombers, stunning moments of men throwing themselves into the air or attempting to land their aircraft in any survivable way. Through the progression of the book, individual names begin to stand out, and by the end the book feels exactly as it should: like prisoners of war sitting with me and telling me their stories in their own voice.

This book is incredibly well researched, and I learned a great deal from the information contained within its pages. Barris is a champion for Canadian POWs and strives to tell their story with the greatest amount of respect and awe. The Great Escape: A Canadian Story is a humbling reading experience for Canadians and a wonderful historical resource for all.

Rating: 4 / 5