Book Review #218

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Paperback, 368 pages
Published September 6th 2011 by Berkley (first published 2011)

Original Title
The Lost Wife
ISBN
042524413X (ISBN13: 9780425244135)
Edition Language
English
setting
New York City, New York (United States)
Prague (Praha) (Czech Republic)

Before I get started. I want to thank BookCase Club for sending me this book. I recently had my wisdom teeth taken out and I wasn’t able to do much for about 2 weeks. So in that time I was able to read some of my books  I had stacked up (Some with the help of Audible). So again, Thank You BBC for the books and now on to the review

If you are expecting a conventional Holocaust novel with a love story as the background of the plot, this is the wrong book for you. Alyson Richman has created a heart-wrenching story of Terezin and Auschwitz through visual arts of the main female character and the profound pain of the central male character. Lenka Maisel, a beautiful young girl, lived in Prague with her gentle, intelligent father, artist mother and younger sister. She had wonderful friends, a comfortable life and was talented enough to be accepted at an elite Art academy. She met her true love, Josef Kohn, also from an accomplished family. Their only problem was they lived in Prague and they were Jewish.

The beautiful city of Prague with its elegant landscape and historical architecture was one of Hitler’s conquests. As in most European cities during World War II, the Jews were the scapegoats, and the Germans enacted the Nuremberg laws giving the Jews little freedom and removed all their worldly possessions to fill their illicit coffers. Despite this despicable course of action, Josef and Lenka marry quickly. Fleeing the Nazis was the only salvation for any European Jew. Josef’s family had secured exit visas; Lenka’s family had no money or possessions to buy their way out of the Czech homeland.

What follows is not the predictable ghetto/concentration camps horrors, it is more of palpable images. From the perspective of an artist, Richman gives the reader the beautiful, radiant red and orange colors of Prague, the countryside, and happiness to the grays, blacks and fetid odors of the camps. Her writing evokes the smells of flowers and the stench of the train cars, barracks and the wretched illnesses prevalent in the prisoners. It is well known that art and music became the only enjoyment allowed prisoners juxtaposed to the Nazi’s enjoyment of sapping the Jews’ intellect to destroy them.

I have read many Holocaust fiction and non-fiction books but Richman tackles the subject with a mixture of an undying passionate love with grotesque carnage and humiliation. I could feel Lenka and Josef’s singular love and also the absolute horror of Nazi’s atrocities. It is not easy to read. The author gives us the day-to-day operation of the camps provoking devastating sadness as the terror escalated. There are secondary characters, connecting the plot, who are unique and serve to flesh out a balance of personalities. The only weakness was Richman’s abbreviated attention to Lenka’s second marriage in contrast to Josef’s years with Amalia.

Josef’s profession as an obstetrician served as a sharp contrast from the death knell of the war. Survivor’s guilt seems to prevent Lenka and Josef from fully enjoying their continued existence. The reader once again learns about the enduring love of family at all costs and remains horrified of what others are capable of doing to extinguish their lives.

Quick and easy read. The story grips you from the beginning.

39 Movies That Are, In Fact, Better Than The Book…Part 2

11. The Princess Bride (1987)

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Directed by: Rob Reiner

Written by: William Goldman

Based on: The Princess Bride (1973) by William Goldman

Why it’s better: Another cherished adaptation from Reiner. It helps that William Goldman adapted his own novel — the subversive humor and genuine charm are largely the same, but the movie does such an impressive job of capturing the magic that it ends up trumping the source material as a near-perfect fairy-tale adventure

12. Die Hard (1988)

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Directed by: John McTiernan
Written by: Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza
Based on: Nothing Lasts Forever (1979) by Roderick Thorp
Why it’s better: While Roderick Thorp’s novel was a thriller, Die Hard is unmistakably an action movie — and it’s a classic because it’s such a tight, well-constructed action movie (led by Bruce Willis as Detective John McClane). The influence Die Hard has had on the genre has extended far past that of the book.

13. Misery (1990)

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Directed by: Rob Reiner

Written by: William Goldman

Based on: Misery (1987) by Stephen King

Why it’s better: Reiner proved himself particularly adept at adapting Stephen King, and in this case, he was aided by another excellent William Goldman screenplay. The film version of Misery ditches an excerpt from Paul Sheldon’s (James Caan) romance novel — not a huge loss — and makes the infamous hobbling a much ghastlier affair.

14. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

claricelecter.jpgDirected by: Jonathan Demme
Written by: Ted Tally
Based on: The Silence of the Lambs (1988) by Thomas Harris
Why it’s better: The film streamlines the novel, cutting away at extraneous subplots and characters. But that’s standard practice. What makes this such an incredible adaptation is largely the casting of Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling and Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter: Their chemistry elevates them above their literary counterparts

15. The Last of the Mohicans (1992)

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Directed by: Michael Mann

Written by: Michael Mann and Christopher Crowe

Based on: The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757 (1826) by James Fenimore Cooper

Why it’s better: James Fenimore Cooper’s novel might be an 18th-century classic, but it’s also a total slog. The prose is dense and overly detailed, and the plot moves forward at a glacial pace. The film, on the other hand, is a sumptuous Michael Mann production, and a whole lot easier to get through.

16. Jurassic Park (1993)

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Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Written by: Michael Crichton and David Koepp

Based on: Jurassic Park (1990) by Michael Crichton

Why it’s better: When it came out nearly 25 years ago, Jurassic Park was a huge technological achievement — and it still holds up. It’s hard for the novel to compete with the fully realized, larger-than-life dinosaurs of the film. And as with Jaws, the human characters are better developed and more sympathetic in the movie, which makes viewers way more invested in their survival.

17. Forrest Gump (1994)

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Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

Written by: Eric Roth

Based on: Forrest Gump (1986) by Winston Groom

Why it’s better: As much plot as there is in the movie version of Forrest Gump, the film wisely cut a ton of material from the book, much of which is totally batshit. In the novel, Forrest becomes an astronaut and goes to space, meets an ape named Sue, and crash-lands in the jungle, where he’s nearly eaten by cannibals. Not in the film, thank goodness!

18. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

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Directed by: Frank Darabont

Written by: Frank Darabont

Based on: Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King

Why it’s better: Sorry, Stephen. Here’s another adaptation — and, like Stand By Me, it’s of a novella from the Different Seasons collection — that adds weight and depth lacking in the source material. The Shawshank Redemption is considered by many to be one of the greatest films of all time, as opposed to the novella, which is one of King’s minor works.

19. Jumanji (1995)

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Directed by: Joe Johnston

Written by: Greg Taylor, Jonathan Hensleigh, and Jim Strain

Based on: Jumanji (1981) by Chris Van Allsburg

Why it’s better: This one’s kind of cheating — Chris Van Allsburg’s Jumanji is a picture book (and a delightful one at that). Still, there’s no denying that the movie does a great job of expanding on the concept of a board game with very real-life consequences.

20. L.A. Confidential (1997)

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Directed by: Curtis Hanson

Written by: Brian Helgeland and Curtis Hanson

Based on: L.A. Confidential (1990) by James Ellroy

Why it’s better: James Ellroy’s novel is a neo-noir classic, but the film adaptation is even more impressive for the way it seamlessly captures 1950s Los Angeles in a manner that feels both classic and entirely of its time. The casting is a huge asset: Kim Basinger turns out to be the perfect fit for a Veronica Lake lookalike