One-Minute Book Reviews

December 28, 2008

Bernhard Schlink’s ‘The Reader’ – Book Versus Movie

Filed under: Movie Link,Novels — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 8:49 pm
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I’ve been reading The Reader, hoping to compare the novel and its movie version on this site, but Anthony Lane’s New Yorker review of the film summed up my view of the book in a sentence. Lane suggests that idea of dramatizing this tale — “a low-grade musing on atrocity, garnished with erotic titillation” — was “pernicious from the start.” Novelist Bernhard Schlink describes a postwar love affair between a German schoolboy and an illiterate woman who had worked as an S.S. guard at a concentration camp.

“Imprisoned for life, Hanna must read to herself, but are we really supposed to be moved by the thought—or now, in [Stephen] Daldry’s film, by the sight—of an unrepentant Nazi parsing Chekhov?” Lane asks. “That is not culturally nourishing; it is morally famished.”

On The Charlie Rose Show, Daldry and screenwriter David Hare argued that The Reader is a fable and that the affair between young Michael and Hanna is a metaphor for Germany’s romance with Nazism. But balsa-wood scaffolding of the novel can’t support the weight of that claim. It hardly helped that Daldry kept saying that Germany is the only recent perpetrator of genocide (which might surprise the Kurds, the Tutsis, and others). Rose has done thoughtful interviews with writers and others. But his obsequious failure to challenge Daldry on the claim that only Germany had committed genocide made his show sound at times like public television’s version of Access Hollywood.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
www.janiceharayda.com

December 14, 2006

Isaac Millman’s Hidden Child: An Artful Book for 7-to-9-Year-Olds

Filed under: Children's Books,Religion — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:24 pm
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The true story of a young Jewish boy who spent years hiding from the Nazis in occupied France

Hidden Child. By Isaac Millman. Farrar, Straus & Giroux/Frances Foster Books, 73 pp., $18. Ages 7–9.

By Janice Harayda

At the age of seven, Isaac Millman escaped from Paris and went into hiding in France after his parents were arrested by the Nazis. In Hidden Child he tells his story through an artful balance of spare but vivid prose, soft-focused paintings, and black-and-white photos.

Millman neither denies nor exaggerates the dangers he faced as he writes of days full of terrors in cities and the countryside — an arrest by Nazis at bayonet-point, confinement in a prison cell with five others, abandonment on the streets of Paris by a man paid to keep him safe, a stay at a hospital used as a safe house for children of deported Jews (where he had to feign illness and use a wheelchair). But he also tells of small comforts, such a finding clusters of tiny white strawberries that helped him avoid starvation and playing with a white puppy at a shelter set up for the children of missing parents after the Liberation. His parents died in Auschwitz, and, at 15, he left France for a new life in the U.S. with a loving couple who adopted him.

Hidden Child is an oversized picture-book-with-chapters that would suit many children who are learning about the Nazis but are too young for The Diary of Anne Frank. It offers a sensitive introduction to the Holocaust for children of any faith and a potential Hanukkah gift that families will remember far longer than eight nights.

Best line: Many. One passage describes a Christmas the author spent with a kind, Catholic widow who had agreed to hide him. She had instructed him to put his shoes under the tree before going to bed: “I was too old to believe in Santa, but I couldn’t wait until morning to see what Madame Devolder had left in my shoe. It was a woolen scarf she’d knitted. And in the other, an added surprise: a beautiful orange. I had not easten one since early in the war.”

Worst line: None.

Recommended if … you’re looking for a gentle but historically accurate book about the Holocaust that gives a child’s-eye-view of its events. This book would interest some children older than age 9 and many adults.

Editor: Frances Foster

Published: September 2005.

FYI: Amazon had this book in stock and available for overnight delivery on December 14 www.amazon.com.

© 2006 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

 

Watch for more reviews of children’s books in the Children’s Corner every Saturday on One-Minute Book Reviews. This Saturday: Children’s books about pirates.

 

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