Flash Reviews: Historical Novels (23rd May 2014)

I am still on my blogging hiatus as I write this, but the reviews which I feel I have to write are mounting up.  I thought that a good idea would be to split up the outstanding works which I have to write about into categories, and to then post short and succinct reviews about them without going into too many details.  Each will include a short summary of the story, and three thoughts about it.  The first of these such posts deals with historical novels.

‘Julius’ by Daphne du Maurier (Virago)

The Progress of Julius by Daphne du Maurier *** (1933)
Storyline: Our protagonist is Julius Levy, a Jewish boy living in France, who turns into ‘a quick-witted urchin caught up in the Franco-Prussian war’.  The novel spans his lifetime, from his birth in 1860, to 1932.

1. Du Maurier never fails to strike me with the evocation of scenes which feel so real, it is though I am there.  The sense of history here is stunning.
2. Julius’ behaviour is rather peculiar at times.  He is cruel, and the actions which he performs often feal surprising.  He is odd and rather creepy, and I took an almost immediate dislike to him.
3. The Progress of Julius feels a lot darker than much of du Maurier’s other work.  I was not overly enamoured with its plot.

Purchase from The Book Depository


The Night of the Burning by Linda Press Wulf *** (2007)
Storyline: The novel opens in Pinsk in Poland, and follows two sisters, Devorah and Nechama, orphaned after

‘The Night of the Burning’ by Linda Press Wulf

‘The Night of the Burning’ and consequently sent to South Africa, with many other displaced children.  The novel is based upon a true story.

1. The premise of the book is interesting, and brings to light an important element of how the authorities tried to help children during World War Two.
2. The writing is quite simple, to suit its audience; I imagine that I would have enjoyed it far more as a child than I did as an adult.
3. The differences between Christians and Jews are set out well, particularly with regard to the intended audience of the novel.  It feels very informative, and I would highly recommend it for children or young adults who have an interest in history.

Purchase from The Book Depository


‘Two Brothers’ by Ben Elton (Black Swan)

Two Brothers by Ben Elton **** (2012)
Storyline: A Jewish woman named Frieda gives birth to twin boys on the same day in which the Nazi Party is formed, one of whom is stillborn.  In the hospital at the same time, a German Communist mother passes away after giving birth to a healthy son, and Frieda adopts him.  The boys are still brought up as twins, and problems ensue when the iron fist of Nazi Germany starts to close around the Jewish race.

1. The historical background is set so well, and the period details which Elton uses throughout – from jazz to Suchards chocolate – help to ground it in time.
2. The storyline veers off in unexpected and surprising directions throughout, and holds the interest of the reader from the very first page.
3. Elton throws up so many issues of importance, and has created such a thought-provoking novel, which lingers in the mind for a long while after the book is finished.

Purchase from The Book Depository


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