Flash Reviews: Non-Fiction (22nd September 2014)

The Pianist by Wladyslaw Szpilman ****
1. The book is far more harrowing than the film.  Some of the scenes which Szpilman relates are grotesque, and really bring to life the horrors which surrounded him on a daily basis.
2. Szpilman’s lucid writing style lulls his readers in, and the way in which he has presented his story makes the horrid episodes which it relates all the more harrowing.
3. As far as World War Two memoirs go, The Pianist is amongst the most interesting which I have read to date.  Szpilman brilliantly exemplifies life in the Warsaw Ghetto, and his own survival within it.

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Tove Jansson: Life, Art, Words by Boel Westin ****
1. As everyone, I am sure, knows, I love Tove Jansson, and was so excited when I learnt that Boel Westin’s biography of her was to be translated into English.  It is a hefty tome, but so much work has clearly been put into it.
2. The relatively non-chronological structure was a little confusing at times, but the thematic links between episodes in Tove’s life did work well.  Sadly, the whole had not been checked as well it should have been, and many little mistakes could be found throughout the book.  The translation was also not as flawless as I had expected it would be, particularly as Sort Of Books are usually so good at rendering foreign texts into careful English.
3. The social and historical details of Tove’s life did ground her story well, and the descriptions of the places in which she made her home were well wrought.  The photographs and illustrations throughout were a lovely touch, but they did not always relate to the text around them and sometimes seemed to have been placed at random.

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My Mother’s House by Colette ****
1.  Colette is one of my favourite authors, and I was very much looking forward to reading some of her autobiographical work.  My interest in her life was piqued when I read the wonderful Colette’s France: Her Life, Her Loves by Jane Gilmour last year.  My Mother’s House draws upon her childhood and the influence which her mother, Sido, had upon her.
2. Colette’s writing throughout is beautiful.  She is candid and honest about her past, and it feels as though she wants nothing more than to share her life with her readers.
3. Each chapter is a small essay of sorts; none is connected, but the structure works very well indeed.

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