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2019 in Books: Favourite Reads II


…okay, so I’m back with part II of my favourite 2019 reads. Let’s save the introduction and get straight into it!

I read Sara Collins’ The Confessions of Frannie Langton and *loved* it. This is yet another historical fiction murder mystery (but just before the Victorian period, haha, but very close). It’s 1826 and crowds gather to watch Frannie’s trial for murder. The testimonies are damning – slave, whore, seductress – and they may be the truth. But they are not the whole truth.

I liked this for multiple reasons: it tackled class issues, racial issues, LGBTQ+ issues in a society that cared very little for these groups. It raised some very interesting questions, like “what constitutes as a criminal?”, “when should someone feel guilty?” and “can some actions be justified?”. It was a very thought-provoking book. I just had some difficulties with the F/F romance – not a lot of chemistry between the two.

So next is the heartbreaking non-fiction by Jeremy Dronfield: The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz. Gustav and Fritz Kleinmann, father and son, have managed to survive the Holocaust together, only being separated for a few years in between. Dronfield, relying on extensive research and family history, has traced the story of these two men and has brought it before us.

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Non-Fiction November | Recommendations:


I’m not actually participating in Non-Fiction November – I have very little non-fiction on my shelves here in Liverpool – but I wanted to get involved nonetheless. I’ve read quite a lot of non-fiction in the past couple of years, and have stumbled across a couple of new favourites, so I wanted to share them with you.

Now, I must say, these are either Victorian-themed or war-themed. I’m not very diverse in my non-fiction reading. I’m set in my ways, so I’d really appreciate it if you dropped some recommendations yourself in the comments. I’m always on the look out for new books!

Let’s start with the Victorian non-fiction…

First is Ruth Goodman’s How to be a Victorian, which is an excellent study of how the Victorians went through life, from waking up to going to work to falling asleep. Goodman looks at all their rituals, traditions and pastimes. There’s so much enthusiasm and warmth to the book that you can’t but get caught up in Goodman’s passion for the Victorians. It was such a pleasant read.

It wouldn’t be me with mentioning the Brontës now, would it?

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The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz:

“In the end the Kleinmann family had not only survived but prospered: through courage, love, solidarity and blind luck, they outlasted the people who had tried to destroy them. […] They took their past with them, understanding that the living must gather the memories of the dead and carry them into the safety of the future.”

I 7CC9D025-439C-4143-9C18-E8D645F5D891loved this.

It feels weird to say that. Why would I love the story of two Jewish men fighting to survive the cruelty of the Holocaust? Why would I love the story of Buchenwald? Auschwitz? Monowitz? And all the other concentration camps that they were sent to? It doesn’t feel right to say I loved it. But I did.

Jeremy Dronfield is a natural story-teller. Yes, The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz is based on the life of Gustav and Fritz Kleinmann, but Dronfield is preserving the life of these two men through the mode of story-telling. Dronfield, relying on extensive archival research and both primary and secondary sources, tells this story in a beautiful and moving way. You can’t help but get caught up in this story, knowing everything is based on reality. It’s written in such an enchanting way.

It was truly a fascinating read. I learnt *so much* from this. I knew SS officers were cruel and murderous, but I didn’t know just how sadistic they really were. Dronfield shed a lot of light on the Holocaust and the brutality of Hitler’s regime – things I never learnt about at school. It was also very harrowing to read; to know that humanity has the capacity to be so callous and inhumane honestly shocks me. I felt empty when I closed that book for the last time.

I can reflect on the present, knowing the story of the past.

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