I find I have read three Jewish themed books this month: The Girl from Berlin, The Puttermesser Papers and Here I Am. All three were rich, satisfying reads. Co-incidentally, the memoir was written by a Jewish woman, who introduced the Hanukkah festival to a small Scottish town; but the Jewish aspect was not the main theme of the memoir. I mention it in passing. In fact, it was a great reading month all round.


Yet again, I find myself reading a WWII novel : The Girl from Berlin. It charts the early life of brilliant young violinist Ada Baumgarten, starting in the early 1030s and the slow build up to the declaration of war. The persecution of the Jews in Germany and elsewhere in Europe is described in all its madness and horror. Revenge is a dish best served cold , is one of the themes in the story. The full story of Ada’s life plays out in the early 2000s where the evils of the past manifest in the present.


It’s a well written, well researched Historical Fiction, but this said, I found myself wearying of the slow pace and the convoluted unfolding of the Italian judicial system. Midway I was debating whether to abandon the book, but I persevered to the end, and I’m glad I did.


As usual, I’m catching up with last year’ s excitement: The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry. The novel has been likened to Dickens, in that it has social problems as one of its themes, but the cast of characters was much smaller. What I really enjoyed was the descriptions of the countryside, the marshes, the seasons. Perry writes beautifully.


After numerous failures with local author Imraan Coovadia’s novels, I finally hit the pot at the end of the reading rainbow, with his SF Novel A Spy in Time. I’m pretty sure I didn’t always comprehend the complicated plot, but I grasped enough to continue reading, and enjoy the story about the potential end of the entire planet. There were passages of wonderful descriptive writing, particularly inthe Brazil chapters and the final chapter. One theme was Man and Machines, who mastered who, in the final analysis? A good question in these days of burgeoning AI.


The Girl from Berlin – Ronald H Balson. Historical fiction. 1930s & 40s Berlin, pre-war and post war, culminating in Italy in the 2000s. Music, the Nazis, an inheritance. Recommended.
Puttermesser Papers – Cynthia Ozick . Ruth P conjures up a golem in her New York apartment – and this is just for openers! A fantastical satire. Very different!
Here I am – Johnathan Safan Foer – my doorstopper book for July; a great read. Reviewed on this blog.
The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry. A Victorian novel, which lived up to its hype. I loved it.

Death Cup -Irna van Zyl. Local murder mystery based in Hermanus: food, chefs, families, sex, bodies, rivalry, cops and cooks – a great read. Recommended.
A Spy in Time – Imraan Coovadia. SF novel, time-travel, an intricate plot. Very different and very readable. Recommended

WINTER COMFORT RE-READS: Two Beatrix Potter books – The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin and the Tale of Mr Tod. Charming and beautifully illustrated.


Three Things you need to know about Rockets – Jessica A Fox. A Memoir. Visiting American loses her heart to books, Wigtown and Scotland. More of a love story than anything else, both to Scotland and a new man. In my view, the title could do with a re-write. All in all, an enjoyable read.

3 thoughts on “JULY 2019 READING ROUND UP

  1. Would you think The Girl from Berlin is suitable reading for a 16 year old? A friend’s daughter from USA is visiting Europe on a school trip next year and will go to Germany – her mother wants her to read some relevant fiction before the trip


  2. It would very much depend on the maturity of the 16 year old. Also the book is long, and I found the overarching sub-plot of the modern property ownership issue and the ramifications of Italian law as related to the issue, to be boring and tedious. Unless the 16 yr old is serious and scholarly, I think she would be bored witless. However: if she were to read the historical section only, that might work. Let me know how this works out.


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