Author Archives: thelastword1962
The Flower Girls – Alice Clark-Platts
Another top notch thriller that hit the bookstands in January was The Flower Girls by Alice Clark-Platts and one that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. Pulsating and compelling. A thumping good page turner. A story of a child murderer another given a new identity and what happens when that identity is revealed.
1997 and sisters Laurel and Rosie are playing in the park and invite another girl (Kirstie) to play with them. Kirstie does not return and is found murdered and horribly tortured. Ten-year-old Laurel is found guilty of Kirstie’s murder. Rosie who is only six does not stand trial as she is too young. Instead her and her new family are given new identities and moved away to a new town.
Bring the story to current day and Primrose now given the new name of Hazel is staying at a hotel, with the weather closing in and a child goes missing from the hotel. What now for Hazel and her past and also her real name? With the family now completely severing all connections with Laurel. Now all these years later Laurel is fighting to be released. She claims that she is a reformed character. She has a lawyer who also happens to be her Uncle.
Laurel and Rosie as children and Laurel and Hazel now nineteen years later and with a child gone missing the past could unfold in front them again. Hazel has spent these past years re-building her life while her sisters was locked up. The Flower Girls is a superbly written and gripping thriller. Alice Clark-Platts has created a tense and twisty thriller that will keep you on your toes until the very powerful ending. But with so many motives and also secrets especially with what really happened that day in the park. I love a thriller that makes the palms of your hands sweaty. I really love the way the author has created this storyline and keeps the reader guessing all the way through. How would the two sisters feel when they come face to face again after all these years? Highly Recommended.
Thank you to Ros Ellis (Bloomsbury Publishing) for the review copy of The Flower Girls by Alice Clark-Platts
The Flower Girls was published by Raven Books and was published on 24th January 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Virginia Woolf in Richmond – Peter Fullagar
Virginia Woolf and her husband Leonard moved to Richmond at around the same time as the First World War and remained here for ten years. (1914 – 1924). It was as we know the Virginia was more associated with Bloomsbury area of London. Author Peter Fullagar explores this part of the writer’s life in Virginia Woolf in Richmond. (Aurora Metro Books).
Many of Woolf’s admirers will know of the health problems that she went through. It was the move away from Bloomsbury an area that Virginia Woolf is so closely associated with that many will of course not fully realise that is was the move to Richmond-upon-Thames and the home that was Hogarth House that she came to love.
It was here that Virginia Woolf settled and some of her greatest writing was to have been written during the ten years. But that was not all and Peter Fullagar goes on to explain that this is where Virginia and her husband set up Hogarth Press set up in 1917 until she relinquished her role in 1938. In the book the writer also looks at the time she lived at Hogarth House and a time of great change when WWI ended and this time came to influence her writing using letters and diaries.
This really is a time capsule of a book that focuses of the writer’s life in this part of Surrey and of a time of real change in the life of Virginia Woolf and really does away with the theory that she never really settled in Richmond.
I have learned so much by reading Virginia Woolf in Richmond and this is published to coincide with a fund raising campaign to for a full-size statue of Virginia Woolf and details of the campaign can be found here: https://www.aurorametro.org/virginia-woolf-statue and you can follow more news on their Twitter page @vwoolfstatue If you enjoy the writing of Virginia Woolf then I can highly recommend Virginia Woolf in Richmond by Peter Fullagar.
Follow Peter Fullagar on Twitter: @peterjfullagar or visit his website at: Peter J. Fullagar
You can learn more about Aurora Metro Books on Twitter: @AuroraMetro or via their website: Aurora Metro Books
Thank you to Aurora Metro Books for the review copy of Virginia Woolf in Richmond by Peter Fullagar
Virginia Woolf in Richmond by Peter Fullagar was published by Aurora Metro Books and was published on 7th November 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Ten Poems about Walking – Selected and Introduced by Ana Sampson
One of my passions in life walking, be it watching wildlife along the rivers and canals close to my home or climbing mountains to touch the sky. When I was young I would climb the fells of the Lake District and it was here that I wrote poetry about the beauty of nature.
It is a real pleasure to bring you the latest poetry pamphlet from Candlestick Press titled: Ten Poems about Walking selected and introduced by Sasha Dugdale. Poems that take us from the ‘Lake’ by David Constantine and my favourite by Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch ‘Climbing Helvellyn’ something I have done many times.
There is a poem by William Wordsworth one of my favourite poets. ‘Old Man Travelling’, There is a poem talking of a walk in the wood after a long loneliness.
The beautiful cover design titled ‘Head for the Hills’ is by Hugh Ribbans to mark the 50th anniversary of the Kent Downs as an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Ten Poems for Breakfast – Selected and Introduced by Sasha Dugdale
Breakfast is my favourite time of the day. Especially at weekends. As the house fills with the aroma of fresh coffee and toast, I switch on the radio and quietly begin to think of the new day and endless possibilities. The latest release by Candlestick Press is Ten Poems for Breakfast Selected and introduced by Ana Sampson. With the first seven poems we are climbing out of bed and it is ‘Morning’ by Billy Collins. There is a poem called ‘Toaster’ and ‘Toaster’ about the joy of morning toast. Catherine Edmunds writes ‘Breakfast with Mother’ The final three poems are post breakfast and the possibilities of the day ahead. ‘Before the Lark’ by Phil M. Houghton. Short and sweet, now is that how you like your morning coffee.
Thank you to Kathy Towers at Candlestick Press for the review copies of Ten Poems about Walking and Ten Poems for Breakfast.
Candlestick Press are a small independent publisher based in Nottingham and were founded in 2008. The team consists of four dedicated people in Di Slaney (Publisher), Kathy Towers (Assistant Editor) and two admin assistants. Their aim is simple to spread the joy of poetry to adults and children alike who love poetry and or may be just beginning their journey in to enjoying poetry. These small pamphlets are just ideal for bedtime reading or like I have been doing and that is enjoying them on journeys.
They have published so many of these beautiful pamphlets on a wide range of topics from Christmas to Cricket, from Dogs to Sheep and even Clouds. With Christmas not too far away this is an ideal time to think of sending cards to loved ones and friends. The pamphlets of stories and poetry make the ideal gift to send. For more information, please visit the Candlestick Press website: Here
You can follow Candlestick Press on Twitter: @poetrycandle
Look out for more future releases from Candlestick Press in the months ahead.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
The London Library
Thursday 7th February 2019
Dracula comes home to St. James Square
Bram Stoker was a member of The London Library between 1890 and 1897 and it was during this time that he spent time at the library researching for his novel ‘Dracula’ and recently Philip Spedding, Development Director at the library discovered a number of books that Bram Stoker used to research his novel and these include notes and annotations by Stoker himself. An incredible find and so Bram Stoker used the resources to create this masterpiece of writing.
To think that Bram Stoker was present in this very quiet St. James Square and created Dracula himself which is known throughout the world in books, cinema and small screen.
And so it was that Dracula has returned to its rightful home at The London Library in the form of a quite stunning and remarkable play thanks to Philip Marshall, Director of The London Library and Creation Theatre and what a setting. Thursday 7th February was also the birthday of another literary giant Charles Dickens and Dickens himself used The London Library to write and research for some of his most famous of novels. Arriving on this very evening walking in the footsteps of the greats, there is a very special feeling. No wonder they call this London’s best kept secret.
This is the first time in The London Library’s 178 -year history that they have put on a play and it is thanks to the hard work of the staff that they set up the each of the performances and then return it to its library glory in time for the next morning.
The Production of Dracula is thanks to Creation Theatre and its Director Helen Tennison and Kate Kerrow who is responsible for its adaptation. There is a cast of two in the play: Sophie Greenham and Bart Lambert and what an outstanding performance by them both. The setting of the Reading Room at the library is perfect. It was as if Bram Stoker himself was present. There shelves floor to ceiling packed with books and its feel. This evenings performance in the presence of theatre critics and some celebrities.
And so the lights dim and the anticipation grew and the play began as we saw as Jonathan and Mina Harker who not long married appear. Jonathan who has recently returned from Transylvania and yet something about Jonathan is not right as Mina realises. But Mina is obsessed by her cousin Lucy who died very suddenly. But why did Lucy die and what was it that she has witnessed. Children have been disappearing but what has become of them. I just became engrossed in the performance of Bart Lambert whose enthusiastic grasp of multiple roles was just brilliant and for Sophie Greenham who also played multiple roles gave a superb balance.
Bats wings against the window panes deep red eyes seem to appear through the blinds and is that Lucy above us on the ceiling and crack on thunder and flashes of lights and then darkness. This was gripping stuff. And so to the cemetery to Lucy’s grave. But is Lucy dead or is she un-dead? Spine-tingling and darn well creepy.
If you are hoping for an appearance of Count Dracula himself then he is not here, this is the adaptation, purely focussing of Jonathan and Mina as well as Van Helsing, Lucy and Dr Seward. All played by Bart and Sophie. There are hints of sexual tension between Jonathan and Mina. I cannot think of a better setting than The London Library for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The setting and the aroma that is all the old books. A heady mix. Dracula really has come home to St. James Square.
For someone like me who read the book when I was young and saw the films, this combined with viewing of Bram Stoker’s books on display made for a remarkable evening. My hope now is that there are future plays connected to writers from The London Library performed here. FIVE STARS.
Performances take place between 2nd February to 3rd March 2019. Tickets are still available. Performances start at 7.30pm. There is also a display of The London Library books that Bram Stoker used for his research which include notes and annotations as well as Bram Stoker’s official membership form when he joined the library. For more information and tickets: The London Library/Dracula
The London Library.
The London Library was founded on the 3rd May 1841 by Thomas Carlyle and in 2019 celebrates its 178th anniversary. The list of those who have made The London Library their home is like the who’s who in literature. Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, George Eliot, Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, George Bernard Shaw, Virginia Woolf, Agatha Christie, Ian Fleming. With current writers such as Sebastian Faulks, Jessie Burton, Kazou Ishiguro, Robert Harris and Sarah Waters making The London Library their home. It has been the home for 10 Nobel Prize Winners and 4 Poets Laureate’s. In 1948 Winston Churchill became honorary Vice-President. Laurence Olivier and Edward Elgar also made the library their home.
On over 17 miles of shelving you will find over 1 million books. Some of the most important documents and books dating as far back as the 1500’s is found here.
My thanks to Laura Creyke from Mark Hutchinson Management, Philip Marshall, Director of The London Library and the staff for their kind invitation and warm hospitality on what was a five-star evening.
The London Library: The London Library
Creation Theatre: Creation Theatre
Mark Hutchinson Management: Mark Hutchinson Management
Memories of a Lost Thesaurus by Katie Hall-May
Memories of a Lost Thesaurus is the debut novel by Katie Hall-May and was released in May 2018. A little late with this review as I read Katie’s novel in January but commitments sadly meant I am only now getting to put this review out.
This was intriguing me as there are four characters in this novel, Cath, Alice, Patrick and a mysterious unnamed character just called: M. This is really a story of relationships. Everyone has problems during a relationship, that is a fact of life. Ghosts from the past can affect the present day if they are haunting you and this really is the case with Alice. And then there is Cath is dealing with a present day issue that can cause upset.
Do we let the past something from the past influence today and tomorrow? Complex lives make good storylines and Katie Hall-May has written a debut novel that is touching and sensitive. The fact the story only contains three main characters and a mysterious one makes you concentrate on each of them.
You know characters make the novel, and each one here is pulling you into the story that the author has created. I just loved the plot and each of the complex individuals. Sometimes there is tension and will make you wonder about each of them.
This is a story that is worth every page, beautifully constructed with plenty of twists along the way to keep you wondering until the end.
Follow Katie Hall-May on Twitter: @mypapercastles
Webisite: Katie Hall-May
Thank you to Katie Hall-May for the review copy of Memories of a Lost Thesaurus
Memories of a Lost Thesaurus was published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing and was published on 1st May 2018 and is available through Amazon.
The Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize Longlist 2019
On Thursday 31st January the longlist for The Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize was announced. Always one of the most anticipated of literary prizes. The winner will be announced on Thursday 16th May. There will be a special event being held at the British Library on 15th May when all the shortlisted authors will be present. I am really excited at this years longlist and already looking forward the British Library event as I will be attending this year.
You can follow the prize via Twitter: @dylanthomprize #IDTP19
This year’s longlist of 12 books comprises eight novels, two short story collections and two poetry collections:
- Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Friday Black (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (US) and Riverrun (UK))
- Michael Donkor, Hold (4th Estate)
- Clare Fisher, How the Light Gets In (Influx Press)
- Zoe Gilbert, Folk (Bloomsbury Publishing)
- Emma Glass, Peach ((Bloomsbury Publishing)
- Guy Gunaratne, In Our Mad and Furious City (Tinder Press, Headline)
- Louisa Hall, Trinity (Ecco)
- Sarah Perry, Melmoth (Serpent’s Tail)
- Sally Rooney, Normal People (Faber & Faber)
- Richard Scott, Soho (Faber & Faber)
- Novuyo Rosa Tshuma, House of Stone (Atlantic Books)
- Jenny Xie, Eye Level (Graywolf Press)
The Longlisted authors:
Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah is from Spring Valley, New York. He graduated from SUNY Albany and went on to receive his MFA from Syracuse University. He was the ’16-’17 Olive B. O’Connor fellow in fiction at Colgate University. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including Guernica, Compose: A Journal of Simply Good Writing, Printer’s Row, Gravel, and The Breakwater Review, where he was selected by ZZ Packer as the winner of the 2nd Annual Breakwater Review Fiction Contest. Friday Black is his first book.
Michael Donkor was born in London, to Ghanaian parents. He studied English at Wadham College, Oxford, undertook a Master’s in creative Writing at Royal Holloway and now teaches English Literature to secondary school students. Many of the issues in this novel are close to his heart, and his writing won him a place on the Writers’ Centre Norwich Inspires Scheme in 2014, where he received a year’s mentoring from Daniel Hahn.
Clare Fisher was born and made in Tooting, south London in 1987. Her first novel, All the Good Things, was published by Viking, Penguin in 2017. How The Light Gets In, her first short story collection was published by Influx Press in 2018. She now lives in Leeds.
Zoe Gilbert is the winner of the Costa Short Story Award 2014. Her work has appeared on BBC Radio 4, and in anthologies and journals in the UK and internationally. She has taken part in writing projects in China and South Korea for the British Council, and she is completing a PhD on folk tales in contemporary fiction. The co-founder of London Lit Lab, which provides writing courses and mentoring for writers, she lives on the coast in Kent.
Emma Glass was born in Swansea. She studied English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Kent, then decided to become a nurse and went back to study Children’s Nursing at Swansea University. She lives and works in London. Peach is her first book.
Guy Gunaratne lives between London, UK and Malmö, Sweden. His first novel In Our Mad and Furious City was longlisted for The Man Booker Prize and shortlisted for The Goldsmiths Prize, The Gordon Burn Prize as well as the Writers Guild Awards. He has worked as a journalist and documentary filmmaker covering human rights stories around the world.
Louisa Hall grew up in Philadelphia. She is the author of the novels Speak and The Carriage House, and her poems have been published in The New Republic, Southwest Review, and other journals. She is a professor at the University of Iowa, and the Western Writer in Residence at Montana State University. Trinity is her third novel.
Sarah Perry was born in Essex in 1979. She has been the writer in residence at Gladstone’s Library and the UNESCO World City of Literature Writer in Residence in Prague. After Me Comes the Flood, her first novel, was longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Folio Prize, and won the East Anglian Book of the Year Award in 2014. Her latest novel, The Essex Serpent, was a number one bestseller in hardback, Waterstones Book of the Year 2016, the British Book Awards Book of the Year 2017, was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award and Dylan Thomas Award, and longlisted for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction 2017. Her work has been translated into twenty languages. She lives in Norwich.
Sally Rooney was born in 1991 and lives in Dublin. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, Granta, The White Review, The Dublin Review, The Stinging Fly, Kevin Barry’s Stonecutter and The Winter Page anthology. Her debut novel, Conversations with Friends, was a Sunday Times, Observer and Telegraph Book of the Year; it was shortlisted for both the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Rathbones Folio Prize, and longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize. Rooney was also shortlisted for the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award for ‘Mr Salary’ and was the winner of the Sunday Times/PFD Young Writer of the Year Award. Her second novel Normal People was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2018. She is the editor of the biannual Dublin literary magazine The Stinging Fly.
Richard Scott grew up in London and studied at the Royal College of Music and at Goldsmiths College. He has been a winner of the Wasafiri New Writing Prize, a Jerwood/Arvon Poetry mentee, and a member of the Poetry Trust Aldeburgh Eight. His pamphlet Wound (Rialto) won the Michael Marks Poetry Award 2016 and his poem ‘crocodile’ won the 2017 Poetry London Competition. Soho is his first book.
Novuyo Rosa Tshuma grew up in Zimbabwe, and has lived in South Africa and the USA. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her short fiction has been featured in numerous anthologies, and she was awarded the 2014 Herman Charles Bosman Prize for the best literary work in English
Jenny Xie is the author of EYE LEVEL (Graywolf Press, 2018), finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry, and recipient of the Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets and the Holmes National Poetry Prize from Princeton University. Her chapbook, NOWHERE TO ARRIVE (Northwestern University Press, 2017) received the Drinking Gourd Prize. Her work has appeared in Poetry, New York Times Magazine, New Republic, and Tin House, among other publications, and she has been supported by fellowships and grants from Kundiman, Civitella Ranieri Foundation, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and Poets & Writers. She is on faculty at New York University and lives in New York.
Key Dates for the International Dylan Thomas Prize
- Longlist will be announced 12:00 GMT Thursday 31st January 2019
- Shortlist will be announced 12:00 GMT Tuesday 2nd April 2019
- British Library Event Wednesday 15th May 2019
- Winner will be announced evening of Thursday 16th May 2019.
About the International Dylan Thomas Prize: Launched in 2006, the annual Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize is one of the most prestigious awards for young writers, aimed at encouraging raw creative talent worldwide. It celebrates and nurtures international literary excellence. Worth £30,000, it is one of the UK’s most prestigious literary prizes as well as the world’s largest literary prize for young writers. Awarded for the best published literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under, the Prize celebrates the international world of fiction in all its forms including poetry, novels, short stories and drama. The prize is named after the Swansea-born writer, Dylan Thomas, and celebrates his 39 years of creativity and productivity. One of the most influential, internationally-renowned writers of the mid-twentieth century, the prize invokes his memory to support the writers of today and nurture the talents of tomorrow.
Meet the 2019 Judges
Professor Kurt Heinzelman is a poet, translator, and scholar. His most recent book of poems is Whatever You May Say and he has translated Demarcations, a collection of poems by Jean Follain. He has been the Executive Curator at the Harry Ransom Center and the Director of Education at the Blanton Museum of Art. A Professor of English at the University of Texas-Austin specializing in Poetry and Poetics and a teacher in the Michener Center for Writers, he is also the former Editor-in-Chief of Texas Studies in Literature and Language (TSLL), and the co-founder and longtime Advisory Editor of Bat City Review. [photo credit University of Texas at Austin/ Christina S. Murrey]
Professor Dai Smith CBE is a distinguished historian and writer on Welsh arts and culture. As a Broadcaster he has won numerous awards for arts and historical documentaries and from 1992 to 2000 was Head of Programmes at BBC Wales. He was Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Glamorgan from 2001 until 2005 and is currently the Emeritus Raymond Williams Research Chair in the Cultural History of Wales at Swansea University. He was Chair of the Arts Council of Wales from 2006 until 2016 and is Series Editor of the Welsh Assembly Government’s Library of Wales for classic works. In 2013, he published a novel Dream On and in 2014 edited definitive anthologies of Welsh short stories, Story I & II, for the Library of Wales. His latest fiction, the novella What I Know I Cannot Say, and the linked short stories All That Lies Beneath, was published by Parthian Books in 2017. Professor Smith is Chair of the Judging Panel.
Di Speirs is the Books Editor for BBC Radio, overseeing all London Readings, ‘Open Book’ and ‘Bookclub’ on BBC Radio 4 and ‘World Book Club’ on the BBC World Service. She has produced innumerable editions of ‘Book at Bedtime’ over two decades and produced the first ever ‘Book of the Week’ in 1998. Instrumental in the BBC National Short Story Award since its inception, and its regular judge, she has also chaired the Orange Award for New Writers in 2010, judged the Wellcome Prize in 2017 and twice been a nominator for the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative (Literature). She is a member of the Charleston Small Wonder Lifetime’s Excellence in Short Fiction Award panel.
Kit de Waal was born in Birmingham to an Irish mother and Caribbean father. She worked for fifteen years in criminal and family law, for Social Services and the Crown Prosecution Service. She is a founding member of Leather Lane Writers and Oxford Narrative Group and has won numerous awards for her short stories and flash fiction. My Name is Leon, her debut novel won the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year 2017 and was shortlisted for numerous other awards including the Costa First Book Award and the Desmond Elliott Prize. The Trick to Time, her second novel, was published in 2018 and was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction.
The 2018 Winner: Kumukanda by Kayo Chingonyi.
For more information visit the official website:
No Place to Lay One’s Head by Françoise Frenkel
Some people have dreams of opening and running a bookshop. For Françoise Frenkel this was her dream She loved books when she was growing up. In No Place to Lay One’s Head (Pushkin Press) is Françoise’s memoir. A Jewish woman born in Poland opened her bookshop La Masion du Livre which was a French bookshop in Berlin in 1921. A dream come true. Her memoir was published in 1945 in Geneva to a small press but then was discovered in a flea market Nice in 2010.
Françoise was obsessed with books when she was growing up in Poland then after her studies she started as a bookseller before opening her own bookshop. The came Adolf Hitler and the birth of National Socialism. Soon Jews in Germany became a target and shops owned and run by Jews became a target. Then came Kristallnacht (shards of broken glass in the streets) when shops and property were targeted. In July 1939 in fear for her life she fled Berlin leaving behind her beloved French bookshop and headed for Paris. Then as the war engulfed France she had to leave Paris and then it was a case of moving from one safe house to another to escape the round-up of those Jews in Vichy France who fled to this part of France to seek safety. For Françoise she missed this by just moments. Now she needed to find somewhere to hide and then escape before she was arrested and then sent to a concentration camp.
There was of course those in Vichy France who would easily tell the authorities of her whereabouts but at the same time there was those who bravely hid those Jewish men, women and children knowing too well if caught they would be tortured and then killed.
It was June 1943 that with help Françoise managed to cross the border and arrived in Switzerland. She was safe. It was here she sought solace in writing No Place to Lay One’s Head and was published in September 1945. Only selling a small number of copies. Françoise Frenkel’s memoir was then discovered in a flea market in France in 2010 and translated into English. Though there is no mention of Françoise’s husband who was captured by the Nazis and was murdered at Auschwitz during 1942.
This is a truly heartbreaking memoir written just after she escaped France to neutral Switzerland. It is also an astonishing read and one I could not put down once I had started and after I had finished I wanted to know more about Françoise Frenkel. This is a book that cries out to be read and No Place to Lay One’s Head is highly recommended.
In the years that followed the war I can only hope that Françoise found the peace she craved. Françoise Frenkel died in Nice, France in January 1975.
Thank you Tabitha Pelly for the review copy of No Place to Lay One’s Head by Françoise Frenkel
No Place to Lay One’s Head by Françoise Frenkel was published by Pushkin Press and was published on 31st January 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
The Long Night – Ernst Israel Bornstein
I am so very grateful to Noemie Lopian. Noemie is the daughter of Ernst Israel Bornstein and back in December she contacted me about her father’s book The Long Night. This is his first-hand account of what Ernst endured and witnessed in seven concentration camps. January 27th 2019 is Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom HaShoah) and a day we remember the six million of Jewish men, women and children who were murdered at the hands of the Nazis.
Ernst was just 17-years-old when the Nazis arrived at their Polish home in March 1941 and arrested him and in front of his fearful mother he was beaten and marched off to a labour camp. Glancing up at the window of their home was his mother. He was not sure when he would see her again. For Ernst this was the start of years of one concentration camp to another and the death marches were many were murdered while being marched from one camp to another.
The vision of seeing his tearful mother from the window of their home stayed with him. He was never to see his mother again. I read that from an extended family of 72 only six survived the Holocaust one was his sister.
To survive seven concentration and the murderous death marches was nothing short of a miracle for Ernst. Witnessing those close to him and the friends he made being killed would live with him forever. Ernst learnt how to survive in the concentration camps from one day to another it was a strategy that kept him alive. Keeping alive deep within him his love for his family. A burning desire deep inside to survive and see them again. But as time passed and stories of mass murder at other camps he was never sure were his family was or if they were still alive.
Gross-rosen Concentration Camp, Lower Silesia
I have over the years read many books on the Holocaust and also survivors own stories. The Long Night deserves a place in history purely because of how Ernst Israel Bornstein describes in his own emotional words. It is the historical accounts from survivors of the Holocaust that are important as they tell the reader what it was actually like because they were there and witnessed the horror on a daily basis not knowing that as a new day dawned if they would ever see the sun go down that evening. These are their words.
The Long Night for Ernst lasted from the time the Nazis invaded Poland until he was liberated by the American Army. It was a Long Night that lasted over 5 years. Ernst Survived and lived to tell the world his story. It is hard to imagine how anyone could remember so much and in great detail. How he watched those around him being cut down or reduced to just nothing as they were given so little to eat yet treated brutally day and night.
It was survival of the fittest and they would fight for a scrap of food not knowing when they would get to eat again. Some reduced to eating blades of grass to try and survive.
Survive Ernst did and after the war he went to medical school and became a loving father. Survivors of the Concentration Camps have to then survive life after the camps and learn in their own way to survive. Many cannot speak of the time in the camps until many years later. It was in 1967 that Ernst published his account of life at the hands of the Nazis with ‘Die Lange Nacht’ in Germany.
Ernst Israel Bornstein died in 1978 of a heart condition. His daughter Noemie with the help of a translator published the English edition The Long Night (The Toby Press) in 2015 with a prefaced later by the then Prime Minister David Cameron.
Both Ernst’s parents and two sisters perished at Auschwitz.
I will continue to share the stories of Holocaust survivors through my blog as I have always beleived it is important to keep their stories alive for future generations.
Thank you Noemie Lopian for a copy of your father’s book The Long Night.
The Long Night by Ernst Israel Bornstein was published on 21st January 2015 by Toby Press LLC and is available through to order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
The Last Act of Love – Cathy Rentzenbrink
2019 marks the 10th Anniversary of the Wellcome Book Prize. As part of the celebrations there is a Blog Tour and each of the winning books from 2009 to 2018. I am delighted today to bring you the winning book from 2016. The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink.
This is the true story of Cathy’s brother Matt who in 1990 was hit by a car on the way home from a night out. As Matt lay in hospital just a few weeks before his GCSE results were to be announced Cathy and her parents sat beside Matt as he lay unconscious. Matt was never going to regain consciousness. Then as the hospital announced that there was no more that they could do for Matt they decided to take Matt home and for eight years they cared for him. Then the painful decision to apply to the courts to allow them to withdraw feeding him and allowing Matt to die.
This is an immensely powerful and moving memoir that tells the story of those years and the utterly heartbreaking decision to allow Matt to die. The pain and guilt must have been so overwhelming as hard as a decision as it was it was a decision to allow Matt to finally rest in peace and allow both parents and Cathy to grieve and start the long road to live again.
But for Cathy this was no easy journey, the grieving continued and depression sets in. Days when she thought she could cope but the depression was always in the background. It is not easy to write about someone so close to you and their death and how it hits you even years later always hoping for a miracle. Sadly, for Matt there was no miracle and left Cathy in a void. She sometimes believed it would have been better if it was her not Matt involved in the hit and run.
We are left to cope, they say with time it gets easier and life goes on? But the guilt remains. Why Matt and not me?
The Last Act of Love is devastatingly raw and powerful but also one of courage. Highly Recommended.
Thank you to Charlotte Cooper (Midas PR) for the copy of The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink
The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink was published by Picador and was published on 2nd July 2015 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
The Choice: A True Story of Hope – Edith Eger
Edith Eger is a survivor, but no ordinary survivor as she survived the worst hell on earth imaginable.
The Choice by Edith Eger is her memoir of surviving Auschwitz and how she used this to help others. But the one thing that struck me about this incredible book is that it does not begin with Auschwitz but it starts in 1980 in the USA.
It was 1944 and 16-year-old Edith Eger and her Hungarian family were rounded up and sent with other Hungarian Jews to Auschwitz Concentration Camp where she and her sister was separated from her parents. Her parents were sent straight to the gas chambers with others. Edith was a ballerina and had hopes of making the Olympic Games. Soon after arriving at Auschwitz she was made to dance for evil camp doctor Josef Mengele. At any moment a wag of his finger meant you would face death in the gas chamber. What Edith endured and witnessed over the course of the next year is nothing short of horrific. Edith was then transferred then onto the notorious Mauthausen Concentration Camp then later rescued by American soldiers as she was close to dying.
What Edith does for many years is to keep her story of her time in Auschwitz to herself not wanting to tell anyone of the horrors she endured and witnessed. But it was time to tell the world her story and in turn this keeps the stories of survivor’s alive forever. The Choice is not just a story of Edith’s survival of the Holocaust but it is also one of hope and also at the same time one of helping others come to terms and help to heal wounds of the past. Learning to live again and indeed Edith did just that by being a mother to three children and pursuing a career in psychology.
An incredible book that left me numb at the horrors Edith went through but also the hope that The Choice brings to the reader. Highly Recommended.
The Choice: A True Story of Hope by Edith Eger was published (Paperback version) by Rider and was published on 16th August 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Holocaust Memorial Day 2019 takes place on January 27th and it is the day the Russian army liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp in occupied Poland. A day for everyone to remember the six million Jewish people murdered in the Holocaust. #HolocaustMemorialDay #HMD2019
The Jewish Book Week takes place in London from 2-10th March 2019. Tickets for around 80 events including book talks and discussions are available to book. See the official website for more details: Jewish Book Week I am delighted to be named as one of the Blog Partners for this year’s event. #JBW2019