22 Nov 2013

THE PAST IS MYSELF.

THE PAST IS MYSELF by CHRISTABEL BIELENBERG.

SOURCE: A readers group read.

Christabel Bielenberg, a niece of Lord Northcliffe, married a German lawyer in 1934. She lived through the war in Germany, as a German citizen, under the horrors of Nazi rule and Allied bombings. 

The Past Is Myself is her story of that experience, an unforgettable portrait of an evil time.
...... Outer back cover.

FIRST SENTENCE (Prologue: Autumn 1939): 'I am speaking to you from No. 10 Downing Street.....

MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 130): She had to live the life of a 'submarine', a pitiful figure hounded from pillar to post emerging here, emerging there, fed and cared for only by those who were brave to look after her.

MY THOUGHTS: A memoir written by a Englishwoman married to a German citizen living in the Germany of World War II? 

Being written by what to all intents and purposes was a 'foreign born' citizen I was hoping that The Past Is Myself would provide a somewhat different perspective from the multitude of books written by soldiers (both English and German), prisoners of war and the survivors of the Holocaust.

And in some ways it did. But not nearly a personal enough account - I really wanted to know more about the authors experiences and especially her feelings - I felt much of it had been well documented before.

Essentially what felt like a chronicle of events, of what happened, where and when, and to whom. Whilst the descriptions of everything from the treatment of the Jewish population, the economy, and the 'Suicide Season' were dealt with admirably the book as a whole could have benefited, as I explained before, from a more personal touch.

Ultimately a book that I found a chore to read. Frustrated by the words/sentences written in German for which no translation was given, footnotes being the exception rather than the rule, the narrative was constantly disrupted by my having to ask what such and such a word meant. Then there was the fact that the author regularly used phrases that left me totally puzzled - for those of you who are wondering, a 'hairy Mary' is apparently used to describe an exceptionally hairy woman though whether or not this is what Ms Bielenberg meant by it is any ones guess.


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15 comments:

Kelly said...

What a shame. The description of the book had me anticipating much of what you were (more personal feelings and revelations) and I, too, would have been disappointed.

Good review.

Mama Zen said...

This sounds pretty disappointing.

Shooting Stars Mag said...

This does sound like it would be better as a more personal account! I'm glad there were some good points though.

Trac~ said...

Just stopping by to say hi and to wish you a happy happy weekend my friend! Big hugs! :)

Cherie Reich said...

It's a shame it was a chore to read. The title is fantastic, and I loved the memorable moment line. Thanks for the review!

marinela said...

Happy weekend :)

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

No, this one isn't for me. I think I would be as frustrated as you were. Brilly review though!

Suko said...

Sorry that reading this became a chore. Hopefully your next book will be more enjoyable to read.

Aunt Mary said...

Well, this book not sounds good,great review :)

Heather said...

I agree with the earlier commenters, this book had good promise from the description, but the appeal to me would be the personal experience, there are enough books to describe the general 'what happened'.

Brian Joseph said...

Too bad that this was such a disappointment. I too, being relatively familiar with the facts would really want a book that included a lot os the authors opinions and feelings on the matters covered.

Strange that there was so much untranslated text.

So many books, so little time said...

I think after hearing your thoughts this would be a miss for me, thanks.

Lainy http://www.alwaysreading.net

themethatisme said...

'The narrative was disrupted by having to ask what this and that word or phrase meant'? I thought that was me being disrupted?

Lindsay said...

That's a shame - I looked at the cover image and wording and thought I would be interested in this one but I think I would be disappointed by some of the things you were disappointed by too.

Betty Manousos said...

well, this sounds pretty disappointing...i loved the memorable moment though. it's a shame it was a chore to read.

as always, a brilliant review!

big hugs~