Shah of Shah’s

shaAuthor:  Rysard Kapuscinski (1932 – 2007)

  • Genre:  Non-fiction ( history )
  • Title:   The Shah of Shah’s
  • Published:  1982
  • Table of Contents:   3 parts,  152 pages
  • Published by:    Vintage books
  • Dedication:  none
  • Quotation:   none
  • Cover:  I was disappointed with the book cover (see end of review). I think an eye catching portrait of the Shah in full uniform would have been better!
  • Setting:  Iran
  • Timeline: Iran in 20th century
  • Language: English
  • Themes: out-of-touch leader; revenge; power of religion
  • Trivia: Ryszard Kapuściński  was a possible winner of the Nobel Prize for literature,.,,,but never won it.
  • Trivia: The Ryszard Kapuściński Award, established in 2010, for the author of the best reportage book of the year is Warsaw’s way to pay tribute to Kapuscinski.
  • He made journalism an art.
  • Part 1: The author describes the period before the Iranian Revolution concentrating on information about  the Shah’s grandfather and father.
  • Part 2:  This was a clever way of engaging the reader. Kapuscinski rummages through a box of photographs and  reveals his thoughts about their significance.
  • Part 3:  Here is the history lesson about revolution and in particular in Iran.

Story: ( in a nutshell…)

  • The mosque is a key sanctuary where Iranians feel they can breath. They need a place to pray, discuss and gossip without fear.
  • Iranians believe only in the reign of their religious leaders.
  • When the Shah tries to impose his authority together with his  ‘petro-bourgeoisie’  (produce nothing and its whole occupation is unbridled consumption)
    the fighting starts.
  • All historians agree that the starting point of the Revolution was January 7, 1978
  • An official newspaper. Etelat,  saw fit to discredit Khomeini.
  • In Qom (small city to the south of Teheran, hometown of Khomeini) anger was unexpected, powerful and would engulf the entire country

Best pages: 

  • Kapusinski  describes the importance of oil In Iran.  Wonderful writing! (pg 35 – 37)
  • Kapuscinski explains in clear and concise words
  • the difference between Shiites and Sunnis
  • the rise of Shiites in Iran
  • why angry Shiites gathered in mosques where the fighting began.
  • This is basic information one has to process (…read this section slowly)   to understand why this powder keg of a land exploded!  (pg 67- 78 )
Samples of some lines that linger….
  • The Empire giveth; the empire taketh away. (pg 25)
  • Money changes all the iron rules into rubber bands. ( pg 34)
  • Oil…..liquid that squirts up into the air and falls back to earth as a rustling shower of money. ( pg 34 )
  • The new pretender to the  crown would enter Teheran with the British and Russian envoys supporting his elbows on either side (pg 38)
  • The higher up, the fuller the pockets (pg 63)


  • R. Kapuscinski  is my  new author  discovery  in  2014!
  • Strong point: He combines everything I love: history, fast paced  journalism writing and most importantly his refections on the situation he is writing about.
  • While reading I always look for a tidbit of information that surprises me.
  • The Shah’s  true passion was the army, and Kapuscinksi explains it is nothing more than an domestic instrument of terror.
  • The Shah was obsessed  with reading….arms catalogues!
  • He ordered  tanks, artillery and missiles  as if they were boxes of Girl Scout cookies!
  • I enjoyed this book  because it was a wonderful ‘vivid’ overview of the Iranian Revolution.
  • Kapuscinski always had two notebooks with him, one for the news and one for his thoughts/reflectons.
  • Kapuscinski’s describes with great skill how religion was a component in the Iranian Revolution.
  • Reading tip: part 3 ‘Revolution’ seems dry and academic. If you read this section and think about the situation in Kiev today.…Kapuscinski’s words take on a new meaning!
  • Last thoughts: Iran is now free of dictator, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi but in the middle of an oppressive theocracy.
  • Jumping from the frying pan……into the fire.

Score: 4


 Book cover:









Posted by on July 23, 2014 in Uncategorized





  • Author:  André Gide (1869 – 1951)
  • Genre: Novella   
  • Title:  L’ immoraliste
  • Published:  1902
  • Table of Contents:  part 1 (rebirth) — part 2 ( intellectual) —  part 3 (physical)
  • Published by:   Folio
  • Dedication: to Henri Ghéon was one of Gide’s closest friends (see photo)
  • Quotation: Psalm 139:14  “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made”
  • Setting: Normandy;  Biskra, Algeria; Paris
  • Timeline: 1800′s
  • Language: French
  • Themes: self-awareness;  live for today without the burden of possessions or memories;  rebirth
  • Trivia: This book is autobiographical.  Gide went to North Africa, where he met with the well-known homosexual Irish writer Oscar Wilde. Gide’s trips to North Africa became the basis of The Immoralist
  • Trivia: In 1947 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
  • Trivia (personal): What a feeling, reading L’immoraliste in  French  is easier than reading The Roberts Court in English


  1. Michel is the narrator and central character in the book.
  2. Marceline is Michel’s wife. They hardly know each other but marry to please Michel’s dying father. During the honeymoon in North Africa, Michel becomes gravely ill with tuberculosis but regains his health.
  3. Marceline  also becomes ill with tuberculosis. The couple travels and ends up in  Biskra for the second time, Marceline dies.
  4. As Michel’s health improves, he experiences this profound change in himself as a sort of rebirth. Gide wrote in part 1, chapter 7 of Michel’s change in physical appearance, exercise, sunbathing, shaving off his beard. All symbols of Gide’s  attempt to be a new person.
  5. At the same time, Michel finds himself attracted to healthy young men and boys in North Africa as well as at home in France.
  6. Torn between his natural homosexual inclinations and the traditional  values with which he was raised, Michel finds himself in a state of personal crisis.


  • Marceline:  She is 20 years old when she marries Michel who is 25. Gide reveals a tender love between husband and wife.
  • Michel:  is the narrator and central  character.
  • Menalque;  is friend  based on Oscar Wilde who he met in Biskra.

Best chapter:  Part 2, chapter 2:

  • Here we read Gide’s descriptions of and meetings with Menalque who is based on Oscar Wilde.
  • L’immoraliste was published after Wilde’s death so that Gide felt free to describe Wilde with intense accuracy.
  • Gide gives Oscar Wilde a voice…( it sometimes quite philosophical)….live for today without the burden of possessions or memories (pg 126)
  • “…that one feels himself different is precisely what gives one value; and that is what one is trying to supress…” (pg 119)

Worst chapter: Part 2, chapter 3:

  • Strange segment in the story where Gide wants to express Michel’s determination to leave the past and concentrate on his future ‘free’ life.
  • Gide uses the the estate in Normandy to indicate Michel’s displeasure for his old responsibilites.
  • It was hard to digest, farfetched and the weakest part of the book.

Setting:   Why did Gide choose Biskra Algeria for the setting of the book?   Why not stay in Paris and enjoy life there?

  • Gide was a faithful visitor to  the literary salons but found them stifling.
  • Intellectually he was satisfied but there was the physical, sensuous  side of life that he felt he was missing.
  • Many writers felt free  in French North Africa and were  able to experiment with the primitive side of life Guy de  Maupassant, Oscar Wilde and Gustave Flaubert.

Title:    What does the title mean?

  • Encouraged by Menalque Michel defies all traditions, moral codes, scorns the weak, praises the strong and becomes an immoralist!
  • He himself is the only thing that is important. (pg 62)

Structure:  André Gide used the  the form of a letter as the framework for the central story.

  • Who is the letter  written to? The letter was written by one of Michel’s friends (Ghéon)  to his own brother identified as Monsieur D. R. Michel, asks three of his friends to come to his retreat at Sidi b. M. to tell them his story and ask for their help.
  • Henri Ghéon was one of Gide’s closest friends and companion on innumerable homosexual exploits. Ghéon and  Gide’s together with other literary friends founded the scholarly journal  La Nouvelle Revue Fransçaise.

Henri Ghéon and André Gide:



  1. The homosexual events in  L’ immoraliste made it a racy novella for its era. By today’s standards, the book is not so controversial.
  2. Still I found this book very moving for a different  reason. In order to understand the book I had to learn more about the author.
  3. Gide was a complex individual struggling to free himself from his Calvinist upbringing and live a life of his own choosing. His mother ( Juliette Rondeaux) was the  perfect example of puritan severity. Every aspect of her son’s life, from the clothes he wore to the books he read, was regulated by his mother, who continued to give him advice until her death in 1895, when her son was twenty-five.
  4. I think that after burying  his mother André Gide felt he was ready to write his most revealing books  beginning with  the  L’ immoraliste. It draws on details related explicitly about his own life.
  5. There is very little dialogue in the book. Marceline hardly speaks. It is a first-person narrative expressing Michel’s opinions, thoughts, and feelings. The French was easy so read. Gide uses the subjunctive in his writing more than Némirovsky. I had to ‘brush up’ on that verb tense!
  6. I started out  to discover a new  book….yet I discovered much more:  André Gide.
  7. Rarely do you see his books  on classic reading lists.
  8. Gide’s autobiography   Si le grain ne mert (1926, If It Die . . .), is considered one of the great works of confessional literature. I wonder if one can compare it to  the Confession’s of St. Augustine?   ( review by Cleo)  Both authors face their shortcomings an a deep desire to change themselves.

Score: 3









Posted by on July 21, 2014 in Uncategorized


New Books !!



L´ Immoraliste (1902)

The story of a man, Michel, who travels through Europe and North Africa attempting to pass beyond the limits of conventional morality at the time. When this book was published it was considered shocking. I will be curious how shocking it is in terms of today’s morals. I  was inspired to read  André Gide  via  Claire’s  blogpost about French Literature on Word by Word.

Updike (2014)

Classic American writer who I have never read.  John Updike  saw himself as a literary spy in surburban  America.  He was the ‘golden boy’ at The New Yorker for years and is known for The Witches of Eastwick  and  the Rabbit tetralogy. This looks  like a great biography!

O, Louis (2014) 

This is the new book from the Dutch sport journalist  Hugo Borst. I don’t  have to tell you how proud we all are in The Netherlands of the Dutch Soccer team during the World Championship in Brazil.  Now it is time to learn more about the man who has  guided our ‘dream team’,  Louis van Gaal.  He has a great track record winning championships  with clubs as Barcelona and Bayern-Munchen. Let’s see what he can do for Manchester United.  There are going to be some changes  made in Manchester, that’s for sure!

Buvard  (2014)

I discoverd  Buvard  via Pauline’s  website Critiques de Livres. She is my ‘ go to blog’  when I’m searching for a contemporary French  book to read. As you can see on the cover it was awarded the Prix Françoise Sagan  2014. This is a literary prize started in 2010 to honor the memory of Françoise Sagan. The award is for a novel or novella in French by a writer who has  yet to win any major literary prizes during the year. I’m anxious to discover  this  author, Julia Kerninon

The Cuckoo´s Calling  (2013)

The Cuckoo’s Calling is my  ‘take a chance’  selection. Colin was so enthusiastic about this book on his blog The Only Way is Reading.   I never heard of the author Robert Galbraith and that is no surprise. It is the pseudonym for J.K. Rowling!

De Velzer Affaire  (2013)  

De Velzer Affaire  has been nominiated for the best  history book in The Netherlands,  Libris Geschiedenis Prijs 2014. This was a complot in Velzen ( town in Holland) where by the police and resistance  were involved.  I had never heard of this part of Dutch history. There are  still many unanswered questions about this conspiracy. Thanks to  private donations a large amount of money was gathered so that  Bas von Benda-Beckmann  could  investigate the affaire.

Shah of Shah’s  (1982)  

Shah of Shahs  was written by  Polish journalist  Ryszard KapuścińskiIt is an  analysis of the decline and fall of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran. I contacted a friend who lives in Poland and she tells me Ryszard  was  one of their most famous journalists!  I was read Louise’s  review at Goodreads and knew this book was a ‘must read’ for me as a history lover!

The 13 Clocks  (1950)

The 13 Clocks is a fantasy tale written by James Thurber. The story is noted for Thurber’s constant, complex wordplay, and his use of occasional hidden rhyme. By the time he wrote this book, Thurber was blind, so he could not draw cartoons for the book. Thurber made  Marc Simont describe all his illustrations to him.  I´m reading this book inspired by Cleo´s website Children´s Classic Books Carousel. I always loved Thurber stories with his zany illustrations of chubby, bossy wives, thin, spineless husbands and mischevious dogs!



Posted by on July 19, 2014 in Uncategorized


The Roberts Court


• Author:  Marcia Coyle:  Marcia Coyle is the Chief Washington Correspondent for The National Law Journal. A lawyer and journalist, Coyle has covered the Supreme Court for twenty years. Her work has earned numerous national journalism awards, including the George Polk Award for legal reporting.
• Genre:  Non-fiction (Politics, History)
• Title: The Roberts Court
• Published: 2013
• Table of Contents:  5 parts:  Race, Guns, Money, Health Care and  On with the Culture Wars
• Published:  Simon & Shuster

Trivia (personal): I dedicate  all the effort I have put into learning about the US Supreme Court  by reading this book to my Government and Civics teacher.. I never listened, learned or did my homework in her class.  I bow my head in shame….


  1. I know absoutely nothing  about The US Supreme Court.  I can name all 23 players in the Dutch Soccer team, but know only 1 Supreme Court Justice. It is time I learn something new! I have no idea how to review this book.  I don’t want it to be a summation of facts.  I hope to find a ‘human side’ and  learn more about the  judges, their working relationships  and pressures these statesmen and women must endure.
  2. This is not an easy book to read. I’m fighting to stay awake and attentive. With all due respect I cannot imagine how  I could absorb this as an audio book.  I must  ‘highlight’ names in the book to give myself a visual.  When references to amendments of the Constitution are made I must check Wikipedia for more information.
  3. I experienced in Part 1 ch 3 my first thoughts of  throwing the book on the abandon pile. Promised myself to read part 1 ( Race) and the decide what to do.
  4. I cannot read this book and hope to absorb the minutia about cases that are discussed. If I want to finish this book I’ll have to change  my reading tactic: I’m looking up names of people, learning about the United States Appeals court and of course focusing most of my attention on the Supreme Court and its  work and judges.  By using Wikipedia I’m making the book  interactive. This will help me get some of the ‘ rough spots’  in the book.  
  5. Marcia Coyle takes the reader  through many cases in which the Roberts court made a decision. I found it absolutely essential  to read the  ‘holding’   (summation)  in Wikipedia. I learned the core issue and decision in a glance. I don’t think I could have followed the narrartive as an audio book. It is just too complicated.
  6. Part 2 has given me hope that I wlll finish the book! . This was a fast narrative about a high stakes  gun case brought before the Supreme Court. The case need 5 years of preparation and was decided in June 2008.


US Supreme Justices  (The Roberts Court)



  • US Supreme Court chooses to hear fewer than 100 of the more than 10,000 cases filed with it annually. These are usually cases of ‘conflict’ in the lower courts.
  • Harriet Miers: was G. W. Bush’s personal lawyer. She had NO experience in constitutional law and her failed nomination looks like pure “favoritism’! I was surprised this could happen when it deals with one of the most important jobs in the judiciary system.
  • Sandra Day-O’Connerfirst woman to be a Supreme Court Justice. Afer her graduation 1952 Stanford Law School she failed to get a job after 40 interviews because she was a woman. She finally accepted a  county attorney in San Mateo California, after she offered to work for no salary and without an office, sharing space with a secretary. Amazing that is could happen ….
  • Miranda warning is a warning given by police in the United States to criminal suspects in police custody
  • Originalism:  (justices Scalia and Thomas,)
  • Names to watch!
  • Alan Gura: One of “The 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America” ( specialty: gun litigation)
  • Paul Drew Clement:  potenial young lawyer for  nomination to Supreme Court in the future…?
  • Office of United States Solicitor General:  this is often a ‘stepping stone’ to a potential place on the Surpeme Court
  • For history  enthusiasts  there is the George Washington Book Prize. Three historians are nominated on George Washington’s birthday in February. The prize is annonced in May at Washington’s plantation home, Mount Vernon Virgina.
  • Robert MacLean vs. Dept. of Homeland Security:  This is the next case to watch when the Supreme Court opens October 2014! 
  • In summer 2003, MacLean tried to blow the whistle within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on an attempt to remove air marshal coverage of “high-risk” flights amidst heightened warnings based on intelligence that terrorists were planning on hijacking planes and flying them into U.S. East Coast targets –  a violation of the Aviation & Transportation Security Act 2001. MacLean was fired.


Strong point:  this book made me aware of the importance of the US Supreme Court. In the course of my reading I learned about the individuals themselves which will make any news about the Supreme Court  more interesting to me. It is a book you would attempt if you just want to ‘know more’ about the law system in the USA. Reading this book is hard work and requires a small dosis of  ‘perserverence’.

Strong point: this book made me aware of the women who have earned a place in the Supreme Court. All are  great role models for young girls and women. Anything is possible even the Supreme Court.

Weak point: this book is filled with endless details of specific court cases: It is part of the structure of the book but takes time to read and digest. Coyle should have started the book with  the subjet in chapter 2  “GUNS” . It captures  your attention and was a fascinating read.

The Roberts Court was a challenge and I found it as appetizing as eating lima beans.  A fellow reader at Goodreads, Jean, has taken upon herself to read a series of books about the Supreme Court and the individual judges,  I promised her I would do my best and read one book.  I have kept my promise!

I have given  The Roberts Court  3  score because  of this strong point:  this book has  spurred me on to discover subjects I would normally avoid!  My next ‘unknown’ area I wll read about is the Koch brothers…..who pull many strings  in US politics!

Score: 3








1 Comment

Posted by on July 19, 2014 in Uncategorized


Owl Babies



Author   Martin Waddell
Cover artist / illustrator:  Patrick Benson
Genre:  Children’s picture book
PublisherWalker Books
Publication date: first published in 1975, my book is dated  1992
Table of contents:  Pages 15,  326 words! ( ages:  2- 7 yrs)


  • Three baby owls, Sarah, Percy and Bill, wake up one night in their hole in a tree to find that their mother has gone.
  • This book captured my heart.
  • The sheer terror, fear in the  eyes of the owl babies  is palpable.



Martin Waddell (1941, Belfast Northern Ireland )  is a prize winning children’s book author. He revealed that basis of this book. One day he saw a small child standing in the supermarket . He had lost his mommy. Big round eyes, body stiffened with terror he could only say: “I want my mummy’. Waddell knew he had a story.  Some picture books take years to write, this one took only 3 hours!




Patrick Benson’s illustrations are the ‘crowning touch’  in the book. He went to the exclusive  Eton and studied  classical drawing in Florence followed by a foundation year at Chelsea Art School. His talents are visible in this book.

  • Strong point:  text and illustration are so beautifully  integrated  that you are wondering what wonderful illustration will be on the next page?
  • Strong point:  dubble  page illustration to emphasize  the ‘big event’  in the story.


It is such a touching story and the illustrations bring it to life! Sometimes I find myself just gazing at the book and smiling at Percy, Sarah and Bill. Children who learn to love books and reading often start with picture books. ( reaction to Cleo’ remarks)

It is so relaxing to read children’s literature. Often I try to pinpoint my ‘first reaction’, does it bring back memories? does it still teach me as an adult an important lesson? Writers and illustrators are so interesting to discover and learn about.

Sometimes we just get so wrapped up in classics, fiction, bio’s and non-fiction that we forget to take a step back and read … children do! ( reaction to Louise’s  remarks)






Posted by on July 16, 2014 in Uncategorized


Suite française



  • Author:  Irène Némirovsky ( 1903 – 1943)
  • Genre: Novel  (historical fiction)
  • Title:  Suite française ( title was chosen by the editors of the book in 2004.  I cannot find any other references about this decision)
  • Published:  2004
  • Language: French
  • Table of Contents:  Temptêt en juin  ( ch 1 – 30)  – Dolce  ( ch 1 – 22)
  • Published by  Folio books
  • Cover:  Author
  • Setting: France: Paris, Tours and Orleans
  • Timeline: based on France in World War II during the time the events occurred
  • Themes:  upheaval of everyday life due to the ravages of war; everyone is the same; privileges of class disappear
  • Trivia: Russian-born Jewish author, who quickly rose to literary celebrity in her adopted France. But her fame  was  not enough to save her. After the German occupation of the northern parts of France, Nemirovsky went into hiding in the so-called free Vichy zone. She was detained in 1942 and deported to Auschwitz, where she was killed.
  • Trivia:  Book received the Prix Renaudot in 2004.


  • Suite française depicts in the beginning of the novel  the  exodus of  Parisians June 1940 to the countryside after enduring air raids, blackouts and the distant noise of bombs.
  • Families rich or poor are struggling to find a means so escape. It is a population  on the run.
  • Graduallly  the enemy takes possession of this stunned country, France.  Like many villages Bussy is forced to welcome  the German troops.
  • Appaled by the presence of the occupier, social tensions rise, people are frustrated.
  • Némirovsky reveals with her ‘plume brillante’  the souls of  Frenchmen during the German siege.


Némirovsky  described  the social classes  through the actions and thoughts of her characters:

  • haute-bourgeoisie: Madame and Monsieur Pericand   –   wealthy couple whose son is a priest, devout Catholics who betray the shallowness of their faith when their world begins to collapse around their ears. Philippe Pericand , the son is a Catholic priest, and the pride of the Pericand family,  yet in the end he is a pathetic failure.
  • bourgeoisie: Gabriel Cortes and Florence  –  mismatched couple. Gabriel Corte( weak, scornful), and his mistress who, in the increasing panic and chaos, begins to drop her well-bred mask and reveals (to her lover’s horror) her common  origins
  • oeuvriers: Jeanne and Maurice Michaud  –   working class couple from Paris,  salt of the earth types whose fundamental decency shines bright.  Jean-Marie Michaud, their son, soldier injured in battle and taken care of by a family in the countryside. Jean-Marie Michaud is the ‘linking pin” between part 1 and part 2 of the book.
  • haute-bourgeoisie: Charles Langelet  –  snobby, stingy,  valuing his porcelain  more than his friends (pg 183), nailing cases closed so the concierge cannot see his possessions, and even stealing from fellow refugees. (pg 192)


  • fuel: is the commodity that  removes  the differences  between  the “have’s ” and  the “have-not’s “. Everyone needs it and cannot find it!
  • make-up etui ( ch 3):  Florence leaves this behind in Paris, foreshadowing  that she will  later ‘remove her mask’   to reveal her true self


  • Nature’s peacefulness contrasts with the  scenes of terror and  selfishness during the exodus out of Paris.  (appearing vs being)
  • Hubert’s zeal to defend the  country rather than flee impresses his parents, but later we see  him  breaking down in childish tears upon hearing that all is lost. (pg 49) (appearing vs being)
  • Curé Phillipe Pericand  is a clergyman who represents humility and willingness to console/help  others. In truth he abhors his flock of children  that he must guide to safety  (pg 61) (exterior vs interior)
  • Mme Angellier:  is rich but would rather be shot than give her bottles of bourgogne to a German. A rich person who is a miser. (appearing vs being)  (pg 477)
  • Dolce: The title of part two refers to something ‘sweet, peacful’ with the word dolce.  The narrative is the opposite, dark, suspenseful  and murder. Writers often use this technique. Vestdijk named his book Pastorale 1943 about a war torn village in The Netherlands. Conrad  used the word “LORD” ( regal, honorable) in the title of Lord Jim. When one reads the book we see the word ‘LORD’ refers to an a man racked with guilt about his dishonorable actions.


  • Actions - Mme Pericand is a stoic:  leaves the room with her head held high and will not buckle under the heavy burden (must leave her son in Paris, Phillipe) (pg 48)  
  • Actions – Florence is a sycophant, a servile self-seeker who attempts to win favor from  Gabriel Corte. kneeling in front of him [..] in a posture of adoration ( pg 51)
  • Manner -  Mme Pericand  leads with an iron hand  (“menait d’une main de fer”)
  • Thoughts -  Mme Pericand looks down on the lower classes: ( pg 40) “not bad, if you know how to take them” (servants); tone as if she were  speaking to animals in a cage
  • Thoughts  – Marcel (valet): sighs, hardly perceptible, thinks Gabriel and Florence act like confused animals who sniff danger (pg 55)  (“..les bêtes flairent le danger”.)

Animals  mimic characters: ( Zola used this technique  in La Fortune des Rougon)

  • Cat with bony fishbone represents the bourgeoisie = cat does not know what to do with this ‘danger’: swallow it ( fear) or spit it out ( regret) (pg 37)
  • Gabriel (writer) compares Florence  = heifer with soft white body ( pg 51)
  • Marcel (valet)  = compares Gabriel and Florence to white greyhounds…but without spirit. (pg 55)

What are Némirovsky’s  thoughts  about the war in the book?

  • Gabriel Corte echos Némirovsky’s  thoughts  about the war in the book (pg  53)
  • He is a writer who feels the war threatens his life as his peace of mind, It destroys  his inspiration to write.
  • War is like the sound of a discordant trumpet that makes the crystal partion that  he has built up between himself and the outside world suddenly collapse.
  • Charles Langelet  has the same intentions as  Némirovsky did: I will go to a quiet place in the country, live with those close to me and wait until the powers that be regain their senses. (pg 79)


  • Hated it;  barely got through first few chapters;  could not finish;  leads up to nothing;  and  unfinished blah!
  • These are a few of the  first lines of reviews I found on Goodreads.
  • Stunned by these reactions I started reading the book myself in French ( nothing lost in translation) .
  • I have learned not to judge a book by its cover or reviews!
  • Suite Francaise was a book about how people are changed by catastrophe.
  • Némirovsky’s intention was to expose  the hidden ‘dark side’ of the characters who were put to the test during the German occupation of France.
  • She succeeds admirably.
  • If you want characters that intrigue with their secret complexity than this is your book.
  • Strong point:  This book was an excellent example of a writer’s skill: setting, foreshadowing, characterisation. The structure of story reminded me of the movie Les Uns et les Autres (1972). The main event was  the Second World War which throws the stories of the four families together and mixes their fates.
  • Strong point:  This is an excellent book to read in French because  Némirovsky ‘s writing is poetic and colloquial at the same time.
  • Weak point:    Némirovsky can someitmes get carried away with the ‘poetic’.  Too much of a good thing can be tiresome in the end.
  • Last thoughts:  If Irène Némirovsky can learn French as a second language, so can I !

 Score 4



Posted by on July 14, 2014 in Uncategorized


The Nazi and the psychiartrist



• Author:  Jack El-Hai
• Genre:  History
• Title: The Nazi and the psychiatrist
• Published: 2013
• Table of Contents: 10 chapters,  223 pages
• Published:   Public Affairs Books
• Setting:  Nuremberg, Germany
• Themes:  Dr. Kelley’s  ambitions was to  examine the personality patterns of these men and the techniques they used to win and hold power.


In 1945, after his capture at the end of the Second World War, Hermann Göring arrived at an American-run detention center in war-torn Luxembourg, accompanied by sixteen suitcases and a red hatbox.  The suitcases contained all manner of paraphernalia:

  • medals, gems, two cigar cutters, silk underwear, a hot water bottle, and the equivalent of $1 million in cash hidden in a coffee can,
  • There was a set of brass vials housed glass capsules containing a clear liquid and a white precipitate: potassium cyanide.

Among the elite 52 senior Nazis were:


  1. To ensure that the villainous captives were fit for trial at Nuremberg (20 November 1945 and 1 October 1946),  the US army sent Captain Douglas M. Kelley, to supervise their mental well-being.
  2. Kelley  wanted to discover a distinguishing trait among these arch-criminals that would mark them as psychologically different from the rest of humanity.
  3. So began a remarkable relationship between Kelley and his captors.
  4. Jack El-Hai had  unique access to Kelley’s long-hidden papers and medical records.
  5. Kelley’s was a hazardous quest, dangerous because against all his expectations he began to appreciate and understand some of the Nazi captives, none more so than the former Reichsmarshall, Hermann Göring.
  6. Evil had its charms.


  • Owned a 5 pound ivory baton embossed with gold eagles and platinum crosses and embedded with 640 diamonds. it  was a gift from Hitler!
  • Luggage seized from Goring contained more than 20.000 pills.
  • Goring  was taking paracodeine as if they  were M&M’s!  When the stress of the war was too much for him, he took 160 pills a day, litteraly feeling no pain.
  • Goring beamed when the indictment  accused him of theft: 87 million bottles of champagne!


  • Tables in room where Nazis were held  could not support a man’s weight to prevent  suicide  hanging.
  • Albert Speer (Minister of War Production) and  Hans Frank (Governor of Occupied Poland)  were was the only Nazis who said ‘sorry’ at the Nuremberg Trials.
  • Andrus, commander of  Nuremberg jail,  feared the prospect of a prisoner grabbing a gun from a guard.During the Nuremberg Trials there were only TWO  persons carrying guns in the court room. The rest carried billy clubs.


  1. I have no idea where my fascination for all that is  WW II and Nazis  comes from.
  2. I’ve read  Ravensbruck  (G. Tillmon) and   HHhH  (L. Binet). Both were excellent books..
  3. Was there a ‘Nazi mental flaw” that caused the top twenty captives to participate in the monstrous deeds of the Third Reich? Was Nazism an illness?
  4. Without official sanction, Dr. Douglas Kelley was developing  a plan to explore the psychological recesses of the brains of the Nazi leaders!
  5. Strong point El-Hai’s style of writing. Setting is an important part of this book and  the author uses  descriptive words and phrases. Nothing was left to chance, spiral staircases enclosed with wire netting  to prevent suicides. In the prison “door slammed and heels thudded on the hard floors. Keys jangled. The very air feels imprisoned.” (pg 51)  
  6. El- Hai creates  strong sense of  atmosphere and makes the story come alive.
  7. Strong point: chapter 5:  Mental evaluations with the help of inkblot tests were documented. The charges laid at the Nazis’s  cell doors were extraordinary. Dr. Kelley noted each mans’s reactions when handed the indictments. Powerful.
  8. Reporters noted every detail of the prisoners actions in the court room at Nuremberg. Rebecca West reported for The New Yorker, John Dos Passos  for Harper’s and Life magazines.
  9. I’ve never read a more ‘up close and personal’  account  about the Nazi elite.
  10. Here were men who had terrified millions of people and now they were dying of fright.

Score: 5

 Hans Frank:  Governor of occupied Poland

  • “Don’t let everyone tell you that they had no idea.
  • Everyone sensed there was something wrong (death camps).
  • ….even if we did not know all the details. They didn’t want to know”. (pg 135)

The Class of  1945:



Jack El-Hai 



The author is so kind …..received a  twitter  message thanking me for the reveiw!




Posted by on July 10, 2014 in Uncategorized


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