Daily Archives: December 29, 2010

The Polski Affair – DNF

Among the other burdens I carry with me, the Hotel Polski lies like a stone upon my heart. What others think they know they never speak of and what I know I certainly never speak of. But think about it, that I do. – from The Polski Affair, page 8 –

When the Warsaw ghetto was destroyed in 1943, the surviving Jews fled to the countryside or hid in the homes of sympathetic Aryans. In an elaborate scheme to encourage Jewish citizens to come out of hiding, the Gestapo promised to allow Jews from Warsaw who held foreign passports of neutral countries to leave Poland and travel to South America where they could find refuge. They used the Hotel Polski to house Jewish families who were preparing to emigrate. Nearly 2500 people came out hiding and moved to the Hotel Polski. Instead of finding safe passage out of Poland, Jews were instead transported to Vittel, Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz when their passports were not recognized by South American governments. Jews without foreign passports were executed by the Germans at Pawiak prison. Only about 350 Jews who held Palestinian passports survived.

It is this historic event which serves as the backdrop to Leon Gildin’s novel The Polski Affair.

I was eager to read this book – the premise seemed promising and the novel won the 2010 International Book Award for Historical Fiction. Despite my high hopes, I found myself quickly disappointed. The narrator is a woman by the name of Rosa Herzog. She represents one of the few survivors of the Hotel Polski and tells her story in a dry voice, relating the events but lacking any real emotion. Her narrative bounces around quite a bit. Because of this, I felt largely unmoved by her story which read more like a history book than a first person narrative of a tragic event. I was distracted from the story repeatedly because of glaring typos and poor grammar (for example, on page 7 a sentence reads: “Just like Chaim and I.“). I could forgive one or two mistakes, but after stumbling over these types of sentences for 51 pages and finding my mind wandering, I finally put this book aside as one of the rare DNFs of the year.

I wanted to like this one, but I am afraid it is one of those self-published manuscripts that could have benefited from tighter editing.

Not recommended.


FTC Disclosure: This book was sent to me by a publicist for review on my blog.

The Truth-Teller’s Lie – Book Review

The sharp wind on my skin feels like total exposure. This can’t be happening. After three years of meticulous secrecy, I am about to tear down the barrier I’ve built between me and the world. I am going to blow my own cover. – from The Truth-Teller’s Lie, page 52 –

Naomi Jenkins is having an affair with a married man and harboring a dark secret she has not shared with anyone, including her moody lover, Robert. But, when Robert inexplicably disappears, Naomi begins to feel a bit desperate. Her desperation escalates when she goes to Robert’s home and peers through one of the windows – something she sees causes her to have a full blown panic attack, and then Robert’s bitter wife Juliet confronts her. Fearing the worst and certain the police are doing nothing to find Robert, Naomi decides to reveal her secret but hide it within a lie – she tells the police that Robert is a sick psychopath who raped her. What Naomi doesn’t know is that Robert also is hiding something – and the truth is darker and more frightening then anyone could imagine.

Sophie Hannah’s novel is a twisty, dark, psychological thriller that kept me reading long into the night. Naomi Jenkins is a damaged, obsessed woman. Naomi’s path crosses that of Police Sargent Charlie Zailer, a woman whose bad luck with men has made her cynical about relationships and the two of them begin to unravel the truth as the novel moves forward. Nothing about this story is predictable – even when I thought I knew where the plot was going, it would suddenly take a sharp turn and go somewhere else. Hannah gives her readers just enough information to make them think they understand the characters, and then takes them in another direction. The effect is unsettling.

If the book has a weakness it is the voice of the male characters who come off a bit stunted and stereotypical. I did not particularly like any of them. Luckily, it is Naomi and Charlie who carry the novel, and it is their female perspectives which give the story its strength.

This was my first Sophie Hannah book and it has made me curious about her previous work. Her writing is shocking and suspenseful. She dares to go to the darkest corners of the human psyche and explore the unthinkable. Many readers may be put off by the graphic nature of The Truth-Teller’s Lie, but mystery and thriller buffs will find it hard to put down.

Recommended for readers who like their thrillers dark, scary and unpredictable.

FTC Disclosure: This novel was sent to me by the publisher for review on my blog.

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