Monica Hesse is one of my favorite young adult authors, my go-to when I need historical mystery fiction. Warning: her books cover heavy topics, which may not be something that you can handle right now. Somehow I missed her newest release that came out in April 2020, so I spent a weekend reading They Went Left . This book discusses the Holocaust, World War II, and surviving post-war.
They Went Left by Monica Hesse begins with the liberation of concentration camps in Germany 1945. The soldiers who liberated told the survivors that the war was over, but it didn’t seem like that to them. Eighteen-year-old Zofia Lederman is in a hospital trying to recover and heal, so that she can start searching for her younger brother. Her mind and body are broken, but she must find Abek. Abek and Zofia were separated three years ago from the rest of their family. Abek and Zofia went right, while everyone else went left to the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Their parents, grandma, and their Aunt Maja all went left. When Zofia and Abek were eventually separated, Zofia promised to find him again, no matter what.
Flash forward three years and Zofia feels the deep urge to find Abek. Relying initially on the help from others, Zofia travels to various places across post-war Europe desperately searching for any sign of Abek. As she searches, Zofia slowly begins to rebuild the remains of her destroyed life. Her mind and body begin to heal as she looks for answers and starts to open up to other survivors.
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For Dr. Gabriella Mondini, there is no other option besides following in her father’s footsteps into a life of medicine in Regina O’Melveny’s debut, The Book of Madness and Cures. She is passionate about healing the citizens of Venice. For a woman residing in this part of the word in the late 16th Century this proves to be a challenging feat. In the male dominated Italian medical society, Gabriella gains credibility with her father’s colleagues by assisting him with research on “The Book of Diseases.”
A few years prior, Gabriella’s father, the elder Dr. Mondini, disappeared unexpectedly with only an occasional letter as to his whereabouts. In addition to the sporadic correspondence, his writings are cryptic and give little clue to Gabriella and her mother of his condition, which has a tendency to gravitate toward madness. With the prospect of continuing her medical career in jeopardy without her father’s guidance, Gabriella, her maid and a few additional servants embark on a journey to solve the mystery of what happened to her father. The journey takes them across Europe to France, Germany, England, Spain and south to the tip of Morocco, all the while encountering danger while traveling and encountering locals who met her father and are able to provide clues to the group of travelers.
While in Morocco, Gabriella finds out the shocking truth about her father, his nearly completed book on diseases and her own future. O’Melveny’s debut provides a rich look at late 16th century day to day life, the logistics of cross continent travels and the lives of women during this time.
When Doug Mack picked up a 1963 edition of Europe on Five Dollars a Day, he stumbled on an inspired idea: to boldly go where millions have gone before, relying only on the advice of a travel guide that’s nearly a half century out-of-date. Add to the mix his mother’s much- documented grand tour through Europe in the late 1960s, and the result is Europe on Five Wrong Turns a Day, a funny and fascinating journey into a new (old) world, and a disarming look at the ways the classic tourist experience has changed – and has not – in the last generation.
After a whirlwind adventure spanning eight countries – and costing way more than five dollars a day – Mack’s endearing account is part time travel, part paean to Arthur Frommer’s much-loved guide, and a celebration of the modern traveler’s grand (and not-so-grand) tour. (provided by publisher)
For a fun and scandalous look into the history of royal matches, pick up Leslie Carroll’s Notorious Royal Marriages: A Juicy Journey Through Nine Centuries of Dynasty, Destiny and Desire. Carroll covers a long history of royal marriages beginning with Eleanor of Aquitaine in the Middle Ages and ending with the divorce of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. A few of the gems in Notorious Royal Marriages include:
*King Henry VIII’s six marriages in which he had two wives, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, beheaded;
*Emperor Franz Joseph and his cousin bride Empress Elisabeth (Sisi) of Austria whose marriage started out with promise but became cold and impersonal after the tragic death of two of their children and her eating disorder;
*Tsar Nicholas and Tsarina Alexandra of Russia whose love story ended when they and their five children were killed during the Russian Revolution;
*British ruler King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson’s marriage in which the ruling monarch gave up the British crown to marry the twice divorced American.
Each couple has their own chapter so it is easy to for you to skip around the book easily, too. You may think you know many of these stories, but Carroll adds new information that makes it difficult to put the book down!
Before World War II fades from living memory and thereafter resides exclusively in the history books, take a few moments to appreciate those who actually lived it. After all, the history books can only tell us statistics and names, the locations of battlefields and the number who died there. Only the people who were actually there can tell you the personal stories – sleeping in cow pastures, spending time with your buddies in a war zone, seeing the planes of D-Day flying overhead, the pain of watching your best friend die. The Last Good War: the Faces and Voices of World War II with photos by Thomas Sanders, shines the spotlight on some of these last remaining veterans through a series of affecting portraits and reminiscences. Proud, solemn, spirited, these men and women once again show us what made them “the greatest generation.”