The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold - I still have not seen the movie, but I thought the book was really good. I was really interested in the way it was written being that it was narrated by the child that was murdered as she watches her family, friends and killer from "heaven". Not like I thought a tragedy such as murder wouldn't change a family, but Susie's murder actually changed the family's destiny entirely. Susie's death brought people together and tore others apart. Even though the ending didn't give me a sense of full closure, it was good enough for me. I enjoyed how this book was written from the perspective of the person that died. How heaven to them was whatever they made it, but how they also still had a close connection to Earth and the people they care about. Here is a review from Publishers Weekly:
"Sebold's first novel after her memoir, Lucky is a small but far from minor miracle. Sebold has taken a grim, media-exploited subject and fashioned from it a story that is both tragic and full of light and grace. The novel begins swiftly. In the second sentence, Sebold's narrator, Susie Salmon, announces, "I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973." Susie is taking a shortcut through a cornfield when a neighbor lures her to his hideaway. The description of the crime is chilling, but never vulgar, and Sebold maintains this delicate balance between homely and horrid as she depicts the progress of grief for Susie's family and friends. She captures the odd alliances forged and the relationships ruined: the shattered father who buries his sadness trying to gather evidence, the mother who escapes "her ruined heart, in merciful adultery." At the same time, Sebold brings to life an entire suburban community, from the mortician's son to the handsome biker dropout who quietly helps investigate Susie's murder. Much as this novel is about "the lovely bones" growing around Susie's absence, it is also full of suspense and written in lithe, resilient prose that by itself delights. Sebold's most dazzling stroke, among many bold ones, is to narrate the story from Susie's heaven (a place where wishing is having), providing the warmth of a first-person narration and the freedom of an omniscient one. It might be this that gives Sebold's novel its special flavor, for in Susie's every observation and memory of the smell of skunk or the touch of spider webs is the reminder that life is sweet and funny and surprising."
Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay - Oh my goodness was this a good read! Thank you to my friend Lindsay for recommending this one. I love reading anything WWII or has to do with the Holocaust. Even though this book was gut wrenching at one point (most stories during this time are) I was fascinated by it because I hadn't known much about what went on in Occupied France. In 1942, Jews were rounded up in Paris by the French police and held in an old velodrome (Vel' d'Hiv) then shipped to Auschwitz. The Nazi's told the French police to take men and women between the ages of 15-50 to be taken to "work camps". They didn't want children so it wouldn't look suspicious to anybody. However, the French police took everybody. During this time of the war, Jewish men where already in hiding because they knew something was about to happen. So the majority of women and children, some of them being infants, were rounded up and sent to Vel' d'Hiv. The conditions were terrible; there was no running water, bathrooms over flowed, and there was hardly any food. It was very hot and a lot of people got lice and dysentery. After a couple days held there, they were then shipped to holding camps where the mothers were separated from their children and shipped to Auschwitz. The most disturbing thing at the time was the compliance with the French police who knew what was going on and did nothing to stop it. There isn't all that much information on it either, so reading this book was really great for me. It gave me something else to uncover in that time period. Even though there were some tough parts to read, it was beautifully written and was a good page turner. I finished the book after two days on the beach. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the time period. Here is a review from Publishers Weekly:
"De Rosnay's U.S. debut fictionalizes the 1942 Paris roundups and
deportations, in which thousands of Jewish families were arrested, held at the Vélodrome d'Hiver outside the city, then transported to Auschwitz. Forty-five-year-old Julia Jarmond, American by birth, moved to Paris when she was 20 and is married to the arrogant, unfaithful Bertrand Tézac, with whom she has an 11-year-old daughter. Julia writes for an American magazine and her editor assigns her to cover the 60th anniversary of the Vél' d'Hiv' roundups. Julia soon learns that the apartment she and Bertrand plan to move into was acquired by Bertrand's family when its Jewish occupants were dispossessed and deported 60 years before. She resolves to find out what happened to the former occupants: Wladyslaw and Rywka Starzynski, parents of 10-year-old Sarah and four-year-old Michel. The more Julia discovers—especially about Sarah, the only member of the Starzynski family to survive—the more she uncovers about Bertrand's family, about France and, finally, herself. Already translated into 15 languages, the novel is De Rosnay's 10th (but her first written in English,her first language). It beautifully conveys Julia's conflicting loyalties, and makes Sarah's trials so riveting, her innocence so absorbing, that the book is hard to put down."