What a lovely little book this is. I really wasn’t sure what to expect but I really enjoyed reading about Wojtek war hero bear. It seemed like such an implausible story yet Wojtek really did stand with Polish soldiers.
What shines through in this book is the great character that Wojtek was and how important he became to the soldiers that he was with and what a huge boost he gave them.
I was disappointed to learn at the end that not all of the characters were real, but given the time that has passed since the events in the book took place that isn’t really surprising that some of the story has been lost.
I’d never heard of Wojtek before, I had no idea that a bear had helped the Polish army in the second world war. It really is a heartwarming story. I liked the way that the story was told, sometimes we heard what Wojtek was thinking but most of the time told as if by an observer. It is simple in language and I think that it could be read by children aged 10 and over, but adults will enjoy the book too.
The illustrations also need a mention, for they match the writing in the simple way that they are presented but they fit very well with the story and I enjoyed seeing them a lot.
If you’re interested in reading about wars then this book will be sure to give you a different and unique story. If you don’t enjoy reading about the war then don’t let that put you off, it is the amazing story of Wojtek that is the story, and it is one that is well worth reading.
Thank you to the publisher Birlinn, for a copy of the book. I was under no obligation to review the book and all thoughts are my own.
When a tiny orphaned bear cub is adopted by Polish soldiers during World War II, little does anyone know that little Wojtek will become one of the bravest fighters of them all. As the soldiers train to take part in some of the fiercest fighting of the war, Wojtek grows up, providing headaches and laughter in equal measure as he learns to drink beer, chase horses and wrestle with his human friends. But at Monte Cassino, as the Allies try and dislodge German troops from their mountain-top eyrie, Wojtek, now a fully signed-up solider with his own rank and number, comes into his own, dodging the bullets to carry ammunition to his comrades as they inch their way to victory. After the war, the Polish solders move to Scotland. Wojtek comes too and soon becomes the centre of attention in a new country. But with hostilities ended, how long can he keep his freedom? Best-selling children’s author Jenny Robertson explores the themes of friendship and trust in this moving and inspirational story.
About the Author:
Jenny Robertson has written numerous books for children and adults – fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Her children’s novels and Bible stories have been widely translated and also read on Yorkshire Television and STV.
From today in London there’s a very big event happening for the book world, it’s the London Book Fair. They’re focusing on celebrating literature from the Baltic Countries and I have a guest post by Tiit Aleksejev talking about writing historical fiction. Enjoy!
Guest Post: Tips for writing about the past – lessons from a historical fiction writer.
Tiit Aleksejev (1968) is historical fiction writer and playwright. He won the European Union Prize for Literature for his novel The Pilgrimage, which accounts the First Crusade. Since April 2016, Aleksejev has also been the chairman of the Estonian Writers´ Union. Estonia and the Baltic Countries are the Market Focus at this year’s The London Book Fair.
Aleksejev provides some tips on approaching the difficult historical subject matter and turning it into accessible fiction.
Do your own research into the period you are writing about. Then forget most of what you have learnt, the reader is not interested in your knowledge; but he or she cares about authenticity. Small errors kill the credibility, an accurate detail can be a cornerstone. Check the details but don’t overload your writing with them
Read as many resources as you can: chronicles, accounts, battle reports, songs, poems etc. Most will be inclined or distorted, they are written in favour of someone or something. For example the medieval conception of truth and veracity is completely different from ours. But you may find authentic fragments and voices; it is all about voices.
We don’t know how the ancients spoke, we know how they wrote, but this writing was done by a limited social group. So, you have to reconstruct – to invent in most cases – spoken language. Avoid anachronistic speech. It was probably not “O thou noble boy, hand me over this golden chalice!”. Distinguish everyday talk and ceremonial talk. Do your characters speak like priests or beggars? Or do they speak like people who surround you? If you are not sure how they really spoke, go for the brevity and laconic dialogues.
Find original names for your characters which suddenly sound right to you. Chronicles is a possibility. Or tomb stones if you are not afraid of the dead.
Visualize space: a room, a house, a street, a city. You need to see what is in the room. Pieces of furniture may be unaccustomed to us e.g. shelves for the scrolls. Maybe the room is empty. Then you have to see it empty.
The Baltic countries – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – will be the Market Focus for the London Book Fair 2018 (10th – 12th April).
About The Author:
Tiit Aleksejev in 2011
Tiit Aleksejev (born 6 July 1968) is an Estonian novelist and playwright.
Aleksejev was born in Kohtla-Järve. He studied history at the University of Tartu, and served as a diplomat in France and Belgium.
His debut novel was a thriller called Valge kuningriik (The White Kingdom, 2006). It won the Betti Alver Prize for best first novel. His second novel was a work of historical fiction, set in the time of the First Crusade. This novel called Palveränd (The Pilgrimage, 2008) won the EU Prize for Literature and was translated into several languages subsequently (e.g. Italian, Hungarian, and Finnish). In 2011, he published a third novel Kindel linn (Stronghold). Palveränd and Kindel linn are the first and second part of what is to become a trilogy.
His first play Leegionärid (Legionaries), about the fallen soldiers of the Estonian Legion, appeared in 2010 and premiered in 2013 in Rakvere. It received the Virumaa Literary Award in 2011. Another historical play, Kuningad(Kings) was published in 2014 and is about the murder of the four Estonian kings during the St. George’s Night Uprising (1343).
I was very excited when I got an email asking me if I would like to be part of the blog tour for the paperback release of Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys. I’m a big fan of Tammy Cohen. author of psychological thrillers including When She Was Badand the brilliant First One Missing. When I heard that she was releasing a historical fiction book under the name Rachel Rhys I was disappointed as this would mean that she would be taking time out from writing psychological thrillers and because I did not want to read historical fiction. When Dangerous Crossing was released on Kindle it got great reviews and I was slightly tempted but I’d never been interested in reading historical fiction. But then I read a book, Block 46, which had parts set in the past and I found that I actually really enjoyed those bits and figured that I was probably missing out by discounting all historical fiction books and I knew that Dangerous Crossing was the book that I should read to change that.
I’d heard a lot of positive things about Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys aka Tammy Cohen whose psychological thriller books I loved, so I was excited to read this book.
I found that I was quickly pulled into the story of Lily, a young English woman who was travelling to Australia for what promised to be an exciting adventure. With some trepidation, Lily boarded the Orontes, a large boat that would take Lily and many others on the long journey. Lily was travelling under the assisted travel scheme which was set up to encourage young women to move to Australia to work in the houses of those rich enough to afford staff.
Although travelling standard class Lily found herself thrown into a world where she lived among others who had much higher social standings than she did. She soon found herself drawn to Edward and his sister with whom she shared the dinner table. Things didn’t always go smoothly though, with the threat of war back at home people were divided and the Jewish travellers found themselves shunned by many, although no by Lily. Lily herself was popular on the boat and even Max and Eliza, an extravagant couple travelling in first class, were drawn to Lily and Edward and keen to spend time with them.
Dangerous Crossing is beautifully written, I felt so drawn into life on the boat and could picture the scenes and imagine myself right there with Lily. There were many different characters in the book who all added a richness to the story and showed how people from many different walks of life were thrown together on board and how they coped with this.
As Australia draws closer Lily realises that she had let herself get caught up with life on the boat and that once she was on land she would soon be working for the very people that she had been socialising with. I loved this bit, society was so different then and the expectation that people would socialise and marry within the same circle and class that they were born into, it really was fascinating to think about.
And Rhys hasn’t totally left her psychological thriller past behind, we know from the start that something happens on the boat, that a woman leaves it in handcuffs, but we’re never quite sure until right at the end exactly what had happened. A great twist to end a superb book.
England, September 1939
Lily Shepherd boards a cruise liner for a new life in Australia and is plunged into a world of cocktails, jazz and glamorous friends. But as the sun beats down, poisonous secrets begin to surface. Suddenly Lily finds herself trapped with nowhere to go …
Australia, six-weeks later
The world is at war, the cruise liner docks, and a beautiful young woman is escorted onto dry land in handcuffs.
What has she done?
About The Author:
I was born in Ibadan, Nigeria where my anthropologist father happened to be doing fieldwork at the time. Sabbatical years in far-flung places were a feature of my childhood and I attended school in both Sierra Leone and California. Otherwise, I mostly grew up in the suburbs of London where my adolescence was spent either in the local library or waiting for the last tube home.
After taking an American Studies degree at Manchester University I taught English in Madrid. While working as a secretary back in London, I started writing features and hand-delivering them to the magazine publishing house around the corner. The day the first one got accepted, I packed in my job and declared myself a freelance journalist, which is basically what I remained for the next twenty years, writing features for national magazines and newspapers, such as Marie Claire, The Times and The Telegraph, and then moving on to non fiction books. My dream was always to write fiction but it wasn’t until I was forty-seven that I finally conquered the self doubt and my first novel, The Mistress’s Revenge was published.
These days I live in North London with my partner and three (nearly) grown children and one very badly behaved dog. Together with my family I spent four happy years living in Spain from 2004 to 2008 and I live in fear of people finding this out and asking me something in Spanish at which I remain shamefully inept.
My first novel, The Mistress’s Revenge, was followed by three more contemporary fiction titles under the name Tamar Cohen – The War of the Wives, Someone Else’s Wedding and The Broken.
In November 2014, my first crime novel, Dying For Christmas was published under the name Tammy Cohen, followed by First One Missing a year later, and When She Was Bad in April 2016. My latest, They All Fall Down is published in July 2017.
Writing as Rachel Rhys, Dangerous Crossing, my first foray into historical mystery was published in March 2017.
I am a member of the Killer Women collective of London-based female UK crime writers.
I’m delighted to be part of today’s blog tour for Block 46. Not only is it an excellent book but it is also my first blog tour for the publisher, Orenda Books. Every book of theirs that I have read have been special in some way, and they are definitely a publisher worth watching.
I really wasn’t sure what to expect from Block 46. I know that the publisher has an incredible record of giving us great books but from the blurb, I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Would it be French Noir as the author and the main character are French, or Nordic Noir as most of the book is set in Sweden, or would it be historical fiction as some of the book takes place in Buchenwald Concentration Camp in 1944?
I have to be honest here, I do not read historical fiction, it just doesn’t appeal to me but I do often think that I might be missing out, and this book has confirmed that I probably am. At first, I had absolutely no idea how what happened in Buchenwald could have anything to do with a spate of gruesome murders taking place in the present time but as I got further into the books the chapters that I enjoyed reading the most were those set in the horrors of a German Concentration Camp. Although distressing to read, the story of Erich touched me in a very moving and emotional way, especially when the full story of Erich became clear as the book progressed.
But in the present day, Alexis finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation when a good friend is murdered in Sweden, she begins to work with Emily, a well known profiler who has been working on the murders of little boys in London that somehow seems linked to the murder in Sweden.
How are the murders in London linked to the murder in Sweden? And how does all of it link to one man trying to survive the horrors of the holocaust? Well, of course, I’m not going to tell you that, you will need to read the book and find out for yourself, but do read it. It’s a very well written, with strong and believable characters and plenty of twists and turns. It was definitely not what I had been expecting, but I am delighted that it is book one of a new series featuring Alexis and Emily, I look forward to part two.
Thank you to the publisher, Orenda Books, for a copy of Block 46. All thoughts are my own.
Falkenberg, Sweden. The mutilated body of talented young jewellery designer, Linnea Blix, is found in a snow-swept marina. Hampstead Heath, London. The body of a young boy is discovered with similar wounds to Linnea’s. Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1944. In the midst of the hell of the Holocaust, Erich Hebner will do anything to see himself as a human again. Are the two murders the work of a serial killer, and how are they connected to shocking events at Buchenwald? Emily Roy, a profiler on loan to Scotland Yard from the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, joins up with Linnea’s friend, French true-crime writer Alexis Castells, to investigate the puzzling case. They travel between Sweden and London, and then deep into the past, as a startling and terrifying connection comes to light. Plumbing the darkness and the horrific evidence of the nature of evil, Block 46 is a multi-layered, sweeping and evocative thriller that heralds a stunning new voice in French Noir. WINNER: Nouvelle Plume D’Argent 2016 For fans of The Missing, Dominique Manotti, Camilla Lackberg, Stieg Larsson
About the Author:
Born in 1978 in Marseille, France, and a graduate of Political Sciences, Johana Gustawsson was a journalist for television and French press. She now lives in London, England.