ningerbil (ningerbil) wrote in 50bookchallenge,

Books 31 and 32

31. “A Faraway Island,” written by Annika Thor and translated by Linda Schenck. 2010 Batchelder Award winner. A touching book. Two sisters, Stephie, 12, and Nellie, 7, are sent to Sweden as part of a children's refugee program to escape the Nazi occupation and repression in Austria. Nellie adapts to her family quickly, embracing the language and her adopted parents. Stephie struggles with trying to fit in, while maintaining her Jewish and Austrian identity. Stephie also has an uneasy relationship with her strict adoptive mother, whom she calls Aunt Marta, as well as problems with the school bully. Above all, she worries about her parents and wants to reunite with them. Or, try to get them to Sweden. By the end of the book, of course, it's obvious the troubles in Europe are not only going to last longer than most people initially thought, but they are spreading. This is the first in a series of translated books. The characters are well-rounded, and most are sympathetic. It strikes me as an honest look at what the children probably faced. The author used real-life stories from children in similar situations.

32. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt. Journalist Berendt writes this mostly first-person account of his time in Savannah, Georgia and the people he meets. What an eccentric and colorful bunch, too! This book is the perfect example of truth being stranger than fiction. The book is divided into two sections. The first is mostly how Berendt comes to live part-time in Savannah, and the people he meets, including a charming con-artist, a feisty drag queen, and an assortment of Savannah's established society. Much of the story centers on Jim Williams, a wealthy antiques dealer who is put on trial for the murder of Danny Handsford (the trials -- yes, trials, there were four of them -- making up Part 2). "Midnight" breaks a couple of the rules with writing murder stories -- not starting out with the murder, for example -- but it works. Part one is so engaging and, at times, humorous that I found myself not minding the lengthy exposition before what most would probably consider the meat of the story. But the stories of the residents and the every day was just as interesting.
Tags: historical fiction, non-fiction

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