Two books about the Holocaust

Fairly sure I said something about not reading much about the Holocaust in the last decade or so because I overdid it in the eighties and nineties… Anyway, seems that went out the window when I read The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman and The Toy Maker by Liam Pieper, one after the other.

The books are similar in many ways – both tell the story of an Australian man living in the present alongside the story of a Holocaust survivor; both are set in the ‘Canada’ barracks at Auschwitz–Birkenau and examine the role of the Sonderkommando; both have themes of good versus evil, penance, and the measure of crime; both show that there are lessons in history.

“History can provide comfort in difficult or even turbulent and traumatic times. It shows us what our species has been through before and that we survived. It can help to know we’ve made it through more than one dark age. And history is vitally important because perhaps as much as, if not more than biology, the past owns us and however much we think we can, we cannot escape it. If you only knew how close you are to people who seem so far from you… it would astonish you.” (Perlman)

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Memoir fans – remember to put these books on your reading list

It’s Top Ten Tuesday time and the topic this week is ‘Ten Books Every X Should Read’. In my case, the X is for memoir fans.

The first five are those type of memoirs that are so horrifying that you have to keep checking whether they are not, in actual fact, fiction. The next bunch are not misery-memoirs at all – quite the opposite – they made me laugh. Continue reading

The Anti Cool Girl by Rosie Waterland

Is there are special sub-section in the misery-memoir genre for stories told with self-deprecating humour? I think there is and Rosie Waterland’s The Anti Cool Girl is the latest addition.

Like Augusten Burroughs’ Running with Scissors and Liam Pieper’s The Feel Good Hit of the Year, Waterland takes you through her childhood, one filled with addict parents, overdoses, stints in rehab with her mother, butchers’ knife attacks, eating disorders, alcohol abuse, bullying, abusive foster parents, suicide attempts and periods of homelessness. And she’s only 28. Continue reading

The Feel-Good Hit of the Year by Liam Pieper

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If Running With Scissors and Tweak got together and had a book-baby*, it would probably look like Liam Pieper’s The Feel-Good Hit of the Year.

Liam Pieper’s memoir has the crazy of Scissors and the drugs of Tweak, all within the context of suburban Melbourne during the eighties. Pieper was raised by his bohemian parents whose day most often included smoking pot.

“The wisdom of the time was that weed was a harmless alternative to alcohol. Joints were passed around like Carlos Castaneda novels. People took acid to expand their minds. At least, they said that’s why they did it. I’ve always fond that hippies take acid to make other hippies interesting.” Continue reading