Monthly Archives: May 2012

Review – Two Lives

Two Lives, by Vikram Seth, is a beautifully written and poignant memoir and one that you will remember long after you have finished the last word, on the last page. It is one of those memoirs that stay in your heart, in your mind, for years to come.

When I was seventeen I went to live with my great-uncle and great-aunt in England. He was an Indian by origin, she German. They were both sixty. I hardly knew them at the time.”

And, with these opening lines begins the journey through the lives of Shanti Behari Seth (Indian), Helga Gerda Karo (German Jew), and, the author, which culminates in an emotional ending. Seth, chronicles the lives of his great-uncle and great-aunt, with exacting details, which some might find over-reacting, or over-zealous in his endeavors. But, we must remember that this is a memoir, a factual story of lives. This is not a novel, or fictionalized account, but, rather an actual documentation of their lives, relayed in over 500 pages. And, relayed it is, through the most minute of details.

All the details of the interplays and dynamics need to be depicted and interwoven into the family fabric and tapestry of their lifespans. Seth does so with magnificent prose, always mindful of those he writes of. His admiration and respect for his great-uncle and great-aunt is clear, and the reader knows it is honest and comes from Seth’s heart and soul. If Shanti and Helga had not met, there would be no story. If they had not met, Seth would not have experienced the love and devotion showered on him.

We watch the friendship and love grow between Shanti, who was born in India, and studied dentistry and medicine in Berlin; and Helga, a German Jew. Two very different cultures, and two lives, lives which receded and ebbed within The Holocaust, Auschwitz and Israel, in an ocean of torment, hate, persecution, and, love. From 1908 India, to 1908 Germany, and the years that follow, in a Germany ruled by Hitler, we follow the journey of Shanti and Helga, to England, and also the journey of the author, Vikram Seth, into the lives of this childless couple.

These two lives couldn’t have been more different, yet more alike, than either of them could have imagined…overcoming racial and ethnic hatred, and genocide, their lives become fulfilled and realized, with the inclusion of Vikram Seth into their family. This is a memoir weaved from cultural threads, threads of understanding and love, woven into a quilt of unconditional love, compassion and the overcoming of adversity.
Seth connects the reader through his almost gentle-like prose and his compassion for the circumstances. His kind demeanor is present within each page, and he is never quick to demonstrate anger or hatred. That, for me, was extremely apparent throughout the memoir.

Two Lives is a must read for everyone who is interested in World War II, The Holocaust, India, England, and a love story that crosses all the cultural boundaries. Once I started reading it, I could not put it down.

Seth is masterful in his word-paintings with fluidity and through details that fill the senses. His prose is almost poetic. Two Lives is as much of a tribute to his great-uncle and great-aunt, as it is an inspirational story that touches on the horrors of war and the fight for survival within an extremely adverse framework. The human spirit and determination to survive and move forward is depicted magnificently in Two Lives. It is a tribute to Vikram Seth and the foundation his relatives laid out for him. It is a tribute to life.

June 1, 2012 – 10 Sivan, 5772

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Filed under Book Reviews, Holocaust/Genocide, Judaism, Memoirs

Canyon, Stream and Sunflower, Oh My!

I’m late in posting these, time has a way of moving out from underneath me, some days.

Visit the blogs below for more photographs from around the world.

Nature Notes Wednesday

Our World Tuesday

Outdoor Wednesday

May 27, 2012 – 6 Sivan, 5772 No permission is granted to reproduce, copy or reuse my prose, reviews, writings, photography, etc., without my permission”><img

May 30, 2012 – 9 Sivan, 5772

No permission is granted to reproduce, copy or reuse my prose, reviews, writings, photography, etc., without my permission

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Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a federal holiday observed annually in the United States on the last Monday of May. Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the fallen Union soldiers of the Civil War. By the 20th century Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died in all wars. As a marker it typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end. Wikipedia

Some see it as a day of gatherings and barbecues. It is so much more than that. For the families of those who have died while serving in the U.S. military it is a poignant day of remembrance and tribute.

In many U.S. National Cemeteries, small American flags are placed next to the headstone of the Veterans on Memorial Day.

Lest not forget the men and women who gave their lives for our country. I thank each and every one of them.

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Yellow and Canyon on Sunday

Straight Out of the Camera Sunday

May 27, 2012 – 6 Sivan, 5772

No permission is granted to reproduce, copy or reuse my prose, reviews, writings, photography, etc., without my permission

Excuse the update, I had to adjust some prose.

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Jewaicious Review – City of Dreams by Beverly Swerling

City of Dreams: A Novel of Nieuw Amsterdam and Early Manhattan by Beverly Swerling, is a well-researched book that is filled with excellent historical value and factual information concerning New Amsterdam from the 1660s and five successive generations. Swerling recreates the time periods with fluid blends, giving our imaginations a peek at what life was like during the generations that span the novel, beginning with Amsterdam, when it was first settled.

Governor Peter Stuyvesant and his family are portrayed with masterful prose, especially depicting Stuyvesant as a brutal tyrant and controlling figure during the settlement of New Amsterdam. His household structure is helped along by Lucas and Sally Turner, who emigrated from England. Their determination through Lucas’ skill as a surgeon and through Sally’s skills as an apothecary help not only the Stuyvesant family, but also help them gain respect and reputations in their field.

This eventually leads to discord between the brother and sister, causing them to drift apart due to Lucas literally selling Sally’s hand in marriage to a physician named Jacob Van der Vries, The family links continue to be broken between Lucas and Sally and are never repaired. It affects the familial lines for generations.

The book becomes quite enhanced by characters of various religions, including Jewish families, Christians of several faiths, and those of other religious practices, who have one viewpoint within their environment, unable to see beyond their spiritual border. The novel swells with culture, daily lifestyle and living. We are shown the various dwellers that inhabit the Island, and how each one must try to come to terms with the ethnic environments that surround them. From the poor and poverty stricken to thugs, from landowners to slaves, patriotic individuals to anarchists, thieves and profiteers, shrewd businessmen and those trying to survive on the streets, and so on, Swerling paints a picture of New Amsterdam beginnings through the Revolutionary War. Her prose is compelling, intriguing and riveting. For me the novel was a page-turner.
Swerling is quite the prolific writer of extremely detailed prose, especially in her telling of early surgery and early medicine and cures. I was astounded and glued to the pages due to the abundance of obvious research involved in order for her to present such detailed accountings to the reader.

I love this book on so many levels, and being a native New Yorker (although, transplanted), the story spoke to me, and filled all of my senses. The word imagery is incredible. I was amazed at the minute details that embrace the story, from how the first settlers built the city from scratch, to the harshness of life in New Amsterdam, including the crime and moral standards. We see families trying to gain control of land and people, however they can, no detail is spared in conveying the situations. From brother and sister, who have close familial ties, to separations within families, each side feeling they are correct in their anger and beliefs, each side coming out somewhat the loser for their hatred.

Swerling leads us through the bitter streets of New Amsterdam. In the end, we find that times haven’t changed that much…the diversity of the population and the religious backgrounds, fed hatred and discrimination then, as the cultural and social interplays continue to do so in modern day. It was a sad state of affairs then, and it still is in many respects, now. Although Swerling masterfully writes regarding an earlier time period, excepting for the lifestyle and what was available during the time periods presented, most societal, economical and cultural issues have not changed, only the technology has.

In my opinion, that is the lesson that Beverly Swerling tries to instill in us, within the pages of City of Dreams: A Novel of Nieuw Amsterdam and Early Manhattan. I highly recommend this historical novel to everyone. It is an amazing accomplishment, and I feel the novel is a literary must-read.

As an aside: This novel is the first of several by Beverly Swerling. I own all of her books, and have read them all. I read her works eagerly.

May 24, 2012 – 3 Sivan, 5772

No permission is granted to reproduce, copy or reuse my prose, reviews, writings, photography, etc., without my permission.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Judaism, Novels

Happy Birthday!

Happy Fifth Birthday to my beautiful, precious, adorable, girlie-girl grandie! I wish you a joyous day, filled with wonderful moments.

I can’t believe you are five…the time flew by. You have brought a sense of dimension to my life that I can’t even begin to explain. Your smile lights up everyone around you. Your singing and dancing bring smiles to my face, your pleasure at simple things shows me beauty of life through your eyes, and your way of being YOU illuminates my heart. Thank you.

There is another event I must pay tribute to, which doesn’t diminish my grandie’s birthday, it just enhances the bizarreness of this particular month and the day of the month.

Robert M. May 13, 1915 – May 23, 1960 I love and miss you, dad. May your memory be for a Loving Blessing.

May 23, 2012 – 2 Sivan, 5772

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