Monthly Archives: January 2013

Lorri’s Review: Until the Dawn’s Light

until the dawns light Until the Dawn’s Light, by Aharon Appelfeld is a book that takes place before World War II. As always, his books elicit emotions within me, due to his defining word-imagery.

Of course, as a reader, I know the Holocaust will occur, but within the pages of the book, there is an underlying feeling, a foreshadowing, that something extremely horrendous is going to set itself against humanity, something brutal.

Speaking of brutal, this is the first book of Appelfeld’s I have read that encapsulates spousal abuse. And, he not only encapsulates it, but describes it with vivid and painful portraits.

The book begins on a train ride with protagonist Blanca taking flight with her four-year old son. Her fleeing holds more than just wanting to escape her husband, she is fleeing for her son’s safety, and hopes to make it safely to a northern town in Austria which she feels holds the morals, ideals and convictions of her ancestral past. She is wanting to return to the foundations of Judaism that her parents avoided.

Blanca was brought up in an environment of non-practicing Jews. She is a young Jewish woman, and a convert to Christianity. She has converted in order to marry a man named Adolph, who, despite is initial appearance is antisemitic (after reading several pages, I did not find it coincidental that Appelfeld named him Adolph). Her family sees this as a positive step, and one that will yield acceptance within the Christian community. Things are not always what we expect, though, as the book details.

Adolph despises the Jews, and never lets Blanca forget it. He blames everything on his life situation on the Jews, but worse than that, he constantly abuses her, physically, mentally and emotionally. The abuse is horrific.

Blanca is meek, and gives in to every brutal beating. She is essentially a slave to his every whim, every abusive word and every abusive act forced upon her, until the day she leaves with her son.

On the train ride she thinks back to the past, the days of happiness, the days of horror, and writes of issues that have caused her to run. She verbalizes to her son the fact that she wants him to save the pages, save them and read them at a later time, when he is old enough to read and understand. That is another foreshadowing of the ending, which this reader grasped upon immediately beginning the book. That played no part in my continuing to read the book.

Until the Dawn’s Light is not a happy read, but one that is depressing due to the content. There is much to ponder within the compelling pages, such as the primary issue of spousal abuse and how it causes fear in the abused, fear so strong they don’t fight back or cry out for help. Fear that keeps the victim oppressed and in internal prisons that are difficult to fathom.

Other relevant issues such as conversion and acceptance are a constant within the pages. The community of Christians was not the safe hold Blanca thought it would be, and the hatred and resentment of the Jews was quite clearly stated. Antisemitism was a major factor within the citizens.

Blanca had so much going for her, she was extremely intelligent and headed for university. She was a math wizard and had hopes of becoming a mathematician. The day she meets Adolph and begins tutoring him, was the beginning of the end for her. She fell for him, which is no surprise due to his superficial presentation of himself to her in order to gain favor.

Aharon Appelfeld’s Until the Dawn’s Light, is aptly titled. His writing is brilliant within the darkness of the story line. He illuminates the past and how it can lead to the decisions of the present. He vividly relays how dismissal of Jewish identity, and the resulting experiences of assimilation can lead one back to the religion they left behind. I recommend Until the Dawn’s Light to everyone. It is thought=provoking and compelling, and offers a lot to consider in the realm of events preceding World War II.

January 14, 2013 – 3 Sh’vat, 5773

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Filed under Book Reviews, Fiction, Judaism, Lorri's Blog, Novels

Sunday Scenes – January 13, 2013

Patio Moments

I love my potted plants
hanging from the patio
Some nurtured from seed
others bought from a nursery
Either way, they thrive
within my cradling hands
The earth slips between
my stretched fingers,
The water sings its song
as I give them a morning drink
Vibrant roses, petunias, pansies
laughing, joyous, showy blouses
sway in the morning breeze.

LM 1/13

patio set shadows

Visit Shadow Shot Sunday for more shadowy scenes from around the world.

shadow shot sunday

I am sorry for the update, there were issues with my original post and the photograph.

January 13, 2013 – 2 Sh’vat, 5773

All rights reserved © Copyright 2007 – 2013 – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my express written consent/permission.

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Friday Writings January 11, 2013

This afternoon I will attend a Life Story Writing class. It is an ongoing weekly class. I have been wanting to do this for a while. I have been writing my family history for quite some time, and this class might possibly give me some insight or some instruction on how to coordinate everything into a fascinating and interesting read for family members. Writing a family history is one thing, making it interesting is another. Words, words, words, they are definitely important, but so is the content within the prose and the photographs in order to make it an enjoyable reading journey.

Speaking of family history, my second cousin was in contact with me this week. She and I exchanged several ancestral photographs, ones I did not have, and ones she did not have. They are the last of the remaining ancestral photos from my collection and from hers. So much was lost throughout the years and we cherish the little we have. We both are avid genealogists for our family, and contact each other every so often for updates.

I found out some interesting information regarding my Italian maternal ancestors: My great grandfather did actually apply for citizenship in 1894, and was granted it, which in turn automatically granted my great-grandmother, and granted my grandmother, then twelve-years old, citizenship. I did not know that he had applied. I have a copy of his naturalization papers. I was able to send my second cousin information she did not have. Caring through sharing, that is what I say, regarding ancestral information.

It is always exciting to peek into the past through photographs. I had always heard about the family store that my mother’s parents owned. She spoke of it off and on through the years. I never asked my grandmother about it, and, as we all know, time reaches out and grips us, and before we know it, it is too late to ask questions.

Lo and behold, one of the photographs is one of the family Stationery and Cigar store that my maternal grandparents owned. I was thrilled to receive it, printed it, and stared at it for the longest time. I am still in awe over it. The mysterious store that we have all heard about, but that nobody in the family actually knows about, as far as where it is located. There is no street address, just three numbers on the awning and the front window. My first cousins know nothing about the location, but, we have the photograph! The precious photograph.

I see the pastries in the window, all baked by my grandmother. I can still taste her delicious cannoli. Although cannoli originated in Sicily, they are associated with the pastries of Italy, not just location specific, like they might have been 100 or more years ago.

My grandparents had to close down the store about five years after the crash of the stock market in 1929.

Montanaro store frontjpg

My grandmother is standing with my aunts. They were about nine and six, give or take a year. My mother was not born yet. There was a thirteen-year and a ten-year age difference between her and her sisters.

In other news:

I participated in Inquisition and the Jews, an online video course through Rutgers University. The content was well-researched and there were a few points regarding the Inquisition/s that I wasn’t aware of. Thank you, Leora, for the recommendation. Speaking of Leora, check out her latest Swirly Gig, along with her reviews!

I reviewed the book The Life of an Unknown Man, by Andrei Makine. And, I also reviewed Open Heart, by Elie Wiesel.

I have read several books since last Friday, and one of them is Conversations With Elie Wiesel and Richard D. Heffner.

I have also read Until the Dawn’s Light, by Aharon Appelfeld, have read Family Pictures by Jane Green, and also Gentile New York: The Images of Non-Jews Among Jewish Immigrants, by Gil Ribak, to name three others.

Visit Hannah to see her delicious sounding recipe for Salmon Balsamico.

Shabbat Shalom!

January 11, 2013 – 29 Tevet, 5773

All rights reserved © Copyright 2007 – 2013 – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my express written consent/permission.

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Lorri M. Book Review: Open Heart, by Elie Wiesel

openheart Open Heart, by Elie Wiesel, is a beautifully written book and intimate reflection of his life, reflected during a time when he faced the unknown outcome of open-heart surgery.

He began having difficulties, which led to testing ordered by his primary care doctor (who is a cardiologist). The tests did not reveal the truth that was to encompass the severity of his situation. After a severe bout with unrelenting pain, he finally gave in to his family’s wishes.

At the age of 82-years of age, Mr. Wiesel was rushed to the hospital, and through tests it was discovered he had blocked arteries, arteries that needed to be repaired through open-heart surgery. This was a definite turning point in his life, and when told of what needed to be done in order to save his life, he was both hesitant and anxious. He went into the operating room, not knowing if he would wake up and see his wife-Marion, or see his son-Elisha, again.

Wake up he did, and the successive days, weeks and months gave him much to reflect upon. Within those reflections he journeyed inward, and the results are written within the pages. As a reader, we are given the privilege to read and to ponder the thoughts and feelings of Mr. Wiesel, through the vivid illuminations of his heart,his soul, his mind, his humility, and of his deep religious spirit.

Mr. Wiesel’s prose is filled with richness and brilliance, and filled with vibrant word-imagery. Even though he has lived a long lifespan, so far, he is not ready to leave this realm. For him there is still more to accomplish, and time is of the essence. He feels the need to continue to help humanity, to spread more messages of tolerance, to tell the world to never forget the Holocaust, to write another essay or book, to help individuals discover the preciousness of life.

He doesn’t get around as well as he did before his surgery. And, he has had to trim his schedule, realizing that he can only do so much within the framework of time and of his health. Mr. Wiesel wants to live long enough to see his grandson’s Bar Mitzvah (he made a promise he would), and possibly even his granddaughter’s Bat Mitzvah. Family is of extreme importance to him, and the joy he receives from his grandchildren is endless, filled with unconditional love, as is his joy and love for his wife and son.

He eloquently describes his past, his present and his hopes for the future. He defines himself through his Jewishness and his adherence to its religious traditions and practices.


Mr. Wiesel
often wonders where G-d was during man’s worst moment in history. He wonders how G-d could permit the murder of so many individuals. As always, during reflections of this dimension, he has no answers to those questions, yet his faith remains strong.

He amplifies the need for tolerance within the community of diversity. His spiritual and humanistic lessons, within the slimness of the pages of Open Heart, are ones of immense insight. I never fail to gain inspiration from Elie Wiesel’s books, and this one is no exception.

I recommend Open Heart to everyone.

January 10, 2013 – 28 Tevet, 5773

All rights reserved © Copyright 2007 – 2013 – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my express written consent/permission.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Holocaust/Genocide, Judaism, Lorri's Blog, Memoirs, Non-Fiction

Wednesday Photographs

odd rainbow.jpg

Apparently, as I took the photo, above, the rainbow that was visible, split itself between the leaves and branches, and gave an odd effect within the finished photograph.

winter dryness

winter dryness2

Much of the inner river area that runs near the lake (the Sepulveda Basin and Dam) is basically dry right now, and not high at all. We have had a bit of rain, which has given the Los Angeles River, that flows near the lake, a bit of water, but not much. The river is normally fairly dry in this area. The other tributaries can be fairly full, especially after a rainfall.

Visit Nature Notes Wednesday for more nature photos from around the planet.

I have been busy catching up on some reading. I managed to finish two books.

I am about to go for my daily walk, which means that I will drive a short distance to the lake, and take my walk there, this morning.

After that, I need to run some errands, nothing of great significance. Once I am home and settled, I will write a couple of book reviews to be posted at a future date. I have about six to write, and hopefully I will finish at least two of them.

I hope you have a good Wednesday.

January 9, 2013 – 27 Tevet, 5773

All rights reserved © Copyright 2007 – 2013 – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my express written consent/permission.

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Book Review: The Life of an Unknown Man

the life of an unknown man2 Although the novel, The Life of an Unknown Man, by Andrei Makine, is 208 pages long, its short length does not lessen the compelling story line.

The novel brings the reader an extremely well written descriptive of Russia, seen through two main characters. The first one is a man named Ivan Shutov, a Russian who has been living in Paris for about twenty years. He is a writer, aspiring to write that epic novel, a novel similar in style to Anton Chekhov and Leo Tolstoy. He lives and breathes the classic Russian authors, and compares his current life experiences to their writings. He is wrapped in dreams and fantasies, and the essence of life revolves around Russian Literature. He values their ideals that he reads within the pages of their books.

Shutov is approximately fifty-years old, and old enough to be the father of his former lover, Lea. After many discussions and arguments (some over Chekhov) he is brutal in his verbal attacks on her opinions. After a while, she became disgusted and fed up with him and his lack of emotional commitment. She left him for a man her own age, and Shutov has great difficulty dealing with her departure. He can not stop thinking about her, and obsesses on her. He feels a void, and decides to take a trip to St. Petersburg, Russia, to revisit his past, a past he has glorified in his memories, and one he has not viewed realistically.

When he arrives, he sees that things are not what they were in the past. Communism reared its distorted head with brutal force to the Russians. The country has gone through an upheaval, and it has collapsed. The citizens have become westernized in their thinking, and become materialistic in their approach to life. This attitude has a shattering affect on Shutov.

While there he meets up with a former lover named Yana. They had a fling while students, and she is not the same person he knew. How could she be after living through the changes and events her country has gone through. He encounters an elderly man named Georgy Lvovich Volsky, living in a room within Yana’s apartment complex. Yana and her son have told him that Volsky doesn’t speak, and is paralyzed. To make a long story short, Volsky does eventually speak to Shutov.

And, the tales he tells are incredible accounts of the love of his life, Mina, and of his experiences during Leningrad’s siege, and his military service to the country. The times were horrific, horrendous moments were prevalent, food was scarce, life was lived by barely hanging on. Volsky’s story is vividly depicted by Makine, and nothing is spared in his relaying it.

Throughout the pages, the reader can not help but grasp the devastation and the brutality of the times. One also gains a sense of the individual, as a separate being, one who has weathered all the forced events. The reader also gains insight into the philosophy of the individual as part of the whole in the connection of community, the military and the country. The title, “The Life of an Unknown Man” is very fitting, within these aspects. Makine is brilliant in displaying both modes within the pages.

He also makes the reader ponder about human worth. Volsky went through so much, yet he was not validated for his efforts. He went unrecognized in an environment that was not conducive to acknowledging accomplishments. The time periods that encapsulated his life achievements seemed almost for naught. Yet, Volsky did not view it that way. He saw beauty in nature, in music, in theater, and constantly saw possibilities out of what others saw as impossible. Volsky saw his life in a positive manner, and saw his participation being an allegiance to Russia.

Makine’s message was clear, his prose depicted with visual clarity. The suffering and the lives lost were a minute part of the entirety. The sentimentality of the past can hinder people in ways they can not imagine. It was a harsh lesson for Shutov. The past caught up with him, and he was able to distinguish the reality of the Russia he had left behind, and the reality of the Russia through the twenty years he had been gone, and what the country had evolved into.

I applaud Andrei Makine for his brilliance and for his magnificent writing. The novel was a fascinating look at the history of what was then known as Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) and an intriguing read. He took me back to eras of harshness, and within the story line I found illuminations of hope resonating, strongly.

I recommend The Life of an Unknown Man to everyone.

January 7, 2013 – 25 Tevet, 5773

All rights reserved © Copyright 2007 – 2013 – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my express written consent/permission.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Lorri's Blog, Novels, World History