Saturday, August 17, 2013

Recent Reads: Night Falls on the City and The Journey That Saved Curious George

I'm just back from a wonderful family vacation where, unlike my usual vacation reading behavior, I only read one book. It was a long one, related to the trip, and I enjoyed it immensely. It's called Night Falls on the City by Sarah Gainham, and it's historical fiction about Vienna from 1938-1945 during Nazi occupation and World War II. The central character is a prominent Viennese stage actor named Julie who is married to a Jewish lawmaker. He's forced to go into hiding soon after the Nazis make their entrance into Austria, and Julie and their housekeeper Fina have to keep everything under wraps. While in hiding Franzl leads a monotonous existence but spends most of his time writing a book that Julie and a friend named Georgy risk everything to publish without putting Franzl at risk.

I began reading this book on the plane on the way over. The trip culminated in Vienna, so I read the book before bed each night as I looked forward to seeing this elegant city in person (in the meantime there was quite a lot to behold in Munich, Innsbruck, Salzburg, and a few Austrian and German small towns in between). I finally finished the book the day after our return, having read about half of it on the plane ride from Vienna back to the States. It very nearly received five stars from me, and would have been one of the few to get that distinction from me all year. Without Julie and her theater company's too-long and too-drawn out residence in Poland, which didn't relate quite enough to the crux of the book for me, it would have gotten a perfect rating. Nonetheless, it was a fantastic book and I raved about it to my family the whole time we were away.

Then, just after finishing Night Falls on the City I read The Journey that Saved Curious George: The True Wartime Escape of Margret and H. A. Rey by Louise Borden. As a child I read and loved the Curious George books, but I had no idea all the authors had to go through to get them published. The couple had to escape Paris on bicycles with their manuscripts as the Germans invaded France during World War II. Their first stop was Rio de Janeiro before they settled in New York City. Borden traces their steps across the continents by car, bike and ship, and you realize all the things that could have gone wrong, causing the Reys to lose their Curious George manuscripts. It's really an amazing journey, and both books are wonderful reads.

Here are a few photos from Vienna:

 Schoenbrunn Palace, the Habsburgs' summer residence
 St. Stephen's Cathedral
 The Habsburgs winter residence
Beethoven and me

1 comment:

  1. But how many books did you buy on the trip? :)

    These books sound great, and I love your pictures. Glad you had a great trip.