So I’ve been out of town and have not blogged. And I’m not going to lie to you, it’s been wonderful. Now I am a person that for work reasons is attached to my computer. I work on it all day and then there’s this whole social media aspect because my boss is like the Facebook addict equivalent of Paulie Bleeker and the TicTac scene from Juno.
But this past week I was here:
And I switched off my phone…like all together…and it was glorious.
Don’t ever underestimate the power of switching off. It is completely reinvigorating. For the first day or so, my curiosity almost got the better of me. I mean, what was happening in the world? Surely some new and amazing / disastrous / incredulous thing was happening that immediately needed my social media attention, right? Wrong. There wasn’t, because the world continues to do what it does whether I am attached to whatever platform I’m attached to watching it, or not.
So, after I figured that out, the disconnect became the vacation. And I went dark.
But, vacations do end, and here I am typing on the flip side, a little more tanned from the beach, and a little more relaxed. Thank you time off!
In the meantime, I did read this newish book by Lucy Adlington, which I picked off my bookshelf (one of many unread works I grabbed at TLA in 2018), so I am a little behind on the review, but here it goes anyway.
This is the book:
It’s aimed at a YA audience and the US Hardback was published in 2018 with the paperback published in 2017.
Overall the plot has some depth to it, but is relatively easy to follow. Fourteen year old Ella starts her first day at Birchwood (Auschwitz) in The Upper Tailoring Studio, working as a seamstress to create dresses for the Commandant’s wife and other female guards of the Nazi controlled concentration camp. In the camp, Ella and her cohorts are non-humans. Forced to slave for the opportunity to escape the terrors of other labors inside the camp, they sew, and sew, and sew to live. Ella’s gift of creating beautiful designs and stitching amazing creations, gives her time to reflect on the series of events that have led her to her current state of affairs. Her memories of a loving family, of sewing with her grandmother, of living a life of peace and joy beyond the camp, haunt her. Ella finds an unlikely friend in Rose, a fellow seamstress also sent to the Tailoring Studio, whose ability to spread hope amongst the other prisoners is as inspiring as it is dangerous. Through a series of trials, tribulations and hard decisions, Ella and Rose forge a friendship that carry them through the most daunting and dark time of their lives.
So, overall, I found this book to be an okay read. I am not alone either. Any Goodreads review will tell you that this book struck a cord with readers and has been highly praised. Take a look at the verdict here.
The characters of Ella and Rose are interesting enough and there is a good story in the plot, with some very traumatizing and sad moments, and some very lovely moments too. Look out for the wonderful scene in the barracks with the pink liberty dress with the buttons, and for the lovely moment with Tortoise the gardener on page 176.
However, for me, the YA audience is a tough crowd and even though there are many different works that impact teens in very different ways, this one was a little bit emotionally simplistic for me. The premise is good, the characters do have some depth and the context is certainly there, but something is missing.
With the likes of Jason Reynolds and Angie Thomas writing very impassioned works on highly sensitive topics with incredible depth and a resounding impact on their audience, this read doesn’t compare well. I hear you say that the two genres are different, well…yes, okay, but what about Resistance by Jennifer A Nielsen, or The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak, or The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne? These reads jump out of the page with a zest, and an emotional and psychological exuberance that manages to capture the incredible and awesome scope of the period, the chain of events that leads characters to their prime destinations, and a page-turning, gut sinking, must-read excitement that captures their audience.
For me, this book did not have this kind of impact. The dialogue is not as realistic as it could be, which, okay given the genre and the age range of this work, I guess I could see why that’s the case. However, I feel like there was an opportunity lost here for a more thorough and psychologically mature character and plot development. It felt for me almost like Adlington was holding back in the hopes of not producing a work that would scare the younger readers, but in doing so, didn’t quite raise the bar.
Now, who am I? Just a librarian, right? Maybe this is the type of book that YA readers love and read, and read, and read. Maybe I have no idea of the type of literature that appeals to this age. I certainly do however, know the incredible undertaking of actually managing to write a novel. So, with all that said, I would encourage you to pick up this book and give it a try for yourself. Maybe you get from it the thing that I missed. Clearly others love it and were thoroughly enthralled. The fact that I wasn’t shouldn’t deter you.
After all, there is a book for everyone and a reader for every book.
If you have a suggested title from this period of time, or one that you love, or another book by this author that you’d like to recommend, leave a comment.
Otherwise, keep reading, keep writing, and just for giggles, try turning off your computer / phone for a week. It’s certainly worth the while.
Until next time…..