Friday, March 28, 2014

G276 Book Review of Across Great Divides by Monique Roy

Name of Book: Across Great Divides

Author: Monique Roy

ISBN: 9780615846682

Publisher: Monique Roy

Type of book: 1930s-1940s? Germany, WWII, Young Adult, Africa, apartheid, escape, help, jewelry, diamonds

Year it was published: 2013

Summary:

Across Great Divides is a timeless story of the upheavals of war, the power of family, and the resiliency of human spirit. When Hitler came to power in 1933, one Jewish family refused to be destroyed and defied the Nazis only to come up against another struggle—apartheid in South Africa.

Sixteen-year-old twins, Eva and Inge, witness their lives in Berlin change before their eyes. Their best friend, Trudy, betrays them when she becomes a member of the Hitler Youth. A valuable family heirloom, a beautiful emerald and diamond necklace, is confiscated by the Nazis as they harass Jewish families and businesses. 

Their younger brother, Max, a member of the underground resistance, sees great danger ahead. Their father, Oskar, a successful diamond merchant, refuses to leave his beloved Germany and believes Hitler will fail. Their mother, Helene, holds her family together under dire circumstances. 

After the devastation of Kristallnacht in 1938, the family flees Germany with the help of the underground resistance after hiding many diamonds. They seek refuge in Antwerp, but war follows them as Belgium is occupied by the Germans. 

A German man, a nun, a countess, and a winegrower help the family escape Europe. They hike over the Pyrenees Mountains while eluding German patrols and Spanish informers. Then, they spend agonizing days on a ship bound for Rio de Janeiro that is targeted by a German U-boat. As Rio’s diamond business is corrupt, they decide to go to South Africa, another diamond market. 

In Cape Town, Eva encounters an impoverished colored woman, Zoe, who is in need of work. The family hires Zoe as their maid. They shield her and her daughter from the dangers they face in the slums of District Six and from the horrors of apartheid, which are all too reminiscent of Nazi Germany.

But, when Max gets into trouble with the South African police over his participation in an anti-apartheid march, will he be subject to imprisonment? 

In a thrilling conclusion, the family comes to terms with the evils of society, both in their memories and current situation in South Africa.


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Characters:

The author tries to make characters three dimensional as well as show that yes, they did grow up over time and learned valuable lessons, but again the characters are a bit on the flat side, and I feel that it wasn't explanatory as to why the father wasn't for abolishing apartheid. The main characters would be twin sisters named Inge and Eva who have "Aryan" appearance of blond hair and blue eyes. Its mentioned that they are very close and they tend to be good natured as well as generous. There is their younger brother Max who has activist blood in that he tries to get rid of unfairness wherever he sees it. Helene is the elegant and beautiful mother while Oskar is the father who is good with diamonds.

Theme:

You have more in common than you think

Plot:

This is written in third person narrative from what seems to be everyone's point of view, or at least mostly from Eva's and her friend's point of view. The stories themselves are interesting, but I often felt as if I was looking or reading something that seemed simplistic instead of something that should have been complex. I liked learning and reading about the culture of South Africa as well as thoughts and mindsets, but again, the message and whatnot is a little too simplistic for me. The book as well is more of told rather than show, which rather means that I didn't get a good grip on the characters or their surroundings.

Author Information:
(From the Kit I was given)

Monique Roy loves writing that twitches her smiling muscles or transports her to another time or place. Her passion for writing began as a young girl while penning stories in a journal. Now she looks forward to deepening her passion by creating many unique stories that do nothing less than intrigue her readers.

Monique holds a degree in journalism from Southern Methodist University in Dallas and is the author of a middle-grade book Once Upon a Time in Venice. Monique loves to travel, play tennis, pursue her passion for writing, and read historical fiction. In 2008, she was chosen by the American Jewish Committee's ACCESS program to travel to Berlin, Germany, on the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht, to explore German and Israeli relations along with 20 other Jewish professionals from across the U.S.

Monique was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and her grandparents were European Jews who fled their home as Hitler rose to power. It’s their story that inspired her to write Across Great Divides, her newest novel.

What attracts Monique to historical fiction is taking the factual record as a structure and letting imagination run wild to fill it all in. Historical fiction lets you escape to another time and place; and Monique likes to explore the past so that we can potentially better understand the future.

Her latest book is the historical fiction, Across Great Divides.

Visit her website at www.monique-roy.com.

Connect & Socialize with Monique!


Opinion:

Despite the amazing premise and summary, this book didn't really capture my imagination as I had hoped. I am trying hard to figure out a way to explain why without sounding insulting, which isn't my intention. Still, before doing that, let me mention some of the positives: I liked the research that went into the book as well as mention what was going on and how shocking it was for the main characters. I also found the comparison between apartheid and what the main characters suffered from 1930s up until 1938 to be an interesting one. Its not a combination that one often hears about as well as dares to make. What I found confusing as well as frustrating is that I am unable to decide if the book is written for young adults or for adults? For me the writing style tended to be reminiscent of a young adult novel and there is a lot of "told" scenes. I am also in a bit of disbelief that in Germany during 1930s a Jewish family that deals with diamonds is considered "middle class". Perhaps more of a clarification is needed? I will say this though; if I should have children, this will be one of the books I'll use to introduce them to the history of Holocaust as well as 1950s.

This is for Pump Up Your Books Tour

3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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