Friday, May 17, 2013
2013 reading, books 46-48
46) Rick Steves' France 2013
More early scouting for my 2015 European trip, which continues to fill me with wistfulness that my 4-6 week dream trip of a lifetime (at least half of which will be spent in France) is going to fly by in an instant, and at best I'll see a tiny fraction of what I'd like. At this point the France plan, assuming I'll be coming in from Spain and working my way up to Belgium in time for the Waterloo anniversary, is to settle in to the Dordogne for at least 4 days, where I will eat amazing food and tour every prehistoric cave site open to visitors, head to Paris for another several days of museum and sightseeing, and then see either Normandy and the D-Day beaches or WWI battlefields around Verdun, because I probably won't have time for both. Maybe if money and work leave allow the 6-week trip, I'll be able to add Provence...or just spend more time in Paris!
47) The Way Back Home, by Barbara Freethy.
Chosen for my 2013 Rita-finalist reading challenge. Detailed commentary here.
48) Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, by Timothy Snyder.
A dense, dark recounting of the mass murder of fourteen million people in twelve years (between 1932 and 1945) by Stalin's Soviet Union and Hitler's Germany in what the author describes as "the bloodlands"--i.e. those parts of Eastern Europe that fell under both Hitler's and Stalin's sway over the course of the era, basically Poland, the Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and western Russia. Where most histories treat the various waves of murder as separate events, Snyder shows them as a kind of continuous flow from the collectivism famine in the Ukraine in the early 30's on through to the Holocaust. It's hard to take in, too horrific to make sense of, but I'm glad I read it nonetheless. And I like Snyder's closing point that it's not so much fourteen million victims dead as fourteen million times one lives ended--that each one of those people was an individual with a unique life and aspirations cut short, and the best way to honor them is to remember that, to not let them become a mass of dead as Stalin and Hitler wanted them to be.