Claudia Moscovici

Review of Becoming Alice: A Memoir by Alice Rene

 

Hailed as “a deftly written memoir that will hold the reader’s attention from beginning to end” by the  Midwest Book Review and described as “a magnificent memoir and an impressive, courageous piece of work” by Writers Digest Magazine, Alice Rene‘s Becoming Alice: A Memoir deserves every word of praise it got…and more. The memoir begins with a description of the Anschluss, when Hitler annexed Austria to the Third Reich in 1938.  Becoming Alice describes the impact of these tragic historical events upon Austria’s Jewish population from the perspective of a six year old girl named Isle.

Isle and her family watch helplessly as the Nazi soldiers march down their street in Vienna. Faced with discrimination and the threat of deportation, they’re obliged to flee Austria for fear of worse. Taking only their most basic belongings, Isle and her father, mother and older brother Fredi risk a difficult journey through Stalinist Russia, at war with Germany, to eventually make their way to Portland, Oregon. The memoir reflects historical fact, but it’s as well written as the best of novels. In fact, Becoming Alice is reminiscent in subject and narrative voice of The Diary of Anne Frank.

Alice Rene’s autobiographical narrative skillfully captures the girl’s limited and innocent perspective as she lives through one of the most inhumane and incomprehensible moments in human history. While Isle and her family are quite fortunate to have escaped the Holocaust, finding themselves as new immigrants in the U.S. is no easy matter either. As Isle adapts to the new culture and craves acceptance and assimilation, she becomes increasingly critical of her family dynamics: particularly of the interaction between her overbearing father and submissive–yet also, in some respects, incredibly strong and resilient–mother.

By the end of the narrative, when she’s already in her teens, Isle succeeds in Americanizing not only her name–which she changes to Alice–but also her whole identity and outlook. She doesn’t forget, however, her original culture, nor the historical calamity that brought her family to the U.S. This is a riveting story : a memoir that reads like a novel about a moment in history that we should never forget.

Claudia Moscovici, literaturesalon

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February 28, 2011 Posted by | Alice Rene, Anschluss, Austria, Becoming Alice, Becoming Alice: A Memoir, book review, books, Claudia Moscovici, fleeing Hitler, Hitler, Holocaust, Jewish immigrants, Nazi, Nazi regime, review of Becoming Alice, Third Reich, WWII | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Review of Becoming Alice: A Memoir by Alice Rene

More Than A Mystery: Bill Ectric’s Tamper

 

Good mysteries are never just mysteries. They’re usually a combination of engaging literary fiction with compelling characters, an interesting plot with twists and the skillful layering of several genres, including history, mystery, and, in the case of Bill Ectric‘s novel Tamper, also a dab or two of the paranormal. Whit, the narrator of the novel, is on an expedition to understand his past: a mystery revolving around the dissapearance of his friend, Paul Clemmons. He has an ominous dream about a bag of bones left on the side of the road and engages his friend, Roger, who co-edits their newspaper The Astral Beat, on an investigation that touches upon the paranormal.

Although his psychiatrist, Dr. Carnes, discourages such irrational inquiries, in this novel, like in the hit television series, The X Files, it’s the rational explanations that seem most implausible and the supernatural ones that appear to be the most rational hypotheses to explain an unsettling series of events. Olsen Archer, an endearing and once famous mystery writer past his prime, encourages the young men’s investigations of paranormal events.

While the novel takes readers on a journey filled with mystery and intriguing speculations, it also offers a compelling love story between Whit and his girlfriend Nancy as well as a historical snapshot of a young man’s rite of passage into adulthood during the early seventies. Like Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, the secrets of Tamper will keep readers engaged and are worth probing.

Claudia Moscovici, literaturesalon


February 25, 2011 Posted by | Bill Ectric, book review, book reviews, books, Claudia Moscovici, contemporary fiction, mystery, paranormal, Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Tamper, The Sign of Four, The X Files | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on More Than A Mystery: Bill Ectric’s Tamper

UNKNOWN Should Be Known: Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

 

Jaume Collet-Serra‘s new movie Unknown, freshly released in theaters yesterday (February 18, 2011), definitely deserves to be known to viewers, internationally. This movie, based on a French novel by Didier van Cauwerlaert, with screenplays in English by Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell, has incredibly compelling characterizations and puts the “thriller” back in the rather formulaic genre of spy thriller.

Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) arrives in Berlin for an important Biotech conference where his German colleague  is about to release a new type of corn that adapts to any climate. This important discovery will help alleviate world hunger. After the couple reaches the hotel, Dr. Harris realizes that he forgot a briefcase with valuable secret information. On impulse, he takes a taxi back to the airport to retrieve it. On the way, he has an unexpected accident that lands the taxi into a river. Gina (Diane Kruger), an Albanian immigrant who is his taxi driver, saves his life and disappears before the police shows up.

After he recovers from a brief coma, Dr. Harris goes back to his posh hotel, only to discover that his wife, Elizabeth (January Jones), is at a reception with another man who claims to be the real Dr. Harris. To his shock, Elizabeth denies knowing him. The rest of the plot, filled with twists and suspense–but above all with strong character development–follows Dr. Harris’s efforts to reconnect with his wife, reclaim his stolen identity and elude the hitmen who are out to get not just him, but also anyone who seeks to protect him.

Liam Neeson plays his role compellingly, as a human being one can relate to not just another action hero. Diane Kruger, cast in the role of the Albanian taxi driver, is just as rich and multidimensional in her acting. She’s probably the most sympathetic character in the movie, as she reveals real courage and integrity in her efforts to protect Harris. An equally compelling character is a former Stasi agent, played by Bruno Ganz, who helps Harris figure out the machinations of his adversaries and their real identities.

The excellent acting, as well as elements of the plot, call to mind the unforgettable German movie, The Lives of Others (2006), directed by Florian Henchel von Donnersmarck. To top off the excellent acting and sustained dramatic tension, Unknown has a plot twist at the end, that is as surprising as it is believable. From beginning to end this movie, which is amazingly well directed and acted, will leave viewers at the edge of their seats. This is a five star movie, all around.

Claudia Moscovici, Notablewriters.com

February 19, 2011 Posted by | Bruno Ganz, Claudia Moscovici, Diane Kruger, Didier van Cauwerlaert, Florian Henchel von Donnersmarck, January Jones, Jaume Collet-Serra, Liam Neeson, literature salon, literaturesalon, movie reviews, Oliver Butcher, Stephen Cornwell, The Lives of Others, Unknown | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on UNKNOWN Should Be Known: Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

Book Review of Trivial Pursuits? by David K. Israel and Jennifer Byrne

 

There’s no easy or standard way in which human beings cope with loss. The process of mourning can pull families together or tear them apart. David K. Israel’s and Jennifer Byrne’s new novel, Trivial Pursuits?, reveals how two families deal with one of the most difficult and non-trivial aspects of life: the death of their loved ones. Although written in a realist style, with three-dimensional characters that readers can easily relate to, the structure of the novel has some postmodern, Robbe-Grillet, elements to it in the way it intertwines, in an almost accidental meeting, the two distinct strands of the plot.

One strand traces the life of Fareed, an endearing fifteen year old Druze boy from Israel, whose mother died tragically of breast cancer. He spends his life in an R.V. touring L.A. with his father, memorizing trivia in the hopes of landing a spot on the popular show Jeopardy! Teen-tour.

Incidentally, for the history buffs out there, the novel offers a fascinating depiction of the Druzes, people of Arab origin (perhaps with Jewish roots, some experts claim) that remain loyal to every country they live in. For this reason, as young Fareed explains, the Israeli Druzes are the only Arabs who enroll in the army to defend the state of Israel. This is a very interesting choice of narrator: one that crosses ethnic, religious and cultural boundaries in unexpected ways, especially given that the political situation in the Middle East is such a polarizing topic.

The second strand of the novel follows the lives of Amy and Greg, a couple who live a few miles away, in the Valley. Their marriage initially faces the challenge of not being able to have a baby (naturally) together, then the sudden death of their adopted child, P.J. To cope with their loss, both families undergo a difficult process of mourning. The only question is: will this pull them together or push them apart?

While Amy finds temporary solace in a casual but torrid lesbian affair with Lynette, Fareed experiences his first true love with an older girl named Eos. Their paths cross as Eos meets Amy and Lynette, but eventually the two sets of lives move in different directions. You can read this intricately woven and moving novel about loss and regeneration online, by purchasing it on Amazon.com Kindle Edition or by sampling select chapters on Neatorama’s Bitlit, on the link below:

http://www.neatorama.com/bitlit/category/trivial-pursuits/

Claudia Moscovici, literaturesalon

February 2, 2011 Posted by | bitlit, book review, book reviews, books, Claudia Moscovici, contemporary fiction, David K. Israel, Jennifer Byrne, literature, literature salon, literaturesalon, love, love story, Neatorama's Bitlit, new fiction, novel, novels | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Book Review of Trivial Pursuits? by David K. Israel and Jennifer Byrne