Monday, October 31, 2011

Prisoner of War memoir

Just finished reading a memoir called The Night is full of Stars by Friedrich Schmitz-Herberg. The book was first written in German in 1949, shortly after the author's release from Soviet captivity. The English translation didn't come out until October, 2009.

This book appealed to me because both my parents were prisoners-of-war in the USSR. My mom was released in 1947 due to failing health and my father came out in November, 1949. The final transport of German prisoners-of-war from Russia, didn't go home until 1955.

My father had a friend who was captured by the Americans and spent several years in continental USA. He has fond memories of his prisoner-of-war time. Clean, white sheets and an opportunity to take courses.

Now I'm reading the diary of a Canadian taken prisoner-of-war by the Germans. Interesting to compare the experiences.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Made in Manitoba

Fellow Manitoba writer, Jodi Carmichael, has a started a Made in Manitoba series of author interviews. (Yours truly is her first guest). I look forward to reading interviews of other local authors. It's fascinating to learn how writers work to achieve their goals.

There's a lot of Made in Manitoba talent. Maybe it's our long winters, or our bright clear skies, or maybe it's the saskatoon berries, or the great Shoal Lake water, or ... whatever. We have an energized and varied bunch of authors, and there's another bumper crop just ripening.

Jodi's blog is a witty, inspiring place to spend some time. It's guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Comparing three historical books

I just noticed that the last three books I read were historical fiction. So, being into historical fiction writing myself, I thought it'd be prudent of me to take a moment and reflect on the differences and similarities with these three books.
The books are (in order of my reading them):
*Shane Peacock's Eye of the Crow
*Karen Bass's Run like Jäger
*Adele Dueck's Racing Home

Similarities:

I picked up all three at the recent CANSCAIP event in Lumsden.

All three are by Canadian authors. Peacock comes from Ontario, Bass from Alberta, and Dueck from Saskatchewan.

All three books are published by Canadian publishers. Peacock by Tundra in Toronto and the other two are published by Coteau in Regina.

All three books have a male protagonist. Peacock's book features a thirteen-year-old Sherlock Holmes. Running like Jäger has seventeen-year-old Karl. And in Racing Home the main character is twelve-year-old Erik.

All three are told as third person narrative - except for the excerpts in Bass's book where Herr Brandt shares his stories. These are told as first person.

Differences:
As you can imagine, there are many, many differences. I'll just mention the obvious.
*Peacock's story happens in 1867, in London, England.
*Bass's is set in mostly two places - Berlin and through-out WWII battle scenes - with a focus on the eastern front; and in two time periods - now and during WWII.
*Dueck's is set on the Saskatchewan prairie around 1908/9.

But in the end all three stories solve an external mystery, while learning something about themselves. Not all the mysteries were as obvious as solving a crime, like in the Peacock book. Bass's book attempts to solve the mystery of what it really was like to be a German during the war. And in Dueck's book, the external mystery to be solved is quite minor, while the emphasis is on a much deeper, inner issue. As the reader, I closed each book feeling richer because of learning something about a place and time different than my own; but also richer, because I was privy to a character's development. All three were people books - character-driven.

Aren't we all so curious about why people do things? Writers get to dig into people's psyche and try to figure out the secrets behind the actions. Whether it's fantasy, contemporary, or historical - story is like math. This plus this equals this. Oh, dear. I'm off on a tangent. Time to go.

P.S. One more similarity - all three are highly recommended!