What draws me to novels and TV shows/movies about the world at war – Review of Wolf by Wolf and The Book Thief 

I’m nearly always late to the party (but only figuratively, I generally make sure I get to class or any event with 10 minutes to spare or exactly on time). For example, I read the complete Divergent and Hunger Games trilogies in 2014. Thanks to an enthusiastic friend. She made me discover a secret fondness for novels with romantic aspects.

Similarly, The Book Thief has been out for over 10 years and I have neglected to read it, and instead just watched the film…sinful, I know.

However, it was different with Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin (which came out in 2015). Honestly, I probably would never have picked it up since I hadn’t heard of it before my sister gave to me as a birthday present. I’m pretty much out of the loop in all aspects of life. And that novel is one of the first novels she’s given me that I’ve actually read.

The blurb of this novel really grabbed me:

“Once upon a different time, there was a girl who lived in the kingdom of death. Wolves howled upon her arm. A whole pack of them – made of tattoo ink and pain, memory and loss. It was the only thing about her that ever stayed the same.

Germany, 1956. Over ten years since the Nazis won the war.

Seventeen-year-old Yael is part of the resistance, and she has just one mission: to kill Hitler.

But first she’s got to get close enough to him to do it.

Don’t read the following italic text (context/summary) if you want avoid spoilers:

You follow Yael’s journey from being a death camp prisoner to her escape and eventually being trained up, then sent to win the Axis Tour – the annual motorcycle race across the continents. The prize is an audience with Hitler at the Victor’s ball in Tokyo. And Yael is no ordinary girl. She has lives with the rare ability that the Angel of Death gave her.

I actually sat down to read Wolf by Wolf several weeks ago and shut the book after a few pages because it didn’t initially seem like a style I normally read. Why? Because it seemed like something I would have read when I was 14 or 15 rather than now. But then I tried it again and on Thursday I finished it.

I stuck with it because of the fascinating and likeable characters which are gradually unravelled, and the plot was nothing like anything I’ve read before. Yes, it’s set during the mid 1950s and yes, it’s about an alternate world where the Axis powers won World War Two, but it’s different. Full of action too. There’s humour, strong female characters, and plot twists I naively hadn’t expected, just like poor Yael. What more can you ask for?

Wolf by Wolf’s basic concept reminds me of The Man in the High Castle (a fantastic TV series which I recommend. It’s on Amazon prime) as it’s about what it might’ve been like if the Allies lost World War Two, and Japan and Germany took over the US. Spoiler of the beginning: Juliana Crain, witnesses her half-sister Trudy Walker’s murder at the hands of the Kempetai. Juliana discovers Trudy was a member of the resistance and receives a strange film. She makes the life-changing decision to travel to the Neutral Zone in order to deliver the film that was part of the mission Trudy was supposed to be on.high castle

And I really like this kind of subgenre or whatever it’s called for a two reasons that I can think of:

  • I like German(y) and history, both of which I studied at school. (While we’re on the topic of war, I strongly recommend Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – British character perspectives – and to to sum it up: espionage and heartbreaking.) I like German because: I was always forced to learn French; my year 5 teacher was awesome and gave us lebkuchen and stollen at Christmas; when I was 9, we had two lovely German exchange students over. I didn’t like the subject History though because you have to learn what are largely monotonous details of whatever’s on the curriculum. I prefer dipping into historical events and getting the funny trivial facts. code name verity
  • I also like Japanese stuff – the language, the culture, the history is just so interesting. When I was in my lower-mid teens I was absolutely obsessed with the Young Samurai series by Chris Bradford, and The Hidden Kingdom by Ian Beck since they are about olden day Japan.IMG_9422.JPG

I’m sure as most films are not as accurate/scintillating (such as the Harry Potter franchise, according to some readers, though I wouldn’t know because I grew up watching the films and not reading the books because they seemed like effort), in my opinion, that The Book Thief novel must be really good but I still adored the film in its own right.  And I thought it would have a happier ending. Which sounds kind of stupid in hindsight because the film’s set in World War Two.

The Book Thief is titled after the protagonist, Liesel Meminger, who is assigned a foster family (the Hubermanns) on Himmel Street, next door to the Steiners where the comical and ever-tenacious Rudy lives. Liesel develops an obsession for reading.

I think it’s great because it’s from the perspective of the ordinary people in Nazi Germany. (My friends used to just associate Germans with Hitler and that saddens me.) And also because it’s narrated by Death itself.

I love who was cast for the film – as soon as he came on screen, I recognised Geoffrey Rush (who plays Liesel’s kind foster father) from The King’s Speech.

So are you going watch it? One spit is yes, two spits no (Book Thief reference). Anyway I hope you enjoyed my review, happy reading/watching!

Notes: The book cover and TV series/film poster pictures are not mine and the photo of the books on the bookshelf is.

Song: Revolution by Trading Yesterday (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4J2KJP3ZV5E)- I’ve been listening to their More Than This album all week, it’s emotive and relaxing


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