52 Books Challenge: March

Oh, 2017. We started off so well, with a whopping 7 books down in 1 month, and high hopes for the rest of the year’s 52 Books Challenge. But now it’s nearly the end of March and I have read 2 books this month. 2. Whoops! They were also a little bit politically charged, with highly controversial topics covering Hitler and anti-Semitism. In fact both books had a heavy influence on both, so this may not be your cup of tea if you’re not after a spot of heavy reading! But if you fancy something intriguing and thought-provoking, then I would recommend checking them out…

Look Who’s Back by Timur Vermes

This is a controversial one, make no mistake! So Phil picked this book up in Brighton in February and it really tickled him. He was laughing the whole way through, so I had to give it a read when he was done. Basically, Adolf Hitler wakes up in 2011. (Yeah, I know, but hear me out). He is alive, but the world he wakes up in is barely recognisable to the Germany he left behind in 1945. While struggling to fit into this new world he unwittingly attracts the attention of a television company, his impeccable ‘performance’ as Hitler goes viral, and all of a sudden he has his own TV show, and a whole new platform to broadcast from…

The whole book is written from Hitler’s POV, and it is unflinching in terms of the topics mentioned: from foreigners to the Jews to the problems he finds with modern day Germany. Yet at the same time there is a strange kind of naivete to Hitler (yes, I’m aware of how bonkers that sounds), and I genuinely found myself feeling a little bit sorry for the man caught so out of his time and trying to catch up with 70 years of history which tarnished his name beyond all reckoning. He is portrayed in this book as a man who just sticks unwaveringly to his beliefs, and who doesn’t see anything wrong with his actions, which I think is partly why I feel sorry for him. He’s almost childish in a way, which makes for very conflicting emotions when reading! Anyway, it’s a very complex book to try and explain, but it is so clever and if you like satire and talking point books then definitely give this one a go! ★★★

The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

This book so reminds me of the feeling pervading the international air since the election of Donald Trump. It’s an alternate world story where America never entered the Second World War. In this version of history Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) was defeated by famous aviator Charles A. Lindbergh in 1940. Lindbergh was a national hero for making the first successful solo transatlantic airplane flight in 1927. When he throws his hat in the ring to be President, he (rather like a certain other man who springs to mind) is about the most unlikely politician imagineable. His opponents dismiss him as a wildcard, an impossibility. But he captures the hearts and votes of the American people and wins a landslide victory. And from there America begins its dark metamorphosis…

Part of Lindbergh’s appeal is the isolationist rhetoric and staunch opposition to America taking part in a European war which he felt had nothing to do with the USA. In real life Lindbergh was very anti-war and a little too friendly with Nazi Germany, a little too vocal in his support of Hitler and in his criticism of FDR and the Jews. In reality he was denounced and fell out of favour. In this story, however, America stays out of the war, signing a friendly pact with Germany not to enter into the conflict, and slowly America’s Jews begin to feel the repercussions of his actions. Roth’s main character is named for himself, and is a 9 year old Jewish boy living with his family in Newark. This makes his narration slightly jarring at times, and a couple of times I found myself wondering how reliable a narrator he really was. But I loved that by doing this the story looked at the fallout for everyday, normal Americans, and how they came to terms with feeling like strangers in their own country. This is such an intriguing book, and as with Look Who’s Back, it cannot fail to make you think. ★★★

 

I hope to make a little more progress on my challenge in April – with only 12 books read in total so far I’m going to have to work hard to make some headway towards the 52 marker before the end of the year! If you’ve read these books let me know what you thought of them, and please send your recommendations my way!