All posts tagged: atwbooks

Baltic Countdown by Peggie Benton: Around the World in Books

My entire “Around the World in Books” adventure (and it really is that!) begin, quite accidentally with A Woman in Berlin, a German journalist’s memoir of the days that followed the Russian occupation of Berlin at the end of World War II. I’d just read “City of Women,” a full-on cinematic treatment of Berlin during the war from the perspective of an especially plucky hausfrau, and I’d wanted to find a real-life version. “A Woman in Berlin” was all that and more—I really don’t use a modifier more reverentially than “clear-eyed,” and “A Woman in Berlin” was one of the most clear-eyed books I’ve ever read. “Baltic Countdown” in some ways connects to “A Woman in Berlin,” even though author Peggie Benton’s travails are significantly less devastating than rapes and degradations suffered by AWIB’s still-anonymous narrator. Benton was a passport officer for the British government in Riga, Latvia’s capital city, during World War II, and it’s through her eyes that we see the catastrophic arrival of the Russians. Her diplomatic status of course shelters Benton …

purge

Purge by Sofi Oksanen: Around the World in Books

This was actually my first “around the world” book, and it did exactly what it was supposed to: tell me about a place I’ve never been and help me experience, in a small way, things I’ve never heard about. I’ve been dying to go to the Baltics for ages, but mostly because it seemed like they would have less expensive saunas than Finland. (No small thing, but still.) I didn’t know, until reading this book, about their long and awful occupation by the Soviets, and I didn’t know about the lingering resentments about the native collaborators—in this case, the book’s main character, Aliide. I can’t remember the last time I read a book with such a morally challenged main character, and Aliide, whom we meet as an elderly widows, does it all — worst among her many sins (and there’s plenty to choose from) is scheme to have her sister and niece deported to Russia so she would be able to pursue her sister’s husband. One of the challenges of reading this without a deep …