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StellaB

StellaB

Joined August 2021

review
StellaB
Books of Jacob | Olga Tokarczuk
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Bailedbailed

This is a truly great book, describing a Jewish community and religious movement in Poland in the 18th century. But I have to admit the vast number of characters and the prospect of over 1000 pages (ebook version) defeated me. I‘d like to return to this at a quieter time of year.

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StellaB
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Pickpick

At age 73 Edgar Selge (a well known German actor) looks back at his early life growing up with parents who had put their faith in Hitler and had to come to terms with reality after the war. He writes about his complex relationship with his violent father and his deep wish to respect him. I found this very moving, an incredibly honest book.

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StellaB
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Pickpick

Last in series and you can tell some extra effort has gone into it. For example, the way the killer is revealed is more coherent than in some of her other novels, where there‘s often an abrupt change towards the end in what the reader is given access to. Not my favourite series but a very pleasant read.

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StellaB
West: A Novel | Carys Davies
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Pickpick

This is a beautifully crafted short novel about a man who has lost his wife and, after reading about the discovery of some unknown animal bones, leaves his young daughter in the hands of his sister to search for these mysterious animals. The writing is very sophisticated, with a great feel for what needs to be told in detail and what can be left to the reader‘s imagination. Highly recommended!

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StellaB
The Silence: A Novel | Don DeLillo
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Panpan

This received rave reviews, but I found it really disappointing. It‘s a very stylised story of a global crisis where all phones and computers stop functioning. 5 people are stuck in an apartment together while this is happening. The dialogue reminds me of a contemporary theatre play, and in a way it‘s easiest to read the book in that way. But I can‘t say that I enjoyed it.

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StellaB
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Pickpick

No cover image because my dog destroyed the sleeve, so I had to pay a library fine but got to keep the book 😳😀I was tempted to give up on it initially, because it‘s written in that tough masculine thriller style that I don‘t normally go for. But the story about a father who loses his son to drugs and the Native American theme that is there without being in the forefront were worth sticking with, and towards the end it became a real page turner.

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StellaB
The Most Precious of Cargoes | Jean-Claude Grumberg
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Pickpick

The imagined tale of a Jewish child‘s escape from a train on its way to a concentration camp. The short, beautiful story tries to grapple with the horror of the holocaust through the simplicity of a fairy tale.

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StellaB
Great Circle | Maggie Shipstead
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Pickpick

I can see how this is wonderful storytelling. I personally didn‘t really connect with the main characters and so became less and less interested in their stories. But the different story strands are very convincing, and beautifully human.

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StellaB
Crossroads: A Novel | Jonathan Franzen
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Pickpick

Probably my favourite author, and I was really looking forward to his latest book. I found myself wondering, once again, how it‘s possible that a single writer can portray so many human experiences, emotions and thought processes, and so realistically.
One side effect of getting to know the characters‘ weaknesses and vulnerabilities so very well is that they become a little difficult to like 🙂 But overall this is an incredible achievement.

Brimful I got this one for Christmas- looking forward to it 3w
StellaB @Brimful Enjoy! 3w
14 likes2 comments
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StellaB
Oh William!: A Novel | Elizabeth Strout
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Pickpick

I love Elizabeth Strout, and this is another wonderful, if rather short book. I didn‘t always find Lucy‘s voice as convincing as in My Name is Lucy Barton, but the storytelling is once again beautifully nuanced. I really like how the characters‘ internal workings are rarely spelled out, which leaves much for the reader to discover for themselves.

Brimful Great review 3w
16 likes1 comment
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StellaB
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Mehso-so

I love Vera, the detective of this series, because she is such an original character. She is the complete opposite of any feminine stereotype, and in the other novels I‘ve read she is a very rounded human being. Here I felt she disliked everyone around her, which gave the book a cantankerous tone at times. It‘s also even more drawn out than usual. So only a ‘so-so‘ from me for this one.

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StellaB
Sankofa | Chibundu Onuzo
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Pickpick

Following her mother‘s death, Anna discovers the diary of her father, whom she has never met. She finds out that after he left her mother in London he became the president of a (fictional) West African country. Anna travels there to meet him and thus begins an eventful journey of self-discovery. I thoroughly enjoyed this and couldn‘t wait to find out how the story unfolded. The narrator Sara Powell is wonderful, very sensitive to the characters.

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StellaB
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Pickpick

A biography of sorts, but told through the eyes of a fictional biographer who interviews five people who knew Coetzee. Their perceptions of him are hardly flattering, most of them haven‘t read his books and describe him as a complete nobody. The majority of the interviews are about the interviewees themselves. Very elegant, but also very entertaining.

11 likes1 stack add
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StellaB
Dragon Teeth: A Novel | Michael Crichton
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Mehso-so

I‘ve read a few of Crichton‘s books and have been impressed every time by the great storytelling and the immense research that goes into them. By comparison I found this a little uneventful, in that some interesting storylines are opened up but not really brought to a close in any interesting way. But clearly a huge amount of research has once again gone into this story of two paleontologists in the ‘Wild West‘, their rivalry and their adventures.

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StellaB
Smile | Roddy Doyle
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Pickpick

A middle aged man returns to his hometown, and an encounter with an old acquaintance prompts his memories of school with the ‘Christian Brothers‘ and also happy memories of his wife. I listened to the audiobook, which is narrated by Roddy Doyle himself, and just perfect. The underlying despair is hinted at but rarely mentioned, which makes for a subtle read.

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StellaB
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Mehso-so

I loved quirky, sarcastic, intelligent Smilla as a first person narrator, and the underlying story is a great science / psychology thriller. But there was just too much going in for me to stick with it, and I found myself skipping chapters. I might try again another time. Definitely a book the requires patience.

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StellaB
The Christmas Pig | J. K. Rowling
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Pickpick

Hugely enjoyable! It‘s more of a proper children‘s book than Harry Potter, but even as an adult I loved her wonderful imagination.

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StellaB
Alice and the Fly | James Rice
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Mehso-so

This is written in the style of a young readers‘ book but deals with very serious mental health issues. The way society, school and family are presented is often very insightful, but I couldn‘t help feeling that the writer had bitten off more than they can chew. Still, the story will stay with me,

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StellaB
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Mehso-so

Another lovely, gentle story told in the same quiet, empathetic humour as all his other books. This time it‘s a group of old-fashioned professors fighting bureaucracy and the modern world. The characters were a little too unlikeable for me, in spite of AMS‘s best efforts. But a perfect antidote to a hectic work day.

Soubhiville Have you read the rest of this series? They are ridiculous but I find them funny. Definitely not as good as Ladies Detective Agency though. 2mo
StellaB @Soubhiville this was the first one I‘d read, I found it funny too. I really liked another recent one of his, The Department of Sensitive Crimes, 2mo
6 likes2 comments
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StellaB
Homegoing: A novel | Yaa Gyasi
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Pickpick

This is an incredibly rich novel about the many faces of slavery. It‘s great story telling, too. I got a little lost with the many characters that get to tell their story, at many different points in the timeline. But it must have been a huge undertaking to write, very impressive.

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StellaB
Murder in My Backyard | Ann Cleeves
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Pickpick

‘Inspector Ramsay‘ is an older Ann Cleeves series, I‘d recommend it to everyone who likes Vera & co. This was the 4th one I read and I really enjoyed it.

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StellaB
Sweet Caress | William Boyd
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Pickpick

An incredibly rich story of the life of a photographer, from young woman into old age, during the middle of the last century. Like other books by William Boyd that I‘ve read, the range of experiences included is vast and takes place in different parts of the world. I loved it.

12 likes1 stack add
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StellaB
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Pickpick

I can see why this became such a cult classic. The setting - an alternative world where Nazi Germany and Japan have won WWII - is the scary backdrop for the psychological and philosophical journeys of the rather diverse set of characters. For me the writing was a bit too detached and too interested in the points it was trying to make, but it‘s definitely a thought provoking book in many ways.

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StellaB
A Thousand Moons | Sebastian Barry
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Mehso-so

Unfortunately not one I‘d recommend. I loved Days Without End, and this is a sequel told from the perspective of a different (female Native American) character. It‘s very slow moving, covering the same ground over and over again, and the narrative didn‘t draw me in at all. It‘s a great set of characters, but the way their story is told here just didn‘t work for me this time.

Brimful Totally agree. I was very disappointed in this one! 3mo
StellaB @Brimful yes such a shame, I was so excited when I originally heard about it. This was my second or third attempt at reading it… 2mo
7 likes1 stack add2 comments
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StellaB
Who They Was | Gabriel Krauze
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Bailedbailed

I don‘t think I‘ll continue with this one, I‘m finding it just a bit too mundane. It‘s the story of a young person growing up in a rough London estate. The audiobook is read by the author and feels very authentic.

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StellaB
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Pickpick

The tagged book was another great Vera story. Only 3 left that I haven‘t read 😱

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StellaB
Mrs. Caliban: A Novel | Rachel Ingalls
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Pickpick

I really enjoyed this, more of a fable than a novel perhaps. A long suffering wife‘s life changes dramatically when one evening a frogman walks into her kitchen. Told in a completely matter of fact style, and at the same time very emotional in its joy and sadness. Very glad I came across it.

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StellaB
Love Is Blind | William Boyd
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Pickpick

Entertaining story about a man whose love for a mysterious woman leads him across Europe and into many adventures. It‘s maybe not as rich in historical and political detail as many of William Boyd‘s other novels, but very enjoyable.

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StellaB
A Little Life: A Novel | Hanya Yanagihara
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Pickpick

A real masterpiece. It feels silly to try and review it in a few words. But up there with the best books of recent times.

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StellaB
Bailedbailed

This didn‘t really speak to me, perhaps I just wasn‘t in the mood for a book about social awkwardness and self analysis. Interesting how there are different styles being used, although some of them seemed a little contrived, such as the emails.

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StellaB
Restless | William Boyd
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Pickpick

The story of a British spy during WW II interwoven with that of her daughter who is a language teacher and single mum in present time Oxford. The storytelling is very skilled. If I had any criticism it would be that the main characters, while female, still seem drawn from a masculine point of view. But it‘s a great spy novel.

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StellaB
I Am An Island | Tamsin Calidas
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Bailedbailed

The autobiography-inspired story of a woman moving from her hectic life in London to a small Scottish island. I bailed on this after a couple of hours of listening, I found it just a little predictable and maybe a tiny bit naive. But it‘s beautifully read by the author.

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StellaB
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Pickpick

The story of three women, grandmother, mother and daughter, set partially in China and partially in the US. It‘s beautiful and very emotionally sensitive, with interesting historical references. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

7 likes1 stack add
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StellaB
Man V. Nature | Diane Cook
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Pickpick

I really liked The New Wilderness and had wanted to read these short stories for a while. Most of them are set in some kind of future society that is even more cruel than ours - in fact, if I had any criticism it would be that many of the stories have no single likeable character. But they are all very original and reflect back to us what the world could become if we‘re not careful.

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StellaB
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Pickpick

Very powerful and very violent. A soldier is trying but failing to deal with a traumatic experience in war. The writing style is graphic and repetitive, which creates an obsessive atmosphere. In the 2nd half we learn about his life before the war, and the book becomes more bearable. Other parts are told in parables and in magical realism. The overall impression is of a trauma so horrific that the story, and the soldier‘s mind can‘t contain it

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StellaB
The Comedians | Graham Greene
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Pickpick

A masterful, typical GG novel: a detached British white male in a colonial setting who is trying not to get involved, but who cannot escape life completely. Hotelier Brown returns to a chaotic and autocratic Haiti. He meets the Smiths, an American couple who want to bring vegetarianism to the world, and Jones, a supposed Major. They all try their luck in Haiti. The story is sad and beautiful, but the colonial view of the world is hard to stomach.

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StellaB
Rage | Bob Woodward
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Pickpick

I‘m glad I listened to this, although it felt a little behind the times already, even though it ends in summer last year! The first half is a little incoherent but broadly covers relations with North Korea; the second half details the development of COVID in the US. I really liked how Bob Woodward refrains from judgment (except for the Epilogue), letting sources speak for themselves. Very impressive research, just a tiny bit repetitive at times.

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StellaB
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Mehso-so

The story of a woman who grows up in slavery in Jamaica, is taken to London, given away as a servant and eventually put on trial for murder. The brutality of slavery and the powerlessness of the female characters really comes through. But the book felt to me like a conglomeration of many other stories I‘ve read that deal with these themes and possibly do so more originally. I believe this is a debut novel, so definitely a great achievement.

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StellaB
Braised Pork | AN. YU
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Pickpick

A beautifully sensitive story of a woman who rediscovers herself after her husband‘s death. As the story develops there is increasing magical realism, which I am not normally a fan of, but it works well here. The writing is slightly detached and very elegant, and the many snapshots of mundane human interaction are observed with a lot of nuance. Beautifully narrated by Vera Chok.

Brimful I loved this book. 4mo
StellaB @Brimful Me too, it was great as an audiobook. 4mo
4 likes1 stack add2 comments
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StellaB
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My first in person library visit in 18 months 🎉 I‘m especially looking forward to the tagged book, it comes with lots of recommendations.

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StellaB
The Darkest Evening | Ann Cleeves
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Enjoying another Ann Cleeves crime novel in the Saturday sunshine.

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StellaB
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Pickpick

A very gentle crime novel, with lots of gentle humour and gentle discussions of philosophy on almost every page. I had stopped reading Alexander McCall Smith‘s books for a while because I had found them all quite similar. But it‘s lovely to be reminded of his beautiful and thoughtful writing style. This was a real pleasure to read.

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StellaB
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Mehso-so

A charming classic detective novel, introducing Hercule Poirot. I really liked the gentle humour, but the pure ‘whodunit‘ style means that the characters are mostly there to provide clues 🙂

7 likes1 stack add
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StellaB
Small Island: A Novel | Andrea Levy
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Pickpick

The story of two young Jamaicans who come to England in 1948 and their English landlady. Each character is drawn with strengths and flaws, and above all, dreams for a better future for themselves. It‘s often an uncomfortable read due to the horrendous racism the characters encounter from the ‘Mother Country‘. I learned a lot about England after WW II.

CarolynM Great book 4mo
12 likes1 comment
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StellaB
Transit: A Novel | Rachel Cusk
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Bailedbailed

Really interesting way of telling a story, through conversations the character has with others. In the end, that way of writing was a bit too impersonal for me to feel involved in the book, but I can see how this is very well crafted.

SamAnne I just finished the first in the series, Outline. I enjoyed it, loved the telling and the writing… it sure if I will jump into the next in the series soon though. 4mo
StellaB @SamAnne Maybe I should have started the trilogy at the beginning 🙂 (edited) 4mo
6 likes2 comments
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StellaB
The Absolutist | John Boyne
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Pickpick

John Boyne has so much empathy for his characters, and this is another very sad and very emotional story. Towards the end I found the plot a little too desperate to inflict the worst possible pain on the main character, but the emotions are beautifully told. I really enjoyed reading this.

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StellaB
Shuggie Bain | Douglas Stuart
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Pickpick

Reading this was quite a painful experience because of the hopelessness and destruction of the characters‘ lives by poverty and alcohol. The children‘s love for their alcoholic parents, and the way they dedicate their young lives to saving them, is heartbreaking.

Cathythoughts Such a good book ❤️💔 5mo
Tanisha_A My absolute favourite of the year. It had me in knots so many times. 😭 (edited) 4mo
StellaB @Tanisha_A Me too, it will stay with me for a long time. 4mo
8 likes3 comments
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StellaB
Shuggie Bain | Douglas Stuart
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Really glad I‘m finally reading this. I was worried it would be very dark, which it is, but 70 pages in I really care about the characters.

Cathythoughts I did love it 💔 5mo
7 likes1 comment
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StellaB
The Absolutist | John Boyne
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I love John Boyne, but last time I picked this up I couldn‘t get into it. Now really enjoying the audiobook.

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StellaB
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Mehso-so

A so-so for me, some parts I found less interesting, such as the essays on her own writing. But I learned a lot from the pieces on her childhood in East Berlin and the effects of German reunification on her life:

“Freedom wasn‘t given freely, it came at a price, and the price was my entire life up to that point. … From that moment on, my childhood belonged in a museum.” (p. 22)