Tag Archives: world war II

The Pilot and the Little Prince : The Life of Antoine De Saint-Exupery by Peter Sis

The Pilot and the Little Prince by Peter Sis Title: The Pilot and the Little Prince : The Life of Antoine De Saint-Exupery
Author: Peter Sis
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
ISBN: 9780374380694
Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography
Pages: 48
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

“The Little Prince” somehow makes it to some list or the other. It is also almost every reader’s most beloved classic. It is fondly remembered by both – the young and the old. What makes it so special? Why does the world recommend it to be read? The magic lies not only in its plot but also in the way it was written and illustrated by Antoine De Saint-Exupery. I did not know much about Saint-Exupery while reading “The Little Prince” or even after that, till I bumped into “The Pilot and the Little Prince” by Peter Sis online and knew that I had to own this book.

“The Pilot and the Little Prince” is about Antoine De Saint-Exupery, who was born in 1900, at the turn of the century when everything was new and progressing. Everything was developing. The world was in constant change mode and full of new inventions and technology, not to forget the most important invention of them all – airplanes.

The Pilot and the Little Prince - Image 1

Saint-Exupery always dreamed of flying, far and wide and beyond everything else. So much so that he learned how to fly against his mother’s wishes and decided that all he wanted to do was fly. So much so that he would even tie cloth to his bicycle in the hope of it flying someday.

The Pilot and the Little Prince - Image 2

The book is about a man’s discovery of who he wanted to be and what it sometimes takes to be who you want to be. “The Pilot and the Little Prince” juxtaposes the lives of both, Antoine and the little prince and how he got to writing this book.

What is also most surprising is that this was not his first book (contrary to popular belief) and also the fact that his other works are equally good if not more. What struck me most about the book is the way Peter Sis has encapsulated his life in forty-eight pages. Page after page, the reader is treated to the blue of the ocean, to the glow of the sky and also to the blood of the German’s assault on France in WWII, where Antoine was enlisted as a war pilot.

The Pilot and the Little Prince - Image 3

From his plane, he reflected on life and what lay before him. He thought of things magical and life that went beyond the ordinary. Antoine also read books on his plane. He just wanted to fly and write about his experiences and in 1943 of course his masterpiece, which we all know as “The Little Prince” was published.

On July 31, 1944 he took off for a flight to photograph enemy positions east of Lyon and never returned. That was the end of a writer, an aviator and a human being who only wanted to talk about what he saw and observed.

The Pilot and the Little Prince - Image 4

“The Pilot and the Little Prince” is a delightful book. It is brief, beautifully illustrated and yet takes a lot of time to read through and sink in the marvelous illustrations. This is a book meant for both children and adults. It is the kind of book that will warm your heart and yet leave you melancholic.

Here is a trailer of the musical produced by Andrew Lloyd Weber of “The Little Prince”:

Affiliate Link:

Buy The Pilot and the Little Prince : The Life of Antoine de Saint

Book Review: Chanel: An Intimate Life by Lisa Chaney

Title: Chanel: An Intimate Life
Author: Lisa Chaney
Publisher: Fig Tree, Penguin Group, Penguin Books
ISBN: 978-1-905-49036-3
Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography
Pages: 496
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

One icon that instantly comes to my mind is “Coco Chanel” and it is not because of the laurels. It is because of the life she led. So when I received a detailed biography of Chanel’s life, I jumped at it and finished it in a matter of two days. Prior to this I had seen the movie based on her life, “Coco Chanel” starring Shirley MacLaine (who by the way made a perfect Chanel in her later years) and wanted to know about the designer who ruled the fashion scene for years.

Lisa Chaney’s book, “Chanel – An Intimate Life” is the most comprehensive biography there is on Chanel’s life and I say this after the research I have done on works written on her. Chanel not only chronicles Coco’s life before she turned Coco, but also proves to be an entertaining read.

The sadness and deprivation of her early years are heartbreaking – when the family did not have enough to eat and survive. Lisa then moves on from here to her emergence into fashionable society and the love affairs that defined her, to the man she loved the most and lost (Arthur ‘Boy’ Capel), to the point when she became a brand thereby changing the face of fashion to the war years as well as the loneliness of her later years to the re-emergence of Chanel in fashion.

Chaney clearly has the extraordinary ability to enter into and make her readers also understand the lives of people who were closely connected to Chanel. The writing did get pedantic in parts; however I ignored it because the rest of it was beautifully written. I liked how the author described the times Chanel lived in and how difficult it was then for any “new fashion sense” to make its presence felt. The analysis of the artistic scene then (Dali, Picasso, Cocteau) had a great impact on Chanel’s work and Lisa has given us a brilliant take there in most chapters.

Chaney’s book is an honest attempt to detail one of the most talked about lives in Fashion. It is a moving portrayal of a strong woman who did not let go of what she thought and believed in. Chanel makes for a great read.

Affiliate Links:

Buy Chanel: An Intimate Life from Flipkart.com

Coco Chanel: An Intimate Life

Book Review: Far to Go by Alison Pick

Title: Far to Go
Author: Alison Pick
Publisher: House of Anansi Press
ISBN: 978-0-88784-238-2
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Author/Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Far to Go by Alison Pick is one of the best reads for me this year. It made me realize a lot more in-depth about the Holocaust and its aftermath, that may be I wasn’t aware of earlier (This was before reading “The End” by Ian Kershaw). The entire idea of what one man was capable of shook me to my very being. We all know about the World War II and what happened to the Jews. We all know the mercenary behaviour of one man in the face of supremacy and the idea of creation of a, “supreme race”. Based on this, Far to Go has been written and I can only say one thing: I am glad that this book was written.

Far to Go follows two parallel stories (one set in the year leading to the start of World War II and the other is set in the present). The narrative takes place through the months from 1938 to 1939, when Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia is handed over to Nazi Germany. This brings out turmoil in the city’s residents and one particular secular Jewish family of the Bauers.

The Bauers – Pavel and Anneliese are living in peace and harmony till the invasion takes place. At the beginning they believe they will be safe as they aren’t practicing Jews. However, as events begin to unfold in front of their eyes, they decide to leave the country and protect themselves and their son Pepik.

The book is told through the eyes of Pepik’s Nanny Marta, and the reader is able to see the devastating effect the painful decisions have on the Bauer family. The parents are unable to leave the country, so they send their son to Britain on the Kindertransport, to keep him safe. Kindertransport in those times was a program through which 10,000 children were sent to Non-occupied Nazi areas without their parents. Marta on the other hand is Non-Jewish and is confused with all the anti-Jewish sentiments and comments prevalent in the air. She meets Ernst, Pavel’s colleague secretly every night and gets influenced by Ernst’s comments and opinions, though she is fully aware of how the Jewish are just regular people. And yet she betrays the family she works for.

I could understand Marta’s point of view to some extent. In the sense that she was lured and only wanted to impress Ernst and how she felt for him dictated most of her actions and drove her to be the person she wasn’t. While reading that, the questions that came to mind were: Is it so easy to betray the people you once liked and loved? How strong or weak are people in the face of circumstances? Who decides people’s fates then – other people or one man?
Far to Go questions identity and race as well – What does it mean to wake up one fine day and discover that life isn’t the same anymore just because you belong to a certain race of people? How would we feel if that were to happen to us in today’s time and age?

Alison Pick writes the book with great urgency and beauty. There were portions that overwhelmed me to such an extent that it was difficult for me to read further. Certain passages that spoke of the treatment vetted to Jews literally break the readers’ heart. The intensity of the writing comes from the fact that Alison’s grandparents were also survivors of World War II and fled from Czechoslovakia to Canada. I was deeply moved by the writing and my heart went out to characters more than once and I guess that is the beauty of powerful writing.

Far to Go was nominated for the Booker Long List 2011, however did not make it to the short list. I am amazed at that. Nonetheless, Far to Go is a book that I will not forget in a long time to come. Far to Go is a moving, human tale of perseverance and sometimes of the difficult choices we make as humans.

Affiliate Link:

Buy Far To Go from Flipkart.com

Far to Go: A Novel (P.S.)

Random Acts of Heroic Love by Danny Scheinmann

This dual-time narrative follows the stories of two very different men who can’t let go of the women they love. In 1992, Leo Deakin loses his girlfriend in a bus accident in South America and struggles to get over her death, wondering how he could ever possibly move on. He sees Eleni in everything he does, yet her continued presence in his life causes him to fall into a spiral of depression. Meanwhile, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire on the outbreak of WWI, Moritz Daniecki leaves his beloved Lotte to fight the Russians. He ends up captured and placed in a Siberian POW camp, and it will take him years to trek back to Lotte after he escapes. The memory of her brief kiss keeps him going through the cold winter and the harsh life of Revolution-era Russia, but will she still be waiting for him when he makes it back to their village? And what is the link between Leo and Moritz’s tales of enduring love?

I’ve had my eye on this book for a while but I never got around to reading it until I was sent a copy. I really enjoyed reading about the “other side” of WWI. While everyone knows about what went on in Britain, the USA, Germany and even France, Russia and other Eastern European countries often get forgotten. Moritz’s story was tough and truly heartbreaking, as he devoted himself to travelling across Russia despite not knowing whether Lotte would wait for him. The descriptions of the state of the Austro-Hungarian army and the POW camp were rather horrific, and not for the faint-hearted! There were some scenes that made me feel a bit sick, but you truly understand what the soldiers experienced. Even those who have never studied this period in history will be able to appreciate this book as it gives you a flavour of the Eastern front of WWI without expecting any prior knowledge. I also loved the way that Moritz’s story was told, in his death-bed speech to his oldest son during WWII. I could almost hear his voice as I read the story.

Leo’s story, on the other hand, was told in third-person and I felt rather detached from it. While I was intrigued with the premise – a man waking up in a hospital in South America and having no idea how he got there – the mystery of his accident and Eleni’s death was solved very quickly, and I found it difficult to connect with him. I sympathized with his plight at having lost his love, but the way that he dealt with it didn’t sit well with me. Despite claiming that he was mourning Eleni, he got involved with a couple of women who he didn’t care about and it made me feel rather uncomfortable. I explained the situation to my fiancée and even he thought it made Leo an unlikable character. Leo also makes friends with Roberto, a physics lecturer, and makes connections between physics and love. These were kind of interesting, but didn’t mean a lot to an Arts student like myself! I was happy with the conclusion to Leo’s story and I warmed up to him a lot more in the last few chapters, but overall he was difficult to connect with.

This novel is worth reading just for Moritz’s story – it truly is a tale of heroic love. Leo’s is heartbreaking in its own way, even if I didn’t always agree with his actions. Don’t read this if you’re feeling sad, as the plight of Moritz and Leo will probably just make you feel worse! I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys dual-time narratives (I suspected the connection early on but it’s still worth reading to uncover it!), unusual tales of love or historical fiction. And it’s completely possible to read this without knowing anything about WWI, the Russian Revolution, South America or physics!

Random Acts of Heroic Love; Scheinmann, Danny; Black Swan Books; £7.99