Friday, October 18, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Berlin Wolf by Mark Florida-James

Berlin Wolf
‘We must catch up with the boat,’ he urged himself. As hard as he tried, Peter was too weak to raise his body from the ground. He cried as he thought of his parents, the salty tears warming his face. After a while he heard a noise that he could not quite place. It gradually grew louder and closer. Then it became terrifyingly clear. ‘Soldiers!’ 

The bond between a man and his dog is unique. For Peter, a boy of 15, it is so strong that he risks his own life to save that of his dog, Wolfi. It is 1942. Peter is Jewish, and with his parents he is escaping the Nazis. A decision to jump into the icy waters of the River Spree to rescue Wolfi ultimately saves his own life as well, for they have been betrayed and his parents are taken. Left to fend for himself, Peter hides out in the woods, foraging and hunting. Life is tough, but he and Wolfi are together.

One day, a visitor stumbles into their den. Franz, also 15, has escaped from a labour camp. The three become close friends and have many adventures together. When they can no longer cope in the wild, they turn to a family friend, Aunt Berta. The wife of a wealthy industrialist, she takes them in. But their peace is short-lived; Kurt, Aunt Berta’s adopted son and a fanatical Nazi, betrays them. With the help of new friends, the two boys not only save themselves from capture but are able to rescue others in hiding.  - goodreads

4.75 stars!

I am so happy I read this book. And I urge everyone to go and pick it up.  Admittingly at times this book was slow at times and seemed to drag on., however I found it was a time where a slow story line worked. 

It's WWII, and Peter,  his family (all who are Jewish) and his dog Wolfi  go on faith alone to trust someone to help them flee from Nazi Germany.  Once on the boat, Wolfi falls into the icy cold river, and faced with a decision Peter jumps in and tries to save his dogs life. This decision ultimately saves his own life too as his parents are betrayed and sent to the camps. 

Peter and Wolfi go live in the woods and have to fend for themselves, giving each other a sense of comfort. Peter was also very well trained in the outdoors, knowing how to fish, make fire, etc. By knowing this and having a constant companion he survived through the winter. 
One way that helped is survival is Peter stealing a Hitler's Youth uniform and pretending to be a member, luckily he was born with blue eyes and blonde hair. Imagine for a second what this means. You are dressing up as the enemy. As the people who are spewing hate propaganda about you and your religion/race.  I can't even imagine the type of courage this would take. 

About a year later, a stranger stumbles into their camp, Franz. He is also 15 and is an enemy of the state- having escaped from one of the work camps.  Peter, Franz and Wolfi  mesh well together and begin to garner each other;s trust. So much that they leave the safety of the forest and move in with Franz family friend, "Aunt" Berta.  I loved Aunt Berta as a character along with her actress friend whose name I just cannot think of while I am writing this, and I can only hope that there were people like this during the war. 

Enter the second part of the book.  While living with Aunt Berta they face many challenge, and all the twists and turns that come about with trying to stay hidden and yet help other Jews escape/hide. My own complaint of the book is that a lot of the challenges that they faced, ended positively. I know this sounds like a weird thing to complain about, but sometimes I wanted it to end badly just so they could figure out some other way to deal with the problems and to maybe show that it wasn't always easy. 

I loved how all the characters were deeply indebted and loyal to each other. Nothing like tragedy brings you together I suppose.  I also loved that one of the main 'characters' was Wolfi. If it wasn't for him a lot of the chapters would have ended badly.  I also think it was no coincidence that Florida-James named the dog Wolfi, as it had many connections to Hitler.

I guess my final thoughts on this book is basically I really enjoyed it. It took you on a story basically about a young Jewish boy and his dog growing up in the worst possible time for them and learning how to survive in the hate filled world. Peter grows up to be what I can only assume, a fine young gentleman.  While I wished some of the challenges faced turned a bit darker, I didn't know that the next one wouldn't. 

Usually I am not a fan of war stories, especially war movies  I just don't' like them- but lately with this book and books like The Book Thief grabbing my attention, I may have to try and read a few more.   

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