Mrs. Sartoris by Elke Schmitter

mrs sartorisMargarethe lives in a quiet German town with her mother-in-law, teenage daughter, and dependable but unexciting husband.  When she begins an affair with a married man, she envisions an entirely new, more passionate future for herself.  Narrated in two alternating timelines that center around one thrilling, criminal act, Mrs. Sartoris is a startling portrait of a complex female character.

Quote:
“As he looked up at me, utterly thunderstruck but also as if dragged back out of every pain and every disappointment, the thought flashed through my head that I could dismiss the whole thing as madness, a whim, just more extravagant than any other whims, a sudden nocturnal excursion, a hormonal disturbance, something absurd that had already played itself out in the first gray of dawn.  He didn’t have much imagination, almost none apparently, but even he knew that there were truths that were only valid for an hour or two, that one was capable of things in the night that one not only rued in the daylight but no longer even understood.”

Author:
Elke Schmitter is a German novelist and journalist.  Her books include Mrs. Sartoris and Minor Misdemeanors.

Published:  2000
Length:  143 pages
Set in:  Germany
Translated by:  Carol Brown Janeway

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Night by Elie Wiesel

nightWritten in spare, chilling language, Night is Elie Wiesel’s memoir of imprisonment at the Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Buchenwald, during the last two years of World War II.  He details his family’s forced removal from their home, the unexpected separation from his mother and sisters, and the deprivation and abuse he and his father suffered in the camps.  Though difficult to read at times, Night acts as important testimony to the depths of human evil — and the strength of the human will to survive.

Quote:
“For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear:  his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living.  He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory.  To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”

Author:
Elie Wiesel is a writer, professor, and activist.  Born in what is now Romania, he was imprisoned in several concentration camps during World War II.  After the war, he lived in France and then moved to the United States in 1955.

Published:  1958
Length:  115 pages
Main settings: Poland (Auschwitz) and Germany (Buchenwald)
Secondary setting:  Sighetu Marmației, Romania
Translated by: Marion Wiesel

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Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe by Bill Bryson

neither here nor thereBill Bryson first backpacked across Europe with his friend Katz (hilariously familiar to all who’ve read A Walk in the Woods) in the early 1970s.  Twenty years later, he sets out to retrace their steps.  As in any of his travel books, no country, city, or cultural icon is spared the bite of Bryson’s humor.

Quote:
“But that’s the glory of foreign travel, as far as I am concerned.  I don’t want to know what people are talking about.  I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything.  Suddenly you are five years old again.  You can’t read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life.  Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.”

Author:
Bill Bryson is the author of various travel books, including A Walk in the Woods and In a Sunburned Country, as well as non-fiction such as At Home and The Mother Tongue.  Bryson currently lives in England with his family.

Published:  1992
Length:  254 pages
Set in:  Norway, France, Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey

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