Posts Tagged book review

D-Day +1

June 6th was the 71st anniversary of D-Day and the Normandy landings of 1944., dubbed the largest amphibian military assault in history. 156,000 troops landed on a 50-mile stretch of the French Normandy coastline on the morning of June 6th.  A large complex deception plan was enacted to deceive the Germans about exactly where and when the invasion would take place. This plan included fake equipment, a phantom army and fake radio transmissions. (Read more here.)

How much do you know about D-Day? Take a quiz here (I got 60%. How about you?)

I  recently read some excellent children’s stories about the European theatre of WWII, but first, here’s a remarkable video of statistics about military and civilian deaths in WWII:

I recommend the following books about WWII:

  • Ian Serrailler’s “The Silver Sword”, a fictional story but based on real accounts, this tells the tale of 4 children from Warsaw, Poland, whose parents are suddenly arrested by the Nazis, leaving the children to fend for themselves. The father is sent to a prison camp in the south of the country, but he escapes and makes his way back to Warsaw where he hears that his wife was packed off to work as a slave in Germany, and his house was blown up by the Nazis. And the children? Nobody knows anything about them, but while visiting the site of his home, the father  finds a small silver sword, a paper knife he’d given to his wife, and then he meets a strange wild boy named Jan who picks his pockets of food and demands the silver sword. On a hunch, the father gives the sword to Jan on condition that if ever Jan meets his children, he will tell them to go to Switzerland where his wife’s parents live, and where they had agreed to meet should the family be separated. Jan later does meet the 3 children and gains their trust by showing them the sword. The four of them decide to go to Switzerland. The rest of the book is about their extraordinary journey. Written for children, it avoids over-graphic descriptions, yet remains grim and realistic and does not sugar-coat anything. As such, it makes a moving and enjoyable read for adults as well. Serrailler was a school teacher, and during the war was a conscientious objector, yet his descriptions of war-torn Poland are remarkably detailed and convincing. I first read this story when I was 11, and never forgot it.
  • Parallel Journeys, by Eleanor Ayer. The personal experience of WWII, told by a German teenager who joined the Hitler Youth then the Luftwaffe, and a German Jew who “escaped” to Holland in 1939. Author Eleanor Ayer ties the two stories together and acts as an editorial voice connecting quotes from the original books by each participant, Alfons Heck and Helen Waterford, in their own words. Each chapter recounts the events in one of the two’s lives. The chapters alternate between the two characters and are in chronological order.Points that struck me: the fatal hesitation on the part of so many Jews even after the writing was on the wall; the shock when Helen realises this talk of “labor camps” must be a lie; the sickening yet totally believable naivety and fanatic enthusiasm for Hitler and his mad plans on the part of teenaged German youths; the angry good-sense from… (read the rest of my review on Amazon Japan).
  • Resistance 1, a graphic novel by Carla Jablonski (story) and Leland Purvis (illustrations), about some children living in “Free” France who hide a neighbouring Jewish boy when his parents are arrested by the Nazis. Realizing they can’t keep him hidden forever, they decide to contact the Resistance to see if they can help get him to Paris where he learns his parents are in hiding. The book is a light read for adults, but may be a good introduction to this period of French history for younger English readers. There is just one death – a Resistance fighter is killed right in front of the children – but the brooding menace of the times is felt, and the difficulties of getting children to understand the situation.
  • There’s No Escape, by Ian Serrailler. This is more of an adventure story than a war story, and everything is fictional, although the countries’ are obviously similar to European countries in the time of WWII. I inlcude it here because it is a thoroughly enjoyable read and showcases Serrailler’s extraordinary powers as a story-teller. The story is a string of upsets and unexpected twists (more or less believable). A British scientist is persuaded to rescue another scientist from behind enemy lines in Europe. He is trained in parachute-jumping and given false papers and a rendez-vous in 10 days. Everything goes wrong: he lands in a tree and wastes valuable time extricating himself. He buries his parachutist’s clothes, only to discover that he has left his map in them by mistake. He hurries back, but his clothes have disappeared! He is given refuge by a local farmer and tells them of his plans, hoping for their aid, only to fall ill and be laid up in bed for a week! One day, a “doctor” pays a visit; the doctor turns out to be the scientist our hero was supposed to look for! The farmer’s son found him. The rest of the story describes how the two manage to get themselves to the rendez-vous, only to be arrested there and miss the plane that comes to pick them up. There is another way out of the country, but it involves a high mountain pass, and the two must bring along the farmer’s wife and children or leave them to certain death.

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Traders, Guns & Money

The Bonfire of the Vanities
Image via Wikipedia

1987 – publication of Tom Wolfe‘s Bonfire of the Vanities.
1989 – publication of Michael LewisLiar’s Poker.
2006 – publication of Satyajit Das‘  Traders, Guns and Money.

A steady stream of books by traders who can write, or writers who know something about trading. The essential message of these novels, though, seems to be the same, at least as far as trading and traders go: these people who play with other people’s money, do not know what they are doing.

Someone should have told Satyajit Das that this is not a new theme. It has been done before. It will not sell. Look. It only has 42 reviews on Amazon and the average rating is a pathetic 4.5. Lame.  And in the category of Futures trading, it is dangling along at an embarrassing #31, I mean, really. The market has spoken. The world has got the message, already, and learned the lesson. They learned it waaay back in 1987. 1989 tops. And Das puts out his book in 2006? He must think investors, bankers and businessmen were born yesterday! Hellloooo! Note to Das: this entire class of folk are now savvy. They will never be duped again. No, Siree!  Really. You’re wasting your time.

Das’ novel is fiction. That’s a clue. Fiction is not true. Das could only write fiction because there are no real people like in his novels. No-one is that stupid any more. I mean, come on: if they were, then the entire world would by now be on the brink of economic catastrophe. Which is nonsense, isn’t it? So there. Read on if you must, but honestly, I wouldn’t bother.

The associate from the law firm was there. “Albert, call me Albie, everybody does.” The partner eventually arrived. Short and with a full figure, Morrison Lucre lumbered into the room. There were more introductions and civilities.

Then, it was down to business, well almost. Morrison produced four pencils and carefully sharpened each one . He then laid them carefully next to the thick legal writing pad on the table. It took about five or six minutes to complete this activity. At the hourly rates of the professionals present, I calculated that the total cost of pencil sharpening was $2,000 – about $500 per pencil. It was truly a Zen moment.

“Shall we begin,” Morrison intoned. “I think it would helpful to go over the chronology of the transaction,” I began. “Splendid,” Morrison beamed. Everybody presumably was familiar with the transactions. But we were getting paid by the hour.

“OCM is a noodle maker?” I asked. “Yes,” it was Budi’s turn to beam. He unleashed a detailed history of the company. The description was punctuated by the occasional detail supplied by Adewiko. It was irrelevant. It was not even interesting. “Let’s focus on the transactions,” I interrupted. “Splendid. Yes, let’s,” it was Morrison.

There were so many zeros that I had trouble doing the calculations on my calculator. It was Monopoly money, a lot of noodles. OCM didn’t have the money. The loss was larger then the total capital of the company. This was a small technicality.

Click to read more.

A review:
Traders, Guns and Money will be useful for anyone with connection to finance but also anyone who cares about what might be going on with their money in this mysterious world, whether it is their pension money, the money they deposit with banks or the money of companies whose shares they own. This book will tell you some of the truth of what really does go on. [Don’t pay any attention to this. The reviewer obviously doesn’t know what he is talking about.]

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