Stones Don’t Speak

Stones Don’t Speak ISBN: 9781542621458, Ravenswood Press, an e-book about German occupied Norway during WW II by Gry Finsnes.

Plot: The reader is introduced to Ellen Langno, a young Norwegian concert pianist who has completed her studies in Vienna and just returned to Oslo where she is giving her debut concert. The time is October 1941and the concert is in the prestigious University Aula largely as result of help in booking from Hauptmann Roth, an officer of some power among the invading German military who has befriended her. It is highly successful but the obvious ‘help’ from a member of the hated Nazi invaders makes local residents suspicious with respect to her loyalties. She next is invited by Roth to perform for Terboven, the most recent Quisling-like ‘ruler’ at his new residence, that of the displaced Norwegian Crown Prince. In spite of wanting to refuse, she accepts and is subjected to unacceptable activities by some of the German officers literally being saved from rape by Eva, another young woman attending the concert. The two decide to join with other friends who are in the resistance movement. Roth becomes more attentive attempting to gain her aid in furthering his position in the military and as activities progress Ellen, her mother and father, move from Oslo to a small northern town purportedly to take care of her ailing aunt. From this interesting beginning, the reader embarks upon a trip through the recent past and evolving present life, of Ellen, her family, acquaintances and friends as she, and they, become involved in mounting resistance to the hated invaders. Also involved is her former fiancé, Fredrick, a violinist she had met during her studies in Vienna and actually was a large part of the reason for her return to conclude her studies after German occupation in 1940. He was an avowed pacifist who had been hiding so as not to become part of the German army. However, when she returned, she discovered he had disappeared and she was told that he had been killed. Thus, his totally unexpected reappearance as Freddie, a German soldier assigned to the same small town in the northern part of the country, was shocking to say the least. Further, his change not only in apparent beliefs but in status as a member of the hated enemy adds another dimension to the story as incident after incident occurs. There follows a fairly constant level of underlying suspense with respect to ‘what would happen to whom and when’ that continues to the end of the present volume.

Discussion: This is the second book in a trilogy with obvious entrée to the third but is a book that can stand alone. Ellen, the protagonist reminds one of the leading character in the author’s Goodbye Bombay – a well-educated, attractive, self-centered woman accustomed to attention (here as a performer) being thrust into a totally unfamiliar and distasteful situation to which she has little desire or inclination to attempt to address until the situation leaves little alternative. And, her attitude does in part offer explanation for some of Ellen’s attitude toward Freddie. In general, the story is well written but rather ‘glides over’ the deprivations suffered by the Norwegians during the German occupation, and descriptions of Gestapo activity mostly are dealt with in a rather cavalier manner. Perhaps, their activity was less extensively brutal and fear-producing in Norway than that reported as extant in all other occupied countries. Regardless, the book does provide in some ways an amusing, depiction of an overwhelming naiveté in the characters’ performance of espionage and resistance activities. Their actions would seem to have been effective only as a result of good fortune combined with sloppy efforts for discovery by individuals of somewhat lesser intelligence indulging in ineffectual attempts at doing their job as a result of overconfidence.

Conclusion: For this reviewer, this book is not as enjoyable a read as the author’s Goodbye Bombay. However, personal remembrances obviously are part of every reader’s thought processes. This volume certainly provides an appealing tale centered on a particularly disturbing time and place in history and in a location seldom visited by authors.

4* Engaging, somewhat suspenseful look at a seldom literarily visited time/place.

AHE’EY

AHE’EY ISBN: 9781370765775, a political fantasy, with pertinence to the most recent presidential election and vehement political rhetoric still so actively being pursued today in the United States, an e-book by Jamie LeFay.

Plot: The story opens with murderous activity that had occurred years previously in another civilization. Then, several activities are described as participated in by prominent players of that civilization there but with alternate introduction of activities initiated and participated in, by members within the present day United States. One of the prominent protagonists in this latter group is Morgan Lua, founder of the Hope Foundation for Empowerment of Girls established because educational procedures seem to have produced a preponderance of male scientists and mathematicians. Supported by a recently received grant of $200,000,000 to increase the number of female graduates in science, she is in New York for meetings and lectures, but is the target of a bigoted group headed by the prominent candidate for president Walter Zanus who champions the Men’s Rights Defense that women have gone too far and are hurting the advancement of boys in their traditional manly development. Gabriel Warren, a member of the CIA is assigned to keep her safe. However, the reader discovers that Gabriel is more than just CIA and that he is founder of an organization operating for good throughout the world. He also is one of the most prominent figures in the ‘other civilization’ which the reader discovers is one that is more advanced than ours and for years has been attempting to ‘prop up’ the human one we know. As the activity escalates, the reader discovers that this advanced civilization also has been beset with problems that have resulted in their population’s mere existence is resultant from the activity of a powerful woman and her largely female army. Thus, Ahe’e’s situation relatively speaking, is the opposite of the situation existing within the male dominated human population within the United States. The tale gradually progresses in a most convoluted course as it attempts to solve its own problems as well as attempting to attain a workable interrelation between the two ‘civilizations’. There is no definitive resolution and a final scene portends further agonizing struggles.

Discussion: The author has produced a surprisingly interesting plot based on a rather tenuous premise. Seventy-eighty years ago the presence of women in medical, engineering, mathematics or any science university classes was rare. Today, and for many preceding years, the prevalence and achievements of women in these disciplines have been so routine that one rarely encounters reaction of any sort to sexual difference. Thus, for any knowledgeable person, the size of Morgan’s award for study of a matter already pretty much a fait accompli, would be extremely unusual. Another somewhat disturbing feature is the length of her dissertations on numerous subjects, a matter that easily could be rectified by judicious editing. However, the most disturbing features that this reviewer fears will bring the most severe criticism are: 1) the length of time the author has used to provide an understanding of how the seemingly two widely divergent group activities would coalesce into one. (A helpful note would be to read the end-appearing Appendices BEFORE beginning the tale, as an aid to earlier understanding of development of the story itself.) 2) Perhaps even more detrimental and regrettable to the tale’s overall acceptance however, in this reviewer’s opinion, is the decidedly one-sided attitude toward the present political situation still viciously being fought and daily producing fodder for the voracious media and its various supporters/detractors. She has so obviously patterned the story’s modern day primary villain Walter Zanus, upon the prominent Republican figure of today describing him as “a complete buffoon” (pg. 62 ff.), “a sexist, bigoted, racist” and slightly later “You have an African American president in office, women and minorities are slowly gaining consumer power and there are many good progressive Caucasian men supporting them.” With the present still vehement controversy, many believers on the opposing political side will take umbrage and when followed by numerous other similarly derogatory remarks throughout the book, the author’s often confusingly presented, complex but, to reiterate, surprisingly interesting tale, regrettably will suffer from her somewhat overzealous treatment of these portions of her subject matter.

3*     4* – 1* Flawed but interestingly presented; regrettably, political choice probably will influence reader’s acceptance level.