Love and War in the Apennines (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob.

Love and War in the Apennines, by Eric Newby (1971).  First, a word about how I came to discover this book.  In the course of internet surfing, I came across a website for Slightly Foxed, an independent British quarterly devoted to books, especially books that have been forgotten and fallen out of print.  Additionally, Slightly Foxed republishes worthy books that have fallen out of print.  Curious, I subscribed to the journal and for good measure ordered a few of its reprints.  Love and War in the Apennines is the first one I’ve read, and it is pretty good.  It’s a memoir in which Newby tells part of the story of his experiences as a young British soldier during World War II.  In August 1942, he was part of a woefully underpowered band of soldiers sent to knock out a Nazi base in Sicily.  The mission flopped, and the Italians took Newby prisoner and shipped him off to mainland Italy.  Most of the book is about what it was like to be a prisoner of war and then a fugitive hiding in the Apennine Mountains after the Italian government collapsed in September 1943, all the POWs escaped, and the Germans took over.  Also, shortly before his escape, Newby met and fell in love with a Slovenian woman living in Italy; thus, the title.  It’s a good read, and very impressive to a not-very-courageous couch potato like me.  Newby wrote another memoir about his life after the war called Something Wholesale, and I look forward to reading it someday.

From Fire by Water: My Journey to the Catholic Faith (book review)

Book review from The Movie Snob

From Fire by Water: My Journey to the Catholic Faith, by Sohrab Ahmari (2019).  The subtitle tells you most of what you need to know about this book.  It’s an autobiographical conversion story.  That may not be your cup of tea.  But if you give it a chance, I think you’ll find it interesting, because Ahmari is a good writer and has an interesting background.  He was born in Iran, and his childhood years there coincided with the early years of the Khomeini regime.  Then his mother moved to America (Utah!) and took young Sohrab with her.  His stories about growing up in America and trying out various left-wing ideologies are interesting.  At 207 pages, it’s a quick read.  I would have liked to learn more about Ahmari’s wife and what she thought of his becoming Catholic less than three years after they got hitched.

The Landmark Julius Caesar (book review)

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

The Landmark Julius Caesar: The Complete Works, translated and edited by Kurt A. Raaflaub (2017).  The complete works and then some – this volume contains not only the ten “books” Caesar wrote about the Gallic Wars and the civil war he fought with Pompey, but also four other books about Caesar’s campaigns that were written by other authors.  The translation is very readable (I’m in no position to judge its accuracy), and the stories are generally quite interesting.  Sure, I occasionally got lost among the many proper names for places, tribes, and people I’d never heard of before, but I didn’t sweat that.  One thing was a hoot – Caesar mentions the two soldiers at the center of the HBO miniseries Rome, by name, for their courage during a particular battle in the Gallic Wars!  They were real people!  Anyway, this edition is a massive chunk of a book because it contains lots of introductions, footnotes, maps, pictures, and appendices.  I read the introductions and lots of the footnotes, and they added a lot to the stories.  If you’re into the swords-and-sandals genre of history, this is a must-have.

I’ll Be Damned (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob.

I’ll Be Damned: How My Young and Restless Life Led Me to America’s #1 Daytime Drama, by Eric Braeden (2017).  If you’ve ever watched The Young and the Restless, you know that Victor Newman makes Montgomery Burns look like a boy scout.  Victor, played by the 77-year-old Eric Braeden, is a cutthroat cosmetics tycoon who doesn’t think twice about, say, having his business archrival kidnapped and replaced by a lookalike (who also happens to be a South American drug kingpin).  But Braeden’s real life story, told in this memoir, is almost as unlikely.  Born in Germany during WWII, Braeden (actual name Hans Gudegast) emigrated to America as a young man, bounced around for a few years, became a successful actor playing German heavies in shows like Rat Patrol, did a few movies (including a key role in Escape from the Planet of the Apes), and then found his niche on The Young and the Restless.  He’s a little defensive about being a soap star, and the book occasionally feels like an exercise in name-dropping, but I thought it was an interesting read nonetheless.

The Diary of a Young Girl (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob.

The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank.  I had never read this famous book before, but when I signed up for a vacation trip to Amsterdam I figured I should read it first.  I got about halfway through before my trip rolled around, but that was enough to help give me some context when I visited the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam.  I finished the book over the course of the trip.  Anyway, it is an interesting book, and Anne comes across as a lively, spirited, and strong-willed teenager.  It does get a little repetitive, perhaps, but how could it not, given that Anne lived in hiding in a tiny space with the same group of people for two years?

Churchill (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob.

Churchill, by Paul Johnson (2009).  This is a biography of Winston Churchill, and it is only 168 pages long.  If you think that sounds like an impossible feat of compression, you are correct.  It is just too short to give any sort of real flavor of perhaps the greatest man of the twentieth century.  I have enjoyed some of Paul Johnson’s other books, especially Modern Times, but this one just didn’t do it for me.  On the plus side, though, it is a very quick read….

Caesar: Life of a Colossus

Book review from The Movie Snob

Caesar: Life of a Colossus, by Adrian Goldsworthy (2006). This is biography at its finest. Goldsworthy truly brings Julius Caesar and all of ancient Rome to life in this roughly 500-page treatment of the great general’s life and career. It is exceptionally well-written, contains a sprinkling of helpful maps and diagrams illustrating some of the most important battles, and has some nice black-and-white photos in the middle of Roman artwork depicting Caesar and the other main players in the saga—Crassus, Pompey, Cicero, Marc Antony, Cleopatra, and of course Caesar himself. If you have any interest at all in ancient Rome, you will love this book.