Ruth Maier's Diary: A Young Girl's Life Under Nazism by Ruth Maier, Jamie Bulloch (Translator) and Jan Erik Vold (Editor)

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Ruth Maier's Diary: A Young Girl's Life Under Nazism by Ruth Maier, Jamie Bulloch (Translator) and Jan Erik Vold (Editor)

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Karen Inskip-Hayward
Reviewed by Karen Inskip-Hayward
Summary: An interesting insight into the life of a young Jewish woman in Nazi-occupied Norway.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 432 Date: March 2009
Publisher: Vintage
ISBN: 978-1846552144

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I was looking forward to reading Ruth Maier's Diary as I am interested in the history surrounding World War Two and its victims and survivors. I am especially fascinated by social history and how the lives of ordinary people were affected by events beyond therir control.

Ruth was born in 1920 and died on arrival in Auschwitz in 1942, aged only twenty-two. She was born in Austria and lived there with her parents and sister, Judith. But in 1939, life there was becoming much harder for Jews, so Judith was sent to England and Ruth to Norway, where she lived with the Strom family in Lillestrom.

She kept a diary from 1934 until 1942 and wrote many letters and poems, both painted and drew, and stored newspaper cuttings and photographs. These were kept by her sister Judith and her friend Gunvor Hofmo, so there is a body of evidence about her life, which reveals both her own personality and emotions, but also gives us some insight into the world situation of the time, both before and during World War II.

The foreword to the book explains how the diaries were edited and who helped in the project to finally bring Ruth Maier's words to a wider audience. She had often considered being a writer as a career goal and it seems fitting her wish has been granted, albeit posthumously.

The book itself is beautifully presented. The cover looks suitably vintage and the text is well spaced-out and organised into chronological order, with introductory resumees to explain where Ruth is at this time and the important events in her life. Copies of her poems, drawings, paintings and photos are also included, which break up the text well.

While I appreciate the amount of work that must have gone into editing the 1100 diary pages and 300 pages of letters into a book of 413 pages, I wonder about this editing process. There were many extracts I found extremely dull and wondered if they really added anything to Ruth's story. Therefore I also wondered if anything that had been omitted would have been a better choice for inclusion!

While parts of the diary really are fascinating and I did like Ruth, I also found her annoying at times and the diary extracts often came across as rather dull and repetitive. Her long, flowery descriptions of everything and everyone irritated me too, but I am someone who dislikes long-winded descriptive passages.

The most interesting section of her diaries for me is when she is living with Gunvor Hofmo, who became a famous poet in Norway. They lived together for around a year and had what I suppose was a lesbian relationship, though details are often sparse and it seems much more of a cerebral love than a physical passion.

Gunvor herself is an interesting character and the dynamic of their relationship changes over time too. At one point, Ruth is hospitalised with depression and seemingly becomes reliant on Gunvor for normality. When she is out of hospital and they live together, it seems a more equal relationship with Ruth sometimes being the stronger one.

Ruth Maier's Diary taught me quite a lot about life during World War II. I had obviously heard about the evacuations of British children from the cities to the countryside, but had never really considered that European children would be sent to other countries for their own safety. Ruth left Austria in 1939 and never saw her family again, which seems especially sad.

I also knew very little about Norway before reading this and it was informative to discover that country's part in the War. I would have liked to have read more about the effects of German troops on the streets of Norway though, as although Ruth mentions several anecdotes, I wanted to know more.

While Ruth Maier's Diary isn't perfect and I wouldn't read it again, it did tell me something new and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in this period of European history.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If you're interested in this period then we think that you might enjoy A Lucky Child by Thomas Buergenthal.

Buy Ruth Maier's Diary: A Young Girl's Life Under Nazism by Ruth Maier, Jamie Bulloch (Translator) and Jan Erik Vold (Editor) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Ruth Maier's Diary: A Young Girl's Life Under Nazism by Ruth Maier, Jamie Bulloch (Translator) and Jan Erik Vold (Editor) at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Ruth Maier's Diary: A Young Girl's Life Under Nazism by Ruth Maier, Jamie Bulloch (Translator) and Jan Erik Vold (Editor) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Ruth Maier's Diary: A Young Girl's Life Under Nazism by Ruth Maier, Jamie Bulloch (Translator) and Jan Erik Vold (Editor) at Amazon.com.

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