POVone: The First Person Perspective

Rants and Reviews on Novels Written in the First Person Point of View

Tag Archives: War

Book Review: Under the Same Blue Sky by Pamela Schoenewaldt

Author: Pamela Schoenewaldt
Title: Under the Same Blue Sky
Genre: Historical; Literary
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
Publisher: William Morrow (HarperCollins)
Number of Pages: 352
Narrator: Hazel Renner
Quality Rating: TBD

Under the Same Blue Sky by Pam Schoenewaldt

What’s It About?

Hazel Renner is the daughter of German immigrants, living in Pittsburgh at the onset of the first World War. As she grows, her family realizes that she possesses a miraculous gift of healing. Although she denies the ability and brushes it off as coincidence, her parents believe she is destined to become a doctor.

As the war breaks out and lines are drawn, German-Americans fall under scrutiny. Hazel’s family becomes increasingly torn between their new home and their heritage across the sea. To escape the chaos of the discrimination in the city, Hazel tries to find solace working as a teacher in a small town miles away. When the situation doesn’t work out, she goes off in search of the truth about her past–hidden from her as a child.

Hazel ends up working for a baron in a castle. The baron, also a German immigrant, feels the same tensions from the war as the rest of her family. In the castle, Hazel finds love in a man she remembers vaguely from her childhood. As the story progresses, the problems of the war raging across the sea manifest themselves in Hazel’s everyday life. As Hazel loses more and more to the war, she clings to the hope of having something left of herself as it draws to an end.

Should You Read It?

If you like historical fiction of the World War 1 era, you might enjoy this story. The focus is less about the war than it is about its effects on civilians. In particular, the racial discrimination that arises during wars between nations is a prevalent theme throughout. The gift of healing possessed by Hazel is not a significant plot point and serves more as a symbol regarding the brokenness of war. The story and its tone reminded me a lot of Jane Eyre. It’s essentially about a woman’s struggle to grapple with circumstances that are beyond her control. If that sounds interesting to you, you might find this to be a moving story.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

Book Reviews: Magical Realism, Peeking Between the Pages

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Pamela Schoenewaldt: Swimming in the Moon (2013), When We Were Strangers (2011)


Book Review: At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

Author: Sara Gruen
Title: At the Water’s Edge
Genre: Literary; Historical
Publication Date: March 31, 2015
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau (Random House)
Number of Pages: 368
Narrator: Maddie Hyde (Pennypacker)
Quality Rating: 76.94

At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen

What’s It About?

As the second World War wages in the world around her, Maddie spends much of her time hanging around with her husband Ellis and his best friend Hank–who have avoided service for medical reasons. When they get a little carried away and make a scene at a high society New Year’s Eve party, Ellis’s father cuts him off from the family fortune. To get back at his dad, he and Hank drag Maddie to Ireland in search of the fabled Lochness Monster. Years ago, Ellis’s father achieved infamy by faking a siting of the beast, and Ellis intends to show him up by capturing footage of the real thing.

Once thy arrive at their destination, a small hotel in a rural area near the Loch, Ellis and Hank begin searching for Nessie and visiting people who have seen the beast–often leaving Maddie by herself at the hotel. As Maddie spends more and more time with the hotel staff, she grows increasingly fond of them–to the disappointment of Ellis, who insists that they are beneath her class.

When he returns from his expeditions, Ellis is always drunk and proceeds to cruelly insult Maddie in a variety of ways. His mistreatment of Maddie leads to many confrontations with the hotel staff, including disagreements with a man who has become specially interested in Maddie. As the story unfolds, secrets come to light about Ellis’s true character, why he isn’t serving in the war, and what he really thinks of his wife. All of this latent tension leads to a dramatic to conclusion in which the monster is revealed–although perhaps not the one they were looking for.

Should You Read It?

If you like the sort of story that centers around a woman’s struggle to escape a bad marriage, this will be right up your alley. Also central to the story is the theme of social expectations and the class divisions they create. Although the novel is set in Europe at the height of World War 2, the war is a minor theme. The rich depictions of Ireland and its people are emphasized more than the time period. Also, be advised that this isn’t really about a search for the Lochness monster–that point is merely a vehicle for the development of the deep relationship conflict that fills the pages.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, NPR Interview

Book Reviews: Boston Globe, Kirkus Reviews, Chicago Tribune, That’s What She Read

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Sara Gruen: Ape House (2010), Water for Elephants (2006), Flying Changes (2005)

Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Author: Sabaa Tahir
Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Genre: Fantasy
Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Razorbill (Random House)
Number of Pages: 464
Narrators: Laia and Elias
Quality Rating: 87.98

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

What’s It About?

Laia is a “Scholar,” the oppressed class in a world divided between masters and slaves. When the remainder of her family is slain by her oppressors and her one remaining brother is taken captive, she goes out in search of the only people she believes can help–The Resistance. This ruthless band of rebels agrees to help free her brother with one condition: she must become a spy for them. Secretly working for the Resistance, Laia must become a personal servant of the most feared woman in existence–the cruel and merciless commander of the oppressive regime that slaughtered her family.

Meanwhile, Elias is graduating from the military academy to become a “Mask,” the murderous infantry of the ruling class that oppresses, exploits, harasses the slaves of the land. Elias hates the violence and despairs over the blood which will inevitably fall on his hands. Not only is he destined to become the very thing he despises, but he also has the misfortune of being the son of a mother who hates him–the commander of the army. Despite risking torture and execution, he plans to desert the empire before they can make him a muderer.

Just as he is about the leave, he is persuaded to stay by an Augur–the empire’s class of wisemen, in order to fulfill an obscure destiny. Shortly after deciding to remain, Elias and several of his classmates are selected to perform in the Trials–a prophesied and long awaited event whose victor becomes the next emperor and losers are promptly executed. As the Trials begin and Elias’s world becomes interwoven with Laia’s, both characters must fight to overcome their bleak circumstances and attain their own forms of freedom.

Should You Read It?

If you enjoy darker young adult, dystopian fantasy, you will probably love this book. It’s a lot like Red Queen and The Fire Sermon in terms of class divisions, but the divisions are less on genetic lines and more simply on political lines. Although there is a vague semblance of a love triangle, the attraction between characters is less composed of flighty romance and more composed of shared identity and purpose. The story is told in alternating narration between the two protagonists–giving the reader insight into what it’s like to be both the oppressor and the oppressed. Themes include the interplays of betrayal and friendship, slavery and freedom, cruelty and mercy, and death and survival. While classified as YA, the realities of an oppressive regime are not hidden–and the resulting tone is somewhat dismal. And, while there are certainly dystopian and fantasy elements, the writing is layered and somewhat complex–so it would also be appealing to those interested in more literary works. If this sounds appealing to you, I would definitely pick this book up.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

Book Reviews: New York Times, Kirkus Reviews, Redeye Chicago

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Sabaa Tahir: An Ember in the Ashes is Sabaa Tahir’s debut novel.

Book Review: The Given World by Marian Palaia

Author: Marian Palaia
Title: The Given World
Genre: Literary
Publication Date: April 14, 2015
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Number of Pages: 304
Narrator: Riley

The Given World by Marian Palaia

What’s It About?

Riley is a young girl living in rural Montana. As she enters her teenage years, her older brother–whom she cherishes dearly–goes off to the war in Vietnam. Upon receiving notification that he had died in combat, her life spirals out of control. Her parents grow cold and distant, and Riley gets into drugs to numb the pain.

When she’s seventeen, Riley becomes pregnant with the child of a man who goes off to the war in Vietnam and–like her brother–never returns. Unable to bear the loss, Riley leaves the baby with her parents and leaves Montana. Traveling as far west as she can go, she winds up settling in San Francisco.

Over the course of her adult life, Riley wonders around in search of herself and her place in the world. In her travels, she meets new friends and experiences new things. All along, the question looms heavily in her mind–will she have the courage to return home? Will she go back to Montana and face what she’s left behind?

Should You Read It?

The story is told in alternating first and third person perspective, with the former revealing Riley’s feelings about her circumstances and the latter shedding light on how Riley’s life fits in with the lives of those around her. The novel is largely character-driven, rather than plot-driven. Great emphasis is placed on how inescapable circumstances rule the lives of Riley and the cast of characters she encounters throughout her life. With the major theme built around the struggle to overcome tragedy and find meaning, the tone is one of aimless searching, grasping, and hoping. If all of this sounds interesting to you, I would give it a shot.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads

Book Reviews: Kirkus Reviews, SF Gate, Meanderings and Musings

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By Marian Palaia: The Given World is Marian Palaia’s debut novel.