I recently read a couple of books that I enjoyed very much. I was completely immersed in the stories and couldn’t wait to get to the end. As Mother’s Day is coming up I thought I share these reads with you in case you are still looking for a present for your mum.
To Begin To Know: Walking in the Shadows of my Father by David Leser
As I am very much interested in biographies and profile writing I had researched a class at the Australian Writers’ Centre (AWC) about profile writing and made a note to register for the next course in June – held by David Leser. Around the same time, I heard about David Leser’s memoir and biography about his father while listening to the podcast of the AWC, So You Want To Be A Writer. This was one of those moments where I thought ‘this is not a coincidence.’ I went and purchased the book, read it within a few days, as I could not put it down, and decided to register for David’s course at the AWC.
To Begin To Know: Walking in the Shadows of my Father is first and foremost the account of the extraordinary life and remarkable journey of Bernard Leser, David’s father, who was born in Germany in 1925. As the child of a Jewish family he had to experience the atrocities of Nazi Germany, was bullied and banished from school and had to flee his home country eventually – only to embark on a “path of reinvention” that led him into a world of glitz and glamour in the international publishing industry where he became one of the most legendary magazine publishers. This story alone makes the book worth reading.
But David Leser adds another layer to the recount of his father’s life: with humour, courage, and honesty he reveals the story of his own life, how his father’s success has brand marked him and impacted on his development from child to teenager and adult son of a famous figure in the publishing world. I loved reading about the daily life of a young news reporter for the Daily Telegraph in the early 80s. Then, his time at HQ, where he learned “how to pen long feature articles without boring the pants off your reader.” There were passages where I laughed out loud – his assignment to write a feature about a nudist colony south of Sydney, for example – and others where my eyes filled with tears, where love and gratitude jumped at me from the pages.
Although this book is about the relationship between father and son, about how men feel and think and how they perceive their environment, I would not hesitate to recommend it to female readers. It is beautifully written, tells the interlaced life stories of a father and his son and includes the stories of many women; women who played an important role – not only in the father’s career but also in the son’s life.
A Kiss from Mr. Fitzgerald by Natasha Lester
Another book I could not put down was the novel A Kiss from Mr. Fitzgerald by Natasha Lester. I won a copy of the limited edition book proof at a Goodreads giveaway before the official launch in Australia. Three years ago, I had read Z – A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, which I had enjoyed very much. So I could not wait to read Natasha Lester’s new novel when I first heard about it – again in the AWC podcast.
I loved this story of a young woman, who fights against society’s conventions in Jazz Age New York, studying obstetrics at Columbia University’s medical school by day and becoming a member of the Ziegfeld Girl by night to make her dream come true. Determined and persistent she turns her back to her family and the stiff and constrained lifestyle of a daughter in a Victorian society’s household.
That she falls in love with the brother of the man she is supposed to marry – a handsome and very wealthy Upper East Side heir of a banking business – makes the story even more enticing. The hurdles and challenges she has to overcome every day seem not to fit in with the life of the man she loves. Will they be united in the end? I couldn’t put the book down; it has been a long time that I was so immersed in a story that I forgot everything around me. A page-turner and a story that would make a great movie, too!