Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Review: 'Felice's Worlds' by Henry Massie

This review is part of the 'Pump Up Your Book' blog tour.
'First she escaped the Holocaust and the poverty of the Shtetl. After that, she moved in many worlds and in every one she made her mark.
Felice Massie was a student in France, caught up in the horrors of nazism when she was 20 years old. Cut off by the war from her family living in a small village in Poland, she shifted from one country to another, attempting to find a gome for herself and a means to rescue her parents, brother, and sister. As the Holocaust descended on her shtetl, she arrived penniless in America. Over times she raised a family and amassed one of the foremost collections of American modern art. Her boldness and resilience became a beacon of hope and inspiration for others. 
One of the things I enjoyed about this book were the way Massie described the setting, especially Palestine. I have always wanted to go to Jerusalem, because my parents met there, to Haifa and to Tel Aviv. And thanks to Massie I feel as if I was really have spent time walking around these old cities, could smell the different spices and hear the many different languages. Sometimes authors get lost in their own descriptions and they become too extensive and fantastical, but Massie is able to link it to events and let the descriptions flow easily as they would when you actually visited a place like Jerusalem. It makes a biography that chronicles an amazing life vivid rather than stuffy.
I really enjoyed reading about Felice. Her character really reminded me of my aunt, both of whom somehow had this gift of inspiring people and simply experiencing life in the moment. In a way I think the book portrays a bygone world in which there was still trust in the promises others made and in their human integrity. Now, we often lack this trust because sometimes people are a lot rasher in their promises and in breaking them.
I was slightly skeptical taking on this book because biographies written by children often turn into either a work of admiration or a battleground of family issues, neither of which correlates to reality. Massie achieves in reaching the middle ground. He is able to portray his mother's character realistically, as far as I can tell, and not make an angel of her. Felice is at times full of herself, sometimes blind to the obvious truth all around her, but always open for experiences. She comes across as very likeable and it is fascinating to follow a character through one of the most exciting periods in human history.

Blog__Button__Pump_Up_Your_Book_Tour_Host.jpgNext to the time Felice spent in Palestine, I also enjoyed her time in America. It was fascinating to have an insight into the America of then, through the eyes of another European. The way it opened up to educated migrants yet still remained closed in many ways. Especially in this part of the book I felt that the main message shone through. Felice's life was largely influenced by how open she was to opportunities and how willing she was to move on and work. By reading her story, it becomes clear how much success is dependent on this kind of attitude, something that is at times lacking in our time and age where people expect opportunities to be created for and handed to them.

I give this book....


This is a truly good book. As a biography, it still manages to tell a story rather than simply recount events. Henry Massie shows a true gift for describing atmosphere, transporting the reader to the streets of Jerusalem, Nancy and Vilnius alike. Felice's story is fascinating in its ability to awe and inspire and it is only right that it has been written down.

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