REVIEW: The Boys From Brazil

This is probably the most random book discovery I’ve ever made. I’m a big fan of the adult cartoonArcher and when first watching the show back when it started, I was always curious about the jokes being made towards the scientist character, Kreiger, about his being “a boy from Brazil” and the other strange Nazi-related digs directed at him. Back then when I googled what they meant, I learned that while most of the jokes are related to the monstrosities committed by Dr. Josef Mengele – the Nazi known as The Angel of Death – the “boy from Brazil” references are from this book written in the 70s by author Ira Levin (best known to the world as the author being Rosemary’s Baby that was later adapted into an incredibly success horror film directed by Roman Polanski and starring Mia Farrow).

It’s been years since I’ve thought of the existence of this book but while re-watchingArcher on Netflix, I figured maybe it was time to change it up a little and give The Boys from Brazil a read.

Levin’s book is set in the 70s as the trials of Nazi war criminals are mostly coming to a close in Germany and Austria. Meanwhile in Brazil, Mengele and several of his SS collegues have formed an Organization to carry out a secret plan that will re-introduce the Reich: kill 94 seemingly random men across the globe that are in civil servant professions and are approximately 65-years-old. When “Nazi hunter” Yakov Liebermann gets wind of what is happening, he is determined to learn what Mengele is up to, no matter what.

Despite the content, this is a fairly easy book to get through and I enjoyed the sci-fi twist in the events that explain who “the boys from Brazil” are. I was invested in the story from the start and the way Levin combines fiction with reality was very well done. The only thing that got to me was his depiction of Mengele. The man was made of cruelty and evil, one of the most terrifying and dangerous people to come out of WWII, and yet there were moments of him talking to portraits or photos of Hitler (and at one point, the sky) in a way that honestly felt like a child confessing their undying love to a poster of their favourite celebrity. It made me laugh and roll my eyes every time it happened because it just felt like such a caricature. That aside though, I did appreciate that the content wasn’t too heavy in regards to the things Mengele actually did, as even in 2021, his “research” gives me the chills. 

If you’re a fan of spy-like thrillers and are looking for a WWII twist, I definitely recommend this book. I’ve yet to see the film adaptation, but I have also heard that is worth watching.

The only other thing I will say – as it is hard not to spoil what happens – is that I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I wish this book was how Mengele actually died. His real-life drowning was too good for him and he should have been taken out like he was in this book.

REVIEW: Never Anyone But You

I have a rather intense weakness for books set during World War II, especially when it focuses on the people fighting the good fight at home rather in a battle field setting. I also have an even bigger weakness for WLW stories.

Never Anyone But You is the fictional retelling of the very real lives of two artists, Suzanne Malherbe (aka. Marcel Moore) and Lucie Schwob (aka. Claude Cahun), as they fall in love and end up fighting against the Nazi occupation of Jersey Island through art and wordplay, risking their lives every second they remain together.

Told from Suzanne’s perspective we see how her life changes and her intense dedication to her partner, Claude as they transcend the gender norms of the early to mid 20th century both in their work and even in how they present themselves to the world. I have, personally, always enjoyed obscure photography from war times and earlier and had heard Claude’s name in passing, but have never known of their work or what they mean to the surrealist and queer communities. Having died shortly after the war, it’s hard to tell if Claude was non-binary or transgender, but this novel has sparked an intense appreciation of their work and their legacy in art, fashion, and writing.

This book broke my heart in a very real way as I felt incredibly connected to Claude both in terms of gender identity as well as mental illness. Rupert Thomson does an absolutely stunning job of capturing the intense love between these two people and their surreal lives spent with the likes of Hemingway and Dalí. I felt like I really got to know Suzanne and Claude through this book and will certainly be looking into Thomson’s other novels.

REVIEW: The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Society

I’m a sucker for war stories in general, but when I got emails from Netflix and Chapters talking about this book and it’s adaptation, I absolutely couldn’t say no.

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society is written by an aunt and niece duo and follows author Juliet Ashton as she seeks out the subject of her next book. Upon receiving a letter from a gentleman in possession of a book she once gave away, Juliet forms firm friendships with the people who live on Guernsey Island while also developing a keen interest about their lives during the German Occupation that ended only the year before.

Told in letters and journal entries, the story is a pleasant one full of laughter and joy while also addressing the harsh realities of the trauma endured during the war and now post-war living. The intimacy of a novel told through personal letters really makes you care about every one of these people as they laugh and cry and get to know one another so deeply. It’s a story about people who love to read and how that love brings them together and keeps their hopes up even when there is seemingly no end in sight.

I adored this book from start to finish and know that I, for one, fell in love with Juliet myself. Although the ending felt a touch rushed, I found myself not caring because I came to love each and ever character like my real-life friends. Definitely the book to go to if you have been feeling down in the dumps as it is packed with laughs from cover to cover.

Everyone deserves their happy ending. I can’t wait to watch the film.


39832183Author: Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
Published: December 12, 2011
Pages: 291
Publisher: Dial Press
ISBN: 9781984801814

Synopsis: January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb. . . .