Book Review: Heideggers Glasses

Author: Thaisa Frank

Publisher: Counterpoint Press, 2010

Genre: Historical Fiction

Source: Counterpoint Press for the TLC Book Tours

Why I Read The Book:

I wanted to read more about World Ward II. Plus, the premise of the story intrigued me.  It’s a combination of historical fiction, thriller, and romance.

Synopsis from the book jacket:

The Third Reich’s obsession with the occult has led them to create the Compound of Scribes. Concealed in a converted mine shaft complete with rose-colored cobblestone streets and a continuously shifting artificial sky, the Scribes’ sole mission is to answer letters written to the dead—thereby preventing the deceased from pestering psychics for answers and inadvertently exposing the Final Solution.

As Germany falls apart at its seams, a letter arrives written by eminent philosopher Martin Heidegger to his optometrist and friend, a man now lost in the dying thralls at Auschwitz. The presence of Heidegger’s words—one simple letter in a place filled with letters—sparks a series of events that will ultimately threaten the safety and wellbeing of the entire Compound.

What I Liked:

  • The way the book starts out:

Even though they often met for coffee, [philosophers Martin Heidegger and Asher Englehardt] enjoyed writing to each other about tilted moments: the hammer that’s so loose it’s head like a bird. The picture that’s crooked and makes the room seem uncanny. The apple in the middle of the street that makes you forget what streets are for. The thing made close because it’s seen at a distance. The sense of not being at home. Falling out of the world.

  • That short note was written after a mishap in which Heidegger temporarily forgot what his reading glasses were used for. For me that paragraph set the stage in reading this story. It got me to thinking about the tilted moments – in the novel and in my own world. And then, Heidegger’s reading glasses became the pivotal point in the plot of the story.
  • Thaisa Frank took real events, the Holocaust, and real people, Heidegger and others, and wove them together with her fictional people, places, and events. She created a story that is totally believable.
  • I liked the copies of letters interspersed in the book. They are in a person’s handwriting and at the bottom is the typed English translation of the letter. They were heart breaking when I thought about how false they were.
  • The book is extremely well written with an excellent, fast moving plot. It was interesting, at times scary, and an emotional read. I can’t read about the holocaust without being angry and sad.

What I Didn’t Like:

  • It’s a minor point but, I would have preferred quotation marks around the dialogue. It was distracting for me.
  • Just a suggestion: I could have used a little “cheat-sheet” telling me what was real and what was fiction.

Recommend? Absolutely. Historical Fiction fans should love this one.

About the author from the author’s website:

The fiction of Thaisa Frank, according to the New York Times, works “by a tantalizing sense of indirection.” The critic Don Skiles has described her stories as being “in the grand tradition of the fairy tale, the legend, the spell,” and the reviewer Rob Hurwitt has called her work “domestic magical realism.”

For more about Thaisa Frank visit her website at Thaisa

My hunch is that this book will be on the “Best of 2010” lists for many book lovers. That should make iñt available at your local library. Heidegger’s Glassesis also available at Amazon. (I am an Amazon Associate.)

Thanks so much to Lisa at TLC Book Tours for asking me to read this book. For the complete tour schedule visit TLC Book Tours.

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9 Responses to Book Review: Heideggers Glasses

  1. I can’t stand not having a cheat sheet about what is real and what is fiction! I spend half my time googling instead of reading the book!

  2. kaye says:

    this is the third review on this book I have seen this week. They were all good reviews. I think I will have to read this one.

  3. Linda says:

    This is a simply superb book. It has everything you could want in a lyrical, polished novel that is still a compelling read. Frank pays attention to every word she chooses and every detail she includes in a story that is based on fascinating history. She is a wonderful writer. According to the rating system I would give it an “A”.

  4. I’ve been seeing dialogue without quotes more and more and I’m not crazy about it either, so I can understand it bugging you. When I read historical fiction, I assume it’s all true unless I’m told otherwise.

  5. Staci says:

    Yours was an excellent review and I love that you touched on the “tilted” conversation. You did it wonderfully!!

  6. Bonnie says:

    Beautiful review Margot! I love the tilted moments idea and thanks for quoting that in your review. I am a fan of historical fiction and am drawn to books about the Holocaust. I like when real letters are interspersed in a novel but I also want to know clearly what is real and what is fiction. I’m definitely adding this book to my wish list.

  7. Lisamm says:

    Great review, Margot! I like your format of what you liked and didn’t like- it offers such good balance. I’m very happy that you enjoyed this book. I love thinking about ’tilted moments’ and really appreciate you including that in your review!

  8. Michele Huneven’s BLAME was formatted the same way, without quotation marks around dialogue. It was distracting at first, but I did get into a rhythm after a bit. I wonder why an author chooses to do this (any ideas?)

  9. kaye says:

    I came back to read your review now that I’m nearly done with the book. It has really got me thinking and I’m in the mood to study out the actual events and see how they interplay with the fictionalized accounts. Thanks again for the review.

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