Blitzed – Norman Ohler

blitzed-norman-ohler
Title:
 Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany
Author: Norman Ohler
Publisher:  Penguin
Date of Publication:  06 October 2016
Number of Pages: 368

Rating: stars

Summary: The Nazis presented themselves as warriors against moral degeneracy. Yet, as Norman Ohler’s gripping bestseller reveals, the entire Third Reich was permeated with drugs: cocaine, heroin, morphine and, most of all, methamphetamines, or crystal meth, used by everyone from factory workers to housewives, and crucial to troops’ resilience – even partly explaining German victory in 1940.

The promiscuous use of drugs at the very highest levels also impaired and confused decision-making, with Hitler and his entourage taking refuge in potentially lethal cocktails of stimulants administered by the physician Dr Morell as the war turned against Germany. While drugs cannot on their own explain the events of the Second World War or its outcome, Ohler shows, they change our understanding of it. Blitzed forms a crucial missing piece of the story.

Review: From the looks and stares and the “what’s a nice girl like you reading a book about him” comments, it would seem that this book is going to make an impact on an immediate, visual level. The cover really is the first challenge a reader faces, especially, if like me, you find only a few other people from history as terrifying as Hitler. The second is fighting your reaction to disbelieve a situation like this could have been a real thing.

Some of the people I’ve discussed this book with have been worried Ohler’s work is an apologists history of the Nazi regime. A few of them, no matter how much I tried to explain, refused to believe that this could be a condemnation of Hitler because “the author’s German.” Honestly, I could unpack that statement but we only need to look at the world we live in to know that this is an enormous conversation. What is abundantly clear from the beginning is that Ohler is not apologising for the crimes of Hitler and Nazi’s. Anyone who reads Blitzed and draws this conclusion has completely missed the point.

What proof can I offer to back up this statement? I can offer the following;

On this tranquillizing painkiller (Eukodal) the Fuhrer was fully in command of himself: this was the true Hitler, and that was how he had always been. The overestimation of his own significance and misjudgement of his opponents were both captured in his blueprint, Mein Kampf, published in 1925. His opioid addiction only cemented an already existing rigidification, a tendency to delegate violence and contributed to the fact that in the last phase of the war and in the genocide of the Jews he never once thought of relenting.

So the goals and motives, and ideological fantasy world, were not the result of drugs, but established much earlier. Hitler did not murder because he was living in a haze – quite the contrary: he remained sane until the end. His drug use did not impinge on his freedom to make decisions. Hitler was always the master of his senses and he knew exactly what he was doing. He acted always in an alert and cold-blooded way. Within his system, based from the beginning on intoxication and a flight from reality, he acted systematically and with terrible consistency to the end. He was anything but insane. A classic case of actio libera in causa: he could go on taking as many drugs as he liked to keep himself in a state in which he could commit his crimes. It does not diminish his monstrous guilt (Ohler, 230-231).

I’m not a historian of WWII. In fact, up until very recently, I wasn’t interested in the era and for this I blame incredibly boring high school history teachers. Followers of this blog will also know that this month is being devoted to non-fiction (with one exception) and while Blitzed wasn’t on my original list, the podcast by Dan Snow and Ohler on the History Hit network got my attention. You can listen to the podcast here – and you really should. It’s mind boggling.

This book will re-write what we know and what we accept as fact. Ohler has turned my understanding of the period and Hitler, on its head. Honestly, all of the upper echelons of the Nazi party and the SS, who were popping the same pills as Hitler can be held equally accountable. The whole period seems to have been a perfect storm of horrible people doing obscene things and believing the entire time that they would always get away with it. If you’re looking for a reading challenge, try Blitzed and Sarah Helm’s If this is a woman. They’re a powerful combination and serve as a warning to us still today.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
― Edmund Burke

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The Sudden Departure of the Frasers – Louise Candlish

The Sudden Departure of the Frasers Louise Candlish

Another reviewer on Goodreads called the blurb of this book click bait and I’m inclined to agree. When you have a fairly good idea how the book is going to go and what the ending is at page 20 there’s no point reading. P.S I skipped to the end and it turns out I was right.

Hello From the Gillespies written by Monica McInerney

hello from the gillespies

Title: Hello From the Gillespies
Author: Monica McInerney
Publisher: Penguin Group Berkley, NAL/Signet Romance, DAW NAL Trade
Date of Publication: 04 November 2014
Number of Pages: 606
Genre: Women’s Fiction

Rating: 3.5 star

Disclaimer: Copy provided free by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Summary: For the past thirty-three years, Angela Gillespie has sent to friends and family around the world an end-of-the-year letter titled “Hello from the Gillespies.” It’s always been cheery and full of good news. This year, Angela surprises herself—she tells the truth….

The Gillespies are far from the perfect family that Angela has made them out to be. Her husband is coping badly with retirement. Her thirty-two-year-old twins are having career meltdowns. Her third daughter, badly in debt, can’t stop crying. And her ten-year-old son spends more time talking to his imaginary friend than to real ones.

Without Angela, the family would fall apart…[cut]

Review: The first thing I want to tell anyone reading this review is DO NOT READ THE ENTIRE SYNOPSIS. If you read the next sentence in the blurb, it will change the way you read the book, change your enjoyment and trust me, you do not want that because the story works better without it. The line I have cut is a spoiler and we all hate those. Do yourselves a favour.

To be completely honest, I’ve given this book 3.5 stars because of the enjoyment I found in the reading but I’m not sure it is entirely deserving of the rating. For one, there is a lot of extraneous text that would not have undermined the story had it been viciously cut. Two, the characters were a little flat and annoying. I found it hard to believe that they could all be such miserable sad sacks, almost perfect Joan, obnoxious Celia and then there’s Angela. For a character meant to be the protagonist, I could take her or leave her. Three, McInerney doesn’t really convey the vastness of the Australian outback. Sure, she tries to by reminding the reader of the four hour drive from the station to Adelaide or that it’s an hour to drive to Joan’s house or how much land their property sits on but it falls flat. I am Australian, I understand the concept of vast but I don’t think someone from the UK, who has never experienced an Aussie landscape, will have any clue. It ultimately feels as though she tried too hard. The section I found most believable was the section where Nick is in London.

These niggles aside, it was a nice, fluffy, quick read and one that I found myself enjoying despite what I have just mentioned.  Hello From the Gillespies has been a quite a change to what I’ve found myself reading lately. It was a nice break but it isn’t a style / genre I want to spend a lot of time with.

Who would I recommend this book to? Fans of chick-lit / women’s lit (awful genre titles but that’s another story), and women 50+ (no offense, I just feel readers who can identify with Angela will get more from the book).

The Boy That Never Was — written by Karen Perry

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2 out of 5 stars
Read April 2014

Reviewed as an ARC from Goodreads – with thanks.

really wanted this to be good and it sounded fantastic reading the blurb but sadly, I have been left disappointed.

The writing was easy. When I say easy, I mean a single syllable word was always used where something a little more challenging would have been appropriate.

The story is told in two character narrative. It doesn’t work. Neither of the characters are sympathetic, both are needy, self obsessed pains in the backside. The back and forth between the characters was far to much like that other, overrated work, Gone Girl. There was always the hint of depth but it never quite eventuated.

The nefarious, or meant to be nefarious, Cozimo, seems to be a clone of Count Fosco from the Woman in White. I am not so naive I cannot recognise where inspiration has struck but this is so blatant it is almost insulting and in many ways, a thumbing of the nose to say, look how clever we are.

This is definitely not the criminal thriller I was expecting. It is cheap, holiday, chick lit and I feel like I was conned in a way because the marketing and the cover do not suggest this.

I can see why a lot of people have enjoyed this and rated it highly but it just didn’t charm me.