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Elise wasn’t a runner and her only attempt at a marathon before had ended up with her dressed as a crayon and crying at the side of the road before giving up so she wasn’t really sure why she’d decided to do attempt to run 5000 miles around the coast of Britain. Nevertheless, six months later she set off, with absolutely no ultra-running experience, unable read a map and having never pitched a tent alone before. A funny, honest and relatable account of feeling lost in your early twenties, deciding to do something silly on a whim – and then actually following through with it.
At once personal, politically-charged, moving and witty, John Chick Donohue’s The Greatest Beer Run Ever is an engaging account of a Vietnam vet’s tracking down of his former comrades-in-arms to bring them a beer from home. Living up to its title, it really does read like the greatest beer run ever, and will have readers interested in the human side of history laughing, crying and thinking in equal measure. Like so many of life’s momentous ideas, a night in a bar prompts ex-Marine and merchant seaman Chick Donohue to hatch his plan to return to Vietnam. But unlike most bar-based ideas, Chick actually goes through with his. Armed with a list of names, a rucksack of beer, and hoping for a sprinkling of Irish luck, he sets off, though he admits that “I still had my doubts that I could pull it off.” This fascinating, enthralling account sees the author having to use his gift of the gab to press on past check-points before tackling multiple dangers and coming face to face with unexpected realities when he reaches Vietnam - realities that bring him to a big realisation: “I began to see that the protesters, however disrespectfully, were at least trying to stop this madness…If there is one thing that I learned as a result of my Vietnam experience it’s that government - all governments for that matter - are not to be trusted. Many politicians lie when it serves their interests.” This is tasty food for thought with universal resonance.
Poignant, powerful and pacey, Ellie Midwood’s The Girl Who Escaped from Auschwitz tells the remarkable true story of Mala Zimetbaum, a woman who did the all-but-impossible when she escaped Auschwitz with her Resistance fighter lover. It’s an extraordinary tale of courage and heroism in the face of impossible odds and excruciating circumstances - a tale told with much compassion in The Girl Who Escaped from Auschwitz. It’s autumn 1943 and “Edek had had enough. The grim realization of it dawned on him along with the first slanting rays of the sunset bleeding red atop the barracks’ roofs as he watched SS Officer Brück stomp repeatedly on an inmate’s head with the steel-lined sole of his tall jackboot.” This brutally arresting opening is typical of the book’s style - incisive, and physically impactful. A veteran of the camp, Edek is a political prisoner and resistance fighter – and he’s long been determined to escape. Meanwhile, Belgian-born Mala is at Birkenau Women’s Camp, where she works as a “runner in charge of delivering SS orders and official documents from one block to another.” As such, she “no longer had anything to fear from the wardens or the Kapos. An official armband with an insignia of a Läuferin on her left bicep, civilian clothes and dark-blond hair pulled into a bun instantly distinguished her from the general camp population.” But having been through the horrors of arriving at camp (“First, they took her freedom. Then, they took her hair”), and feeling disgust for the utter lack of humanity, she - like Edek - has resolved to regain her freedom. In the meantime, she uses her position to save lives. When they meet, Mala comes to believe in Edek’s escape plan, comes to believe that there might be light through these darkest of days - and through love. Shot-through with tremendous tension and compassion, this comes recommended for readers who enjoyed The Tattooist of Auschwitz and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Purchase The Girl Who Escaped Auschwitz from: Amazon - Currently 99p Apple Kobo Google