Candlelight in a Storm: Book Review
Ashvamegh International Journal of English Literature
Issue XII: January 2016
Book Name: Candlelight in a Storm
Author: Naveen Sridhar (Germany)
Published by: authorHouse
Reviewed by: Alok Mishra
Let me have the liberty to start it with a quote from the book:
“There are events in one’s life that one would like to forget the very next day but will linger and haunt the life for decades.” pp 185.
I would further my steps even more and would change the ‘decades’ to life! And it happens! Coming back to the book, I got this beautiful pile of memoirs in the form of a book Candlelight in a Storm from a very remarkable scientist (and now author as well) Naveen Sridhar from Germany, who, by this time, happens to be a good friend of mine. This is novel, no doubt; however, once you start reading it, it feels like you are taking out the different layers of shrouds and something is about to come. It is about the life of a woman, another woman, a man, another man and eventually every person who had ‘tough times’ during the aftermath of Nazi regime and thereafter. However, rightly sums up the author himself in the preface:
“The protagonist in this story is representative of all those, past and present, affected by difficult days at a young age.”
Once you begin the book, you feel with the flow; you suffer when the people in book suffer and you rejoice even with their smallest scale of satisfaction. To be honest, it is a non-fiction style of fiction; the author is narrating the true events with the least (or perhaps a naught) colouring up. That is why you connect with the pages as you move on. In a fiction, you might feel the thrill about what happens next. However, that thrill is limited in your conscious as you know things are in the hands of the lord on this land – the author. But in the case of Candlelight in a storm, you are genuinely engaged to know what might come next; you know very soon that the author is narrating something that really happened.
To cut the book short, it starts with exodus and ends with a rebirth. The story of a woman that eventually is shared with her daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren. It is justified in the story why the author has subtitled it ‘Born to be a Berliner’. Some parts are there in the book that I must share with you. On page no. 155, the event that features a ‘dressed-up foreigner in company of a blond doll’ is something that strikes me. It openly attacks the ‘sheep walk’ mind-set of people who cannot trust a person even if it’s the question of a life! However, how much have we contributed to win this distrust of people? It compelled me to think! Another interesting feature that the book owns is its naming of the sub-chapters. For instance, you will go through the chapter named ‘man proposes’ and very next you will see ‘god disposes’! It keeps the humour of the book alive. I would like to hail Naveen to present very beautifully a foreigner’s account of visiting India. The experience and a way to present that experience:
“I never thought I would live long enough to have such a fantastic experience [visiting India].”
And at last, I would also like to sum up the book with:
“She had lived all her life within a radius of some 500 miles, but she had lived through all kinds of regimes and authorities. Born in Kaiser’s empire, she had seen its dissolution, the failed Weimar republic followed by the ravages of Hitler’s Reich, then fleeting to the East, she had caught up in the American occupied zone, succeeded by the Soviet occupation and had to witness the ascent or descent of the German Democratic Republic. Back in West Berlin, she lived in an occupied zone of three Allies. Her last years she had spent in the free State of Bavaria, a part of the West German Republic, and ultimately of united Germany. Wow!” pp 226.
The bottom line is, indeed, if you interest in Post-World War II, you will get the insights about conditions of India, Germany and the UK! Get a copy and have a pleasant reading of the true events peered with a beautiful narrative by Naveen.
Tags: Book Review
A husband pens a loving biography of his wife in CANDLELIGHT IN A STORM – BORN TO BE A BERLINER
By Naveen Sridhar
IR Verdict: CANDLELIGHT IN A STORM deftly mixes family memories with a readable historical reference.
Biography, Book Reviews, IR Approved • Nov 13, 2015
4 0 0 0
"Sridhar accomplishes this task in a capable manner that manages to be erudite without being overbearing. "
In a time of war, chaos, and oppression, a gutsy young girl learns to survive, in this international saga penned by an admiring husband.
For Renate Werner, the sounds of war began when she was just three, living in Berlin as the city came under fierce aerial bombardment. Even Hitler, the fanatical leader so many had followed so loyally, urged the remnants of citizenry hanging on in the city to flee. Renate’s mother Erika had everything planned, suitcases packed…but her husband would not accompany the family. Erika, little Renate, and her brother Dieter embarked on a new life of moving, dodging, learning to be refugees and then, residents of Communist-dominated East Berlin. When Renate was in eighth grade, a decision came down from the state that she would not be allowed to attend high school, despite her excellent grades and thirst for knowledge. At that point, she and her mother embarked on yet another trek, to get to and stay in West Berlin, where Renate could complete her education. It was there that the aspiring young career woman met Naveen Sridhar, and attached herself to yet another unknown culture, that of her fiancé and his family. She explored India to immerse herself in his heritage. Their many adventures ultimately led them back to Berlin, where they now reside.
CANDLELIGHT IN A STORM – BORN TO BE A BERLINER is a unique, spellbinding biography in which Sridhar’s paean to his courageous wife is interwoven with a scholarly work of nonfiction complete with endnotes, making connections between the lives of Renate and Naveen and events on the world stage, both in Germany and India. Sridhar accomplishes this task in a capable manner that manages to be erudite without being overbearing. Both family members and dedicated students of the human story of Berlin from the fall of Nazism to the era of the Wall, to the present day, will find Sridhar’s writing both charming and elucidating.
CANDLELIGHT IN A STORM deftly mixes family memories with a readable historical reference.
- See more at http://indiereader.com/2015/11/a-husband-pens-a-loving-biography-of-his-wife-in-candlelight-in-a-storm-born-to-be-a-berliner/#sthash.Gu0g3YVp.dpuf
Review: Candlelight in a Storm by Naveen Sridhar ★★★★★
Posted by: Henry Baum October 29, 2015 in Book Reviews
Candlelight in a Storm by Naveen Sridhar is the historical biography of his wife. Born during World War II and fleeing the violence there, later fleeing communist regimes as a teenager, and traveling the world, meeting her husband in Berlin, her story is at once colorful and harrowing. John F. Kennedy came to Germany and said “Ich bin ein Berliner,” signifying that Germany did not need to be forever tarnished with the legacy of the Nazi party, and there was a generation of Germans looking to establish peace and freedom in the country.Candlelight in a Storm is the ode to this generation.
There are a lot of books written about World War II, and, understandably, most are written from the perspective of the heroes or the victims of Nazi Germany. There are far fewer books written from the German perspective, who were often victims themselves, even if they were on the side of the aggressor. It was not the choice of every German for Hitler’s Germany to unfold as it did; they were at the mercy of their leaders.Candlelight in a Storm aims to fill in the gaps of this time in world history.
This is sensitive territory, because a figure like Hitler is not only portrayed as evil, but as a leader looking to protect his people. That “his people” fell under a very narrow criteria is what makes him a monster, but for those who were not cast out or murdered by the regime, they have a different perspective. In a war film, we cheer when the allies are winning. This is not really the feeling for anyone inside Berlin. In short, both sides of a war suffer deeply, no matter if there are “good guys” and “bad guys.” This is a core premise of Candlelight and it’s an important one.
Because of Sridhar’s respect and affection for his wife, he express her struggles with great empathy and warmth. Self-published historical memoirs can, at times, seem like a vanity project, i.e. something for the family to read, but less interesting for the casual, unaffiliated reader. Sridhar doesn’t fall into this trap due to the strength of his writing and the thoroughness of his research. As he makes clear in his introduction, he interviewed many people to prepare this book, so this is far more than a family history, it’s a history of an entire generation.
At times, the book does veer into minutiae that may be more interesting to the author, as the subject is his wife, than it would be to readers who do not know her, but overall Sridhar is admirably effective in depicting the bigger picture. He is clearly passionate about his subject: not just his wife’s history, but the way Germany has been tarnished as “the enemy,” when its culture is much more forward-thinking and diverse.
For anyone thinking of writing this sort of family biography, this is a textbook in how to do it: combine objective overview with subjective experience. It helps that Sridhar’s writing is so stylistically rich. The narrative manages to be both detailed and breezy, with enough dialog to make it really come to life, rather than being a turgid, fact-driven history. At times, the book reads like fiction, but doesn’t veer into territory where it seems patently made up and loses some of its historical weight.
If you are interested in World War II and haven’t gotten the “other side of the story,” Candlelight in a Storm is a good place to begin, and succeeds in telling an oft-neglected side of the history of these events.