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Book Review: Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance by Charles Novacek

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Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance is a touching and unheard story, a memoir by Czech and Hungarian author Charles Novacek. Novacek has one of the most unique and compelling stories of World War II and the Cold War that I have read. He narrates his childhood that was ended all too quickly as his father, a former police officer, and his uncle, a former Czech intelligence agent, train Novacek to withstand torture and survive during wartime, foreshadowing the troubles Novacek would find during both wars.

Essentially, the author is telling his story, a story that is often unheard of when discussing World War II and the Cold War. Novacek is successful in conveying his story; he subtlety narrates the difference in attitude he had before he was conscious of the war, and the reader can see how in little ways Novacek had to grow into a man during the tender ages of childhood. Considering that English is not Novacek’s first language, I’d say that he writes well. Not the best prose I have read, but it is compelling and the story is so good that any issues with Novacek’s writing don’t matter as you keep reading. The book is for a mature audience and anyone who is interested in European history.

Being a memoir addict, and a European WWII nerd, I was very interested in this book. I must say that I was surprised on how different his experiences were from my parents as they grew up in Italy during WWII, and yet how much I related to him because of my parents’ past. I can’t stretch enough, how proud I am of people like my father and Novacek for sharing their stories.

The book is great as is, I didn’t catch big editing issues, and the ones that I caught only made his voice more real. I strongly recommend Border Crossings to everyone. It’s a beautiful, extraordinary, and compelling memoir!

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