Book Review – Mona Lisa in Camelot (ARC)

Mona Lisa in Camelot,mona-lisa2
How Jacqueline Kennedy and Da Vinci’s Masterpiece Charmed and Captivated a Nation
Written By: Margaret Leslie Davis
Published By: Da Capo Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group, Philadelphia, USA, 2008, First Edition, 272 pages, hardcover
ISBN 978-0-7382-1103-9
(Available NOW!)

Mona Lisa in Camelot is the beautifully-written account of how the exquisite Mona Lisa painting and the graceful and charming First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, joined forces to unite two powerful nations.”

From the front book flap:
“In December 1962, Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa set sail from Paris to New York for what many knew would be the riskiest art exhibition ever mounted. The fragile painting, sealed in a temperature-controlled, bulletproof box, travelled like a head of state accompanied by armed guards and constant surveillance.
The Driving force behind the famous painting’s high-profile visit was First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, who convinced French Cultural Minister André Malraux and National Art Gallery Director John Walker to share the masterpiece with the American people. She overcame the fierce objections of Art officials who feared the journey would ruin the world’s most celebrated smile, and “Lisa Fever” soon swept the nation as nearly two million American’s attended exhibits in Washington, D.C. and New York City. It was the greatest outpouring of appreciating for a single work of art in American history. And as only Jacqueline Kennedy could do, she infused America’s first museum blockbuster show with a unique sense of pageantry that ignited a national love affair with the arts.
Gathering rare archival documents, acclaimed biographer Margaret Leslie Davis has woven a tantalizing sage filled with international intrigue and the irresistible charm of Camelot and its queen.”

Mona Lisa in Camelot, how Jacqueline Kennedy and Da Vinci’s Masterpiece Charmed and Captivated a Nation was such a lovely read. I felt such a sense of ceremony and culture, as though I was having tea with the First Lady herself.
Margaret Leslie Davis has very skillfully woven the details of the Mona Lisa exhibition into a vivid and rich account of the First Lady, her life and interactions preceding, during and following the display of the priceless work of art.
The documents included in this marvellous book are very telling and gave me a glimpse of the inner workings of Jacqueline Kennedy’s brilliant mind.
The incredible amount of manoeuvring, urging and timely-choreography required of those involved in this process was truly impressive.
It amazes me, even though I am a definite art enthusiast, just how much this particular painting by Leonardo Da Vinci, has affected the people of America, France and many other places across the globe.
This is a very detailed read, certainly not a book that you can rush through; it had a gentle pace which worked wonderfully.
This true story touches briefly on the assignation of John F. Kennedy (JFK) and how it too, stirred the emotions of countless peoples around the world.
If you appreciate art and have any interest in the Kennedy’s, this book is an absolute must-have!

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ (9 out of 10 Diamonds) – Loved it!


Link to the Author’s Website:
Link to the Publisher’s Website:

A special thanks to Mini Book Expo for Bloggers for sending me a copy.
(Due to unseen difficulties at Mini Book Expo and the Publisher, this book’s review has unfortunately been delayed by 3 months.)

Copyright ©  Book Reviews By Bobbie — Bobbie Crawford-McCoy

Book Review – Eyewitness Auschwitz, Three Years in the Gas Chambers

Thursday, September 18, 2008 – original post

Eyewitness Auschwitz,
Three Years in the Gas Chambers
Written By: Filip Muller
Published by Ivan R Dee, Chicago, 1st Ed. By this Publisher, Published in Association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 1999, 180 pages, softcover
ISBN 978-1566632713

Eyewitness Auschwitz is an exceptionally graphic, in-depth and carefully recounted description of Filip Muller’s horrific, three-year’s in the Gas Chambers of Auschwitz, one of the most infamous Nazi Extermination Camps”

Filip Muller was born in Sered, Czechoslovakia in 1922. He was a young man with the promising future of being a great fiddle player and possibly as a writer.
Then in 1942, Filip was deported to Auschwitz, when he was just 20 years old and his life and indeed his very soul, would never be the same again.
When he arrived in Auschwitz, Filip was permanently tattooed with the prisoner number 29236 and then sent to work in the gassing chambers soon after.
As a part of the Sonderkommando(Jewish prisoners/workers), Filip Muller was forced to work under the threat of torture, deprivation and extermination if he did not do as he was ordered by his captors.
He slaved-away with many other sonderkommando’s, performing tasks that sickened him and shattered his sense of humanity because of his own desire to live just one more day. Filip’s need to survive was not always forefront in his mind and at one point during his imprisonment he was ready and wanted to die; to finally escape from Auschwitz and all of its horrors. His captors had other ideas though and prevented him from ending his life until they decided it was his time to die.
Filip was witness to and or assisted in the physical labour required to gas, cremate, mass-cremate in pits, transport corpses, strip corpses, dig mass graves & cremation pits, remove ashes, amongst countless other ghastly sights and tasks.
He and many others with him, were finally liberated in the month of May, in 1945.

Eyewitness Auschwitz, Three Years in the Gas Chambers is a profound book chronicling the three-year real-life experiences of Filip Muller who lived to tell his story after the war was over. Without his testimony, there might not have been much first-hand testimony of many small details from the happenings inside Auschwitz.
When I read the excerpt for this book and even as I began reading it, I was so disgusted with what appeared to be a man putting his life above so many others. I was thinking ‘how in the world could he help these people, how could he do their dirty work, when it could just as easily have been him laying there, waiting lifelessly for his turn in the crematory?’. Here I was (as a reader), appointing myself as Filip Muller’s judge & jury, without even hearing his whole story. How many others felt as I did, about prisoners who were forced to work in the extermination camps as executioners of sorts?
By the time I finished reading this book, I was filled with such a deep and profound sorrow for all those who had been murdered, for their fellow prisoners who had been forced to assist with the murders and the immense injustice of it all. I realized that Filip Muller was not a horrible person. He was just another victim trapped in the awfulness of Auschwitz and he has had to live with all memories of what he was forced to do and all that he saw and lived through.
What a heavy burden it must be.

**Please understand that this is one of THE most graphic stories that I have ever read.** The realistic and stomach-churning depictions are very hard to get your head around sometimes, though the book is that much more extraordinary because of the hard-hitting truths.
This is a must read for anyone who wants to know more about the Holocaust and what really went on in Auschwitz and I strongly recommend this book!!

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ (8 out of 10 Diamonds) – Thoroughly enjoyed it

Some Information about the Author (very graphic):
Link to the Publisher’s Website:

Book Review of ‘Five Chimneys, A Woman Survivor’s True Story of Auschwitz’

Tuesday, August 19, 2008 – original post

Five Chimneys,
A Woman Survivor’s True Story of Auschwitz

Written By: Olga Lengyel
Published by Academy Chicago Publishers, Chicago, 1st Ed., 1995, paperback, 231 pages.

Five Chimneys is the authentic testimony of Olga’s hellish journey through the terror and unbelievable horrors of Auschwitz.”

Olga Lengyel was a woman who had been trained as a surgical assistant. She was the wife of a leading Surgeon and their affluent family was well respected in their community. They lived in the city called Cluj (also known as Klausenburg or Kolozsaur) in Transylvania.
Olga’s life was full of love, laughter and she had a contented home together with her husband Miklos, her two sons Thomas and Arvad, her parents and her god father.
In 1944, the war became very real to Olga and her family who up until that point had been very sceptical of the atrocious stories they had been hearing.
They, along with many other deportees arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau after an unbearable 7 day long, overcrowded train ride in a cattle car. Olga was transferred shortly thereafter to Auschwitz.
During the 7 months that Olga was imprisoned in the concentration camp, she suffered greatly and witnessed the suffering, degradation and extermination of thousands upon thousands of Jews, Gypsies, Hungarians, Czechoslovakians, Russians, Ukrainians, and many more peoples from other parts of the world.
Her only saving grace was her involvement in the underground movement against their German captors. They needed her help to pass on information and packages. This defiance helped her find the will to keep going, even when she wanted so badly to find release and was quite ready to die.

Five Chimneys is the true story of one woman’s survival during World War II in the concentration camp, Auschwitz. This book chronicles her ghastly memories and appalling experiences as she stays alive and endures too one day tell the world what she had been witness to.
As I read this book, I was so deeply saddened, disgusted and sickened by how the ill-fated victims were starved, gassed or poisoned, and finally fed to the “ever-hungry” crematoriums.
* There is very graphic content in this book and though this book is exceptionally distressing, it is also a real account of the extermination of so many innocent people, by the S.S. Germans.

I recommend this book, though to anyone with young children, I strongly suggest that you keep it out of their reach.

♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ (7 out of 10 Diamonds) – I really enjoyed it

Some Information about the Author:
Link to the Publisher’s Website: