The Cost of Courage by Charles Kaiser
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Well that was a big ol' disappointment. I was hoping for an engaging narrative of life as a French Resistance fighter during WWII and this fell far from the mark.
I wanted to hear about the hardships and underground tactics, the struggle of the people and their sacrifice. I got a little of that, but mostly I got a whole lot about a rich French family and how they didn't really want to talk about the war. Certainly this family suffered tragedy at the hands of the Nazi. Torture, incarceration and death was indeed the cost of their courage. But sadness and loss alone do not make much of a book. There's a reason obituaries are short.
Description of the family's struggle are minimal or occasionally inconsequential. Details of the war in general are used as lengthy filler. It feels like this book was stretching out what little story it possessed. One of the principle participants wrote a "dry" memoir of 45 pages on the topic of her and her family's involvement in the resistance. Charles Kaiser didn't think that was enough, but I think she got it right.
I listened to The Cost of Courage via audiobook and that was a bad choice. For some reason, the author decided to read this himself and he is a terrible reader, one of the worst I've encountered on a professional production.
Much of the book is written in present tense. I guess that was Kaiser's attempt to make the history more exciting, to make it feel more immediate, in hopes of turning passive prose into something actively impactful. It didn't. Honestly, listening to him it sounded more like he was reading the scenes and actions from a movie script:
"Jack and Jill go up a hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack falls down and breaks his crown. Jill comes tumbling after."
What made it worse was Kaiser's habit of trailing off at the end of each sentence. Imagine reading the Three Little Pigs like this:
"AND THEN THE BIG BAD WOLF HUFFED!!! AND PUFFED!!! and blew the house down."
*whooosh!* goes the wind right out of the damn sails.
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