To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. Instead, our system considers things like how recent a review is and if the reviewer bought the item on Amazon. It also analyzes reviews to verify trustworthiness.
Review this product
Top reviews from the United States
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
4.0 out of 5 starswhat a remarkable human.
Reviewed in the United States on July 26, 2020
Alice Herz-Sommer is a remarkable woman who survived a horrific time. I have the deepest regard for her. The book, however, left me wanting to know more about her philosophies and her life. I hoped it would explore more of her thoughts on life, go to a deeper level. Instead, it seemed to be mostly about the people she knew, rather than who she was and what she experienced. Only the last couple of pages really mentioned her inner beliefs, and then only in the briefest of quotes. It seems a shame to write so much, and so little at the same time.
5.0 out of 5 starsAmazon...Great Taste in Literature
Reviewed in the United States on August 9, 2014
i usually try to avoid intimate portrayals of Holocaust victims because what i already know about this horrible debauchery gives me nightmares. But this account is different. Without going into too much detail about the gruesome facts involved, this lovely 109 year-old lady has the best attitude i have ever heard of, stating that "every day i live, even during that horrible time, was beautiful, as i was privileged to LIVE!" Life, to her, is so beautiful that she looks forward to each and every day as we all should: as if it will be her last and she wants to get the most out of it. She has an uncanny ability to embrace life's trials and hardships as challenges to prove her strength and look back on with triumph. As we all should. i had to have this book to broaden my outlook, had to have this opportunity to prolong my life with this kind of positivity. Being a musician like her, i marveled at the ease with which she, at 109, plays a Bach Invention on the piano. An invention is a piece which is a contrapuntal wonder, the melody occurring in exactness in 2 parts, one starting a certain number of measures before the other, and continuing likewise to the end, both parts conflicting yet perfectly fitting to the other masterfully. Anyone who can play these artful turns shows extreme coordination as well as great discipline, as the art can be lost much more quickly without continued practice. A lesson in inspiration! Once again, Amazon, you provided me with a needed lift!
5.0 out of 5 starsAn absolute must have for any kind soul out there!
Reviewed in the United States on May 12, 2014
I knew about Alice Herz-Sommer before I read this book, and I was always very fascinated by her life and especially for her happiness and content with life even though she faced the toughest events a life can have. This book shows her remarkable quest for happiness and how she can explain whole books on philosophical ideas of life with just a single sentence. She was an absolutely remarkable individual and I was deeply saddened when she past away a few months ago. The book is written as a life story told in part from her point of view but mostly from a third-person-viewer point of view (i.e the writer's). It tells how she grew up among the great literary minds of the early 20th century, and how she went through both world wars! She lived for 110 years and seen so much and experienced life so much that it is nothing less than amazing to read all about it. And this book covers every soulful bit of her experiences. I think, the writer did a great job assembling all those biographical stories to be told as a novel book, and not just as a simple biography. I enjoyed this book very much and I respect Alice very highly. This book is for those who want to broaden their understanding of life, and how it is possible to look at life perspectively and be happy. She was a pianist, and as a pianist myself, I consider this book to be as important for musicians as reading the biography of their favorite composers. Highly Recommended!!! Will give you some great inspiration and appreciation for life.
Reviewed in the United States on December 31, 2013
There is really no explaining why some events destroy one person and are conquered by another. Alice Herz Sommer had a charmed life as a young married woman in pre WWII Prague. A beloved daughter in an upper middle class jewish family she was also an extraordinary musician. But the day the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia her world imploded. Her mother and husband were sent to concentration camps and eventually so was Alice along with her six year old son. Music saved her life and her soul over and over again.She just refused to see herself as a victim. The Nazis did not conquer Alice, neither did breast cancer or the death of her beloved son. Read this book and see how you see the world differently and your role in the world--even if the effect is just for one day. A powerful story about an extraordinary person.
5.0 out of 5 starsAn excellent book about a remarkable human being
Reviewed in the United States on June 1, 2014
I enjoyed reading "A Century of Wisdom from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer" not only because she was an amazing woman who lived through the Holocaust but also because of her incredible life as a musician. The book pulled me into her social circle of world famous musicians as well as other notables such as Albert Einstein and Golda Meir. Caroline Stoessinger, a musician herself, relates how full of life Ms Herz-Sommer is and always seeing the the good in all situations. I would recommend this book to anybody who loves classical music, reads books about the Holocaust or wants an uplifting story to savor.
5.0 out of 5 starsread this book and you'll never again have a totally crappy day in your life
Reviewed in the United States on July 8, 2014
Tucked away in her small London apartment, Alice would have been just another Holocaust survivor had a documentary crew not made the Academy Award winning "The Lady in Number 6." Get it, watch it, read this book and you'll never again have a totally crappy day in your life. Alice Herz-Sommers is happiness personified and she shows all of us how simple is can be (no, not really "Simple", but possible) to put hatred aside in favor of love. Ken Resch
I raced through this book. It was so full of gentle comments and wisdom from the long life of Alice Herz-Sommer. I can see why she had many friends and admirers throughout her life who visited her even when she remained in her home and no longer went out after reaching more than one hundred years old. She had so many experiences throughout her life and enjoyed sharing what she had learned and experienced with others. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about the life of those we admire.
Alice Sommer, aged 108 as I write and still an inspirational person to meet, certainly conveys great wisdom - a wisdom, an inner peace and serenity which, no doubt, have played a role in achieving such longevity: a rejection of bitterness after her experience of the Holocaust in which she lost her mother and her husband and her own ordeal in Theresiensadt; an acknowledgment of the existence of evil without dwelling on it, but instead a constant marvelling at the beauties of life and of nature, (she often says that the older she gets, the more beautiful she finds life); her uncomplainig acceptance of the frailties of old age; the unselfconscious simplicity of the Spartan life which, these days, she lives in a small flat; a lively interest in the world and especially in the people around her; her human warmth and the way this is reciprocated towards her by hundreds of the people she has been in contact with throughout her life; the inspiration she draws from the philosophy of Spinoza and from the lives of the great composers; above all, the solace, the never-ending exploration and inspiration of music which kept her alive, in more senses of the word than one, in Theresienstadt.
All these qualities emerge from the account of Caroline Stoessinger's book, which will be a good introduction for someone who knows little or nothing about Alice Sommer. It is half the length or another biography by Melissa Müller and Reinhard Piechocki called "A Garden of Eden in Hell", which was first published in English five years earlier: see my Amazon review, which gives details of her life (though be warned that three of its readers has complained that it gives away too much.) She certainly has drawn on this, though she has had "countless hours of conversations and filmed interviews [with her] from 2004 to 2011". One does have to ask whether the present book adds anything that cannot be found in the earlier one, and one has to say that there is relatively little of substance: the account of her life in Thersienstadt includes more painful details about the internee Kurt Gerron who was forced by the Nazis to make a sham film about the life of the internees; there is more about Michal Mares, whom she might have married had he not received a seven year prison sentence from the Communist authorities in Czechoslovakia the year before Alice left Communist Czechoslovakia for Israel; Alice's meetings with Golda Meir (who set about peeling potatoes in Alice's kitchen, and who would ask Alice to give her piano lessons once Golda had retired - alas, it never came to that); knowing Daniel Barenboim since his days as a child prodigy and receiving a visit of condolence from him on the death of Alice's son); an illuminating account of the characteristic way in which Alice dealt with the tensions between her son and his first wife. There are the passages about Spinoza, and, above all, there is a more detailed account of how Alice lives now, of her closest friends who still visit her regularly; of tributes from the former music pupils she so inspired with her brilliance and warmth as a teacher. And there is an appendix called "In Alice's Words", in which we get a fair summary of Alice's philosophy of life.
After a brief outline of Alice's life in the Prelude, there is a complete absence of chronology as the author, without any rhyme or reason, darts backwards and forwards in the story. I was initially quite shocked when, after a mere eight pages on Theresienstadt, we suddenly move to Alice meeting Golda Meir in Israel. But we return to Theresienstadt off and on throughout the book. The same is true of episodes in Israel, in London, in Prague. I cannot see the point of such a disorienting technique.
The historical background - the Nazi take-over of Czechoslovakia, the life of Eichmann, the Communist seizure of power etc - is told in more detail than I think is necessary; and, a final and minor point, the Kindle edition is irritatingly sprinkled with dashes in all sorts of inappropriate places.
Alice Herz-Sommer lives simply, frugally even, in a modest one-room London flat, but given the priceless treasures of her mind, the wide and cultured circle of her friends and the esteem in which she is held, who could ever describe her as poor? "I am richer than the world's richest people because I am a musician", she says - music is not only her treasure but religion, philosophy, family, and in the concentration camp, even food.
Her life is a rejection of, and a refreshing antidote to, the values of our superficial celebrity-obsessed society, which often brainwashes us into judging ourselves and each other in material terms, and her optimistic approach to life is inspiring. Although she lost her husband, mother and many of her friends in the Nazi Holocaust, she displays an almost superhuman absence of bitterness. Hatred, she maintains, eats the soul of the hater.
Of particular interest to me was an account of her brief meeting as a child with her mother's childhood friend Gustav Mahler - it's amazing to find that there's someone alive today who actually met him in person. I was glad, though, to have first read an earlier book about Alice, "A Garden of Eden in Hell", because of its more straightforward chronology - it goes into more detail (although sometimes too much) and helped me to discover, or rediscover, the Chopin etudes she played with such passion and commitment in the ghetto of Terezin. This is a valuable book, perhaps even essential reading on several levels but especially for helping to keep a perspective on the things that are really important. In a world where our idols all too often turn out to have feet of clay, discovering Alice goes a long way toward restoring our faith in human nature.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 6, 2016
Excellent and unputdownable read. Will greatly interest anyone who cares to know more about the living hell of concentration camps and how, in spite of dehumanizing circumstances, people managed to take heart and survive both mentally and physically. In many ways the story of Alice Herz-Summer reminded me of that of Primo Levi and kindred testimonies.
A fascinating account of this remarkable lady's life. An accomplished and dedicated pianist relates to the author her encounters and in many cases lasting friendships with well known musicians, composers, writers and politicians. In particular her friendship with Franz Kafka and Golda Meir. July 1943 Alice and her husband and son were deported from Prague to Theresienstadt. She speaks little of the privations suffered whilst there. Fortunately her concerts performed at the camp and the appreciation of a nazi soldier of her music may have been the reason why she and her son were not deported to Auschwitz.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 20, 2013
A remarkable story of a remarkable lady who despite everything she suffered, along with thousands of other Jews, never gave up hope. She then continues to live her life to the full well past the age of 100. This was not the type of book I have read in the past, but I became completely absorbed in the story. An excellent read.