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The Hours Count: A Novel by Jillian Cantor
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The Hours Count: A Novel

by Jillian Cantor

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Sometimes I wonder how such horrible things happened in our history that we forget about. One such thing was the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. The Hours Count tells the Rosenbergs story through the eyes of their neighbor (and Ethel's friend) Millie. The story is much more about Millie too, who just wants to raise her troubled son, and probably escape from her cold husband. But when Millie becomes friends with Ethel, and meets an intriguing doctor at the Rosenberg's home, her life becomes entwined with a world of spies and double agents (both real and suspected) until she doesn't know what is true. But she knows her friend Ethel is not a spy, and that she loves her husband and children. ( )
  cherybear | Mar 8, 2017 |
I Knew nothing about Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and found this book and their story very interesting. The book is told through the eyes of Millie Stein who lives on the same floor as the Rosenbergs and is introduced to them by her husband. She has a son, David, who doesn't speak and she meets Dr. Jake Gold who says he will help her get David to talk. Things heat up and she soon finds out Jake is FBI. I found Millie a little naive and innocent. She could only see the good in people and wouldn't believe Ethel and Julie were guilty even after they are executed. The only person she didn't trust was her husband Ed and he was more of a convenient marriage. Jillian did a really good job of bringing all these characters to life. I was so invested in these characters that I did a little research to learn more. I highly recommend this literary fiction. It's well worth your time. ( )
  MHanover10 | Jul 11, 2016 |

The Hours Count is a historical, fiction novel about another viewpoint into Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. Instead of being told through their points of view, it's told through an outsider's head, the neighbor and friend Millie Stein.

Millie is likeable enough, even if her intelligence wouldn't win any awards. She's with a horrible husband I'd end up murdering in my sleep, has a sweet child who would be considered autistic today, and kind of goes through life trying to find herself. Her one friend, Ethel, is a solace in time of trouble; they share the joys and pains of motherhood, bringing forth a realistic struggle books aren't always honest about.

The book skips around slightly - from the time of the Rosenberg's trial and execution - back to present day woes and adventures of Millie. It's done subtly and sparingly, so this doesn't get annoying or confusing.

Jillian Cantor's writing style is wonderful. She is able to portray the motivations and personalities of all well, even though it's a first person POV. Millie is made sympathetic, where the author paints a picture of a struggling young woman trying to adapt to a world that isn't always friendly.

Overall the story isn't so much about the Rosenbergs - it's about love, motherhood, women banding together for their families, trusting the wrong people, and how fear molds horrors in our society. There's some surprises along the way, things that keep a reader turning the page, but overall it's a character painting that holds true.

I know little about the Rosenbergs and that time period, it's not something I've researched much. The author goes in with her view that Ethel was likely innocent, and backs this up with some research at the end showing why she feels this way. Whether she's right or not, this wouldn't surprise me, as fear has painted many shadows over the innocent before.

Thanks to Penguin's First to Read program for an ARC of this stunning book. ( )
  ErinPaperbackstash | Jun 14, 2016 |
The Hours Count, Jillian Cantor
After WWII, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were arrested for spying, tried, convicted of stealing secrets enabling Russia to obtain an atomic weapon, and summarily executed. Were they guilty? David Greenglass, Ethel’s brother, implicated Julius after his own arrest. His own wife Ruth, had recently been badly burned in an accident. To save his life and hers, did he accuse his brother-in-law of being a traitor, and then to save Ruth, did he implicate and condemn his innocent sister to death? The country was awash in anti-communist fever fueled in part by the madness of McCarthy’s anti-communist investigations. It was a time when the only thing on people’s minds was the bomb, and there were hungry masses who were desperate to find someone to blame for their fears. Were those arrested encouraged to lie and make deals to save themselves to calm those fears? Perhaps justice was not served, but that angry mob, seeking vengeance for the passing of secrets to the Russians was certainly appeased.
Cantor portrays the Rosenbergs as a perfectly normal family. Ethel and Julius seemed devoted to each other and their children. He even operated his own small business. They lived happily in a neighborhood in New York City, at 10 Monroe Street, in a place called Knickerbocker Village, where Jews, communists and socialists felt at home. The Rosenbergs held meetings in their apartment with friends and associates. One day, in 1947, Ethel Rosenberg met her neighbor, Millie Stein, and the two women bonded to each other because of their loneliness. The unusual behavior of their sons caused most other parents to shun them. It is through the connection of these two women, which is made up out of whole cloth that drives the story forward.
Both women appear to be young, naive mothers struggling with somewhat difficult children who need some kind of outside intervention. One child, David Stein, is two years old when we meet him; he does not speak yet and prefers simple repetitive activities. He often simply pounds on walls or bangs on floors to get attention. His father has rejected him because he is not “normal”. The other child, John, son of Ethel Rosenberg, is bright and over aggressive when he is thwarted, often getting physical. Soon, both women have a second child and begin to help each other as neighbors often do. Both also have their children engaged in therapy to help them adjust.
Millie Stein’s husband, Ed, is a Russian who had recently come to the United States. He was a rigid, non-communicative, controlling man who made demands but showed little affection for his family. Julius and Ethel were also of Russian background, but they treated each other warmly. Julius appeared to be not only a loving and considerate husband but also a hands-on father.
At a gathering at Ethel’s apartment, Millie meets Dr. Gold. He is the therapist who later begins to treat her son’s developmental problems. They develop a relationship. At this party, Millie also hears talk of Russia. She is confused because she thought her husband had left all thought of Russia behind when he adopted the United States as his country. She then learns that Ed knew the Rosenbergs before she did and was surprised he had never introduced her to them. However, Millie is an unsophisticated young woman who asks few questions and prefers to maintain the status quo, not creating problems. She doesn’t ask her husband to explain anything about himself or his background.
When Dr. Gold offers to help Millie and David for free, she is overwhelmed and not very suspicious about his motives. He wants to analyze and study Millie and study David, hopefully helping him to learn to function on a more communicative level. Eventually he wants to publish, writing about them, without using their real names. Is his proposal realistic? As the plot plays out, the theme of secrets develops, and the story seems to be two tales in one. The first concerns what may have been the unduly, unjust treatment of the Rosenbergs which ended with their execution in 1953. Did they compromise American security to the extent of which they were accused? Did Ethel even know what her husband was up to, at the time, if he was a spy? The first half of the book develops a little slowly, perhaps because it lays the foundation and most people know the end result; the Rosenbergs were convicted and sentenced to death. The second half sets the stage for the investigation and develops the different motives of the characters. It is then that the story catches fire. The romance that developed between Millie and the doctor who treats David grows. Her life becomes more hopeful and exciting. His kindness seems to give the boy some serenity and eases his frustration, as he encourages him to find alternate ways to communicate. The second also explores the methods used by the FBI and other law enforcement during that time.
Questions will rise in the reader’s mind. Was Dr. Gold the man he presented himself to be? Was he really a doctor? Was Ed the man he presented himself to be? Were the only ones true to themselves actually the Rosenbergs? In the book, it would seem that way. After doing some research, I discovered that the Rosenberg children, Richie and John were adopted by the Meeropols. As adults, they tried to clear their parents’ names, especially that of their mother when new evidence was revealed, but they were unsuccessful. They do believe now, that their father was guilty, but that their mother was not.
The author has written a very sympathetic account of the Rosenberg’s lives in which she presents a very plausible scenario to show that at least one, if not both, could have been framed by others in order to save themselves, and in fact, decades later, two others convicted of spying for Russia at that time, did eventually tell the truth and at least attempt to clear Ethel’s name. One of those was her own brother who confessed he lied because his wife meant more to him than his sister. Should Ethel, at least, be granted a pardon for the sins for which she was condemned, sins that were never committed by her? Were the Rosenberg’s guilty? Were they sacrificial lambs, convenient victims because of their ties to communism, their Russian background and their Jewish religion at a time when the effects of the Holocaust were still ripe, and anti-Semitism was still alive and well? Who better than a couple who were perceived to have betrayed not only America, but their fellow Jews? Were the tactics used to convict them ethical, moral or legal? Was Millie a credible character? Was her behavior at the end justified? The reader will wonder about many questions, not only those I presented. ( )
  thewanderingjew | Feb 15, 2016 |
I must admit I was surprised at how engrossing I found this novel. Well-written and well-paced, this novel recounts the story of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (executed in 1953 for Soviet espionage) from the perspective of their fictional next-door neighbor Millie Stein. Excellent character development make this novel a compelling read and I truly appreciated the author's ability to capture the spirit of the times with all its fear and limitations. An excellent, highly recommended book. ( )
  wagner.sarah35 | Jan 24, 2016 |
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