Official Review: Private Lucky

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Scerakor
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Official Review: Private Lucky

Post by Scerakor »

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Private Lucky" by Melissa Guzzetta, Hendrik Gillebaard.]
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4 out of 4 stars
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Some lives are so chalked full of action, incredulous activities, and adventure, that they are just screaming to be shared with the rest of the world. Sometimes this is due to the places they have been, sometimes the things they have done, sometimes the situations they have found themselves in, and sometimes all three. The latter is unquestionably the case with the life of Hank Gillebaard as presented by author Melissa Guzzetta in her book Private Lucky.

This book follows the life of the American-born, but Dutch-raised, Hank Gillebaard as he navigates his way through the defining times in his life. First, the story focuses on Hank's early teenage years in Amsterdam before, during, and just after the German occupation of Holland during the Second World War. During this time he watches dogfighting aircraft over the Schiphol Airport, gets wrongly arrested for being Jewish, and goes into hiding to avoid working for the Germans in order to support the war effort. Next, Hank joins the American military. Although Hank doesn't speak a word of English, his father thinks it'll be a better opportunity for him than joining the Dutch military. Since Hank was born in Detroit, this option is available to him. During this time, he struggles to be understood, uses his ability to speak German to his advantage, and never stops pursuing his dream to fly. After his military terms of service in Europe, Hank decides to take his chances in America. Here he travels all over the country, secures jobs for which he is wholly unqualified by showing them a general-purpose Dutch diploma (and telling potential employers that the Dutch text says exactly what they need for him to be qualified for the job), and even buys a used plane to fulfill his dream of becoming a (initially unlicensed) pilot.

There is a lot to love about Private Lucky. Hank's life is made up of adventure after adventure and Guzzetta captures it wonderfully. The book, in addition to being a fun tale of exploits, also manages to give the reader a unique insight into the times during which Hank lived. For me, this was particularly interesting with Nazi-occupied Holland. Most of us reading a book like this are fortunate enough to never have had another nation hold their country hostage. Although many have heard about the horrors of World War II, it is likely that much of the details of occupied civilian life will be unknown today's generations. Another prevalent theme in this book was that of persistence. Hank never gives up on his dreams of flying and nor does he left a minor set back, like being unqualified for something, stop him from getting a job. Although I don't necessarily agree with some of his methods, Hank's persistence and refusal to quit is admirable. What I like the most about this book was the connection I personally had with many elements of the book. I have been to several locations described in this book, have experienced military life similar to his, and have a particular soft spot for the campaign surrounding the liberation of Holland. This book does an excellent job of conveying serious tones, accentuating humor, and projecting the intended themes of this book.

As this is a book writing about the life of an actual human being, it is hard to criticize the contents of the book itself. That being said, the thing that I liked the least about this book goes hand in hand with something that I liked above. Even though I praise persistence earlier in this review, there are definitely some actions of questionable morality that were emphasized within the book. The most severe of which would be lying over and over again to get jobs for which Hank was unqualified. Even though no major incident took place, some of these lies could have endangered his life or those of others. Besides this, there was little to reproach from the way the book was put together, edited, and presented to the eager reader.

I was thoroughly engrossed in Private Lucky and loved reveling in the amazing life that this man has lived. As there was little negative I can say about this book, I am pleased to give it a rating of 4 out of 4 stars. I wholeheartedly recommend this book for lovers of memoirs, those who like true stories about World War II, and those that like reading about incredible lives. If you really have an aversion to the "memoir" genre, you should probably steer clear of this one.

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Kat Berg
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Post by Kat Berg »

I don't have an "aversion" to the memoir genre, but I definitely have a limit to how much of it I can read. One of the unique (for me) aspects of his story is the occupation of Holland during the war. There are so many other countries whose wartime tribulations we know so much about, but Holland really isn't one of them, so I find that rather intriguing, but I am not sure that it is enough for me to want to read the book.
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Post by kandscreeley »

I kind of agree with Kat. There's a limit to the memoirs I can read. This sounds interesting, but I've had my fill of this genre for now. I'll keep it in mind got the future, though.
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Post by BookHausJ »

Though the book looks interesting to me but there is one thing that I cannot take which the severe lying over and over just to win job he wanted. He knows for the fact he was not qualified. Eventually had result to an incident and have endangered his life or those of others. Should I tell the next generation to lie just to get the job they wanted? Should they practice it for the rest of their life just to win everything? Is lie not a sin? Please don't mis-interpret but I'm not perfect too.
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Post by sherif olabode »

Private Lucky: One Man's Unconventional Journey from the Horrors of Nazi Occupation to the Fulfillment of a High-Flying American Dream is a non-fiction autobiography written by Melissa Guzzetta, as told and lived by Hendrik C. Gillebaard. Amsterdam was a wonderful place for an active boy to grow up in during the pre-war years. Hank and his siblings were American citizens, having been born in the US, but his parents grew up and married in Holland. His mother had never fully adapted to life in the US, and so the family returned home to Europe. As a fourth-grader, Hank flew on his bicycle with the rest of his friends, but his imagination was fired by the airplanes he'd watch soaring overhead and landing at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport. Already an adept craftsman, he'd lovingly carve models of the various planes he saw. The family's idyllic existence was abruptly shattered when the Germans occupied Holland. Hank was accused by a fellow classmate of being a Jew and came frighteningly close to being sent to a concentration camp. After that, he spent most of his teen years hiding in the homes of friends, relatives, and other concerned Dutch citizens. When he was old enough to be drafted by the Dutch army, Hank's father had him enlist in the US Army. It would change his life.
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Post by Sarah Tariq »

Story of ambitious Hank Gilbard is awesome. His continuous efforts to secure reasonable career in military is worth reading. Good job by the reviewer. Do check out my review.
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Post by Sarah Tariq »

Story of ambitious Hank Gilbard is awesome. His continuous efforts to secure reasonable career in military is worth reading. Good job by the reviewer. Do check out my review.
Make your ideals high enough to inspire you and low enough to encourage you.

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Post by gali »

A non-fiction book revolving around the true story of a man who lived during the Nazi occupation of Holland sounds intriguing. Hank Gillebaard sounds like a great man. He sure had an amazing life. Giving the reader a unique insight into those times make it a great book for fans of the genre. Not for me, but I am glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for the review!
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Post by Amy+++ »

I don't think that this is the book for me as I am not a fan of this genre.
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Post by Ferdinand_otieno »

This is an inspiring non-fiction biography set during the Holocaust and exploring the survival, determination and luck to never give up on one's dreams. The book is temporarily free on Amazon Kindle and Congrats @MelissaTutors on the BOTD.
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Post by Herbstlicht »

I, like you, am always uneasy when it comes to expressing dislike on memoirs as it always feels like judging the real person the story was written for. I think you found a nice way to wrap up the plot and you definitely made me interested in this book.
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Post by Everydayadventure15 »

This book sounds like a fascinating account of a young man who pursued his dreams despite setbacks and disadvantages. Seeing WWII from his perspective should be an interesting story.
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Post by Mmg8464 »

I love reading people’s experience during the war. I love historical stories and memoirs so I am looking forward to reading this. Thanks for your review!
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Post by CatMaa »

I don't usually gravitate towards memoirs, but the part about the "general-purpose Dutch diploma" has really amused me. A well written review overall that might convince me to pick up this book.
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Post by kperm »

This book sounds interesting, but memoirs is not one of my favorite genres. You did a great job on the review.
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