February 18, 2012
Three Books to Make Me Ponder..
I've been thinking a lot about war today. One in particular. The Great War, or World War I. Now how did i get from having such a girly girl nail polish/lipstick filled day yesterday to thinking about something so not-uplifting? Well, to tell the truth i've no idea. I wonder what makes certain things pop into and out of my mind all the time, and i wish i had answers. Alas. So after lunch, i made another voyage to.. ahem.. my favorite bookstore, my Droid and Google in hand, to search out some excellent World War I fiction. There's nothing wrong with non-fiction history books, per se. It's just that i prefer well researched fiction with characters i can relate to as opposed to a bunch of facts and dates thrown at me in textbook form. And if i'm going to read about one of the bloodiest wars ever; i want it to be... Well, fun is certainly not the right word. Engrossing maybe? Mesmerizing? I want to stay involved until i finish the books. I don't want them to make me full of anxiety either. I can see i may need to increase my meditation time. :) So on this afternoon book search/trek, i found six books, but i want to tell you about three of them. I could talk about all, but i don't want to draw this out into Saturday evening! One of these books i read about ten years ago and loved it. I want to read it again. The other two, i've yet to read, but i can talk a little about them even so.
The first one is called "A Very Long Engagement", by Sebastien Japrisot. I read another book by him a week ago called "Women In Evidence". Also fantastic.
This novel is part mystery.. a lot of history.. and a profoundly beautiful love story. It takes place in 1917 France. Five wounded soldiers are brought to Picardy by their own troops. Left on the front to die. It's punishment, but i won't reveal the reason here. But, by official accounts, these men have been 'killed in the line of duty.' The truth is kept quiet. Two years later, Mathilde Donnay receives a letter from a dying soldier hinting that her fiance .. one of the five men left in 'No Man's Land', might still be alive. She carries out a search for him, and while she travels through France, learns about the true horrors of war. The book has quite a few scenes that are difficult to read, but they're beautiful in a raw way. And often the second time i read a novel; i take things away from it that i missed the first time around. That will likely happen this time too! Find yourselves a copy, and sit in a quiet, peaceful spot and give it a read. You won't be sorry. The events take place during and after World War I, but much of the action in the book can be applied to our present time. And history, even in fictional form, as you know, can teach us much.
The second book i want to talk a little about is "Burden of Desire", by Robert MacNeil. If you watched the 'MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour' on PBS, you know that Mr. MacNeil is an intelligent, well spoken investigative journalist. I've read some of his non-fiction, but never any of his novels. This is his first novel, published in 1992. The story begins on December 6, 1917 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The day a freighter containing high explosives blew up in the harbor. The explosion levels the North End of Halifax, and while searching through the rubble, a clergyman finds a young woman's diary. He becomes obsessed with finding her. I've only read the first few pages, but am looking forward to the rest of the story. I can tell it's well written and thoughtful. But it has a different perspective than 'A Very Long Engagement' and is told from a male point of view. Will be an excellent read i think!
The third book is called 'Regeneration', and it's the first novel in Pat Barker's World War I trilogy. This will be the most difficult of the three to read, i think. It's the story of decorated war hero Siegfried Sassoon and his time at Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh. In 1917 Sassoon publicly refused to continue serving in World War I because he thought.. and said.. it was a senseless slaughter. So he was declared 'mentally unsound', and sent to Craiglockhart to 'recover.' So to be sent back to battle to likely die. This book contains no bloody battle scenes. And it's not a love story. It's an anti-war novel. It's only 250 pages long, and i'm betting they're 250 difficult pages to swallow. But i want to read it. I need to read it. Then i want to read the second and third books in the trilogy.. 'The Eye in the Door' and 'The Ghost Road.' And i'm pretty certain that when i'm finished with these books, i'll wonder why so many humans in this day and age push for war. I don't want to make this a political post. But that's something i wonder about often already, and i haven't delved into these stories fully yet! I know my grandparents wondered. My paternal grandparents were born in 1903 and 1907 respectively and my maternal grandmother in 1911. They shook their heads a lot about the Vietnam War. The Korean War. My grandfather lived through the first Gulf War. We younger generations forget i think. Or we never learned in the first place. Why is that, i wonder? Nooooo! :) this post is going exactly where i didn't want it to go. Must stop now! :)
Have a wonderful Saturday evening all! Think fun and relaxation. Party or put your feet up. Whichever you prefer. Bye now for this Saturday the Eighteenth of February, Twenty Twelve! BTMYT for Books That Make You Think! :D