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Review: Lost Summers of Newport

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My Interest

The Gilded Age is a favorite of mine and the Cottages of New Port are on my Bucket List. I really enjoyed Lauren Willig’s Band of Sisters (click for my review) last year. (I’ve read one book by Karen White but have no memory of it–it’s just in my Goodreads “Read” list. I haven’t read any by Beatriz Wiliams though I started one and ran out of library time). Plus, I was intrigued by the idea of a committee of three writing a novel (apparently it is their second novel written as a trio).

US map showing Rhode Island credit  Photo Credit for Cottages Photo

The Story

The book cycles through alternating chapters telling the story of three members of the Sprague family (or their staff) in their Newport “Cottage” (i.e. mansion). Ellen, in 1899 (the Gilded Age) is music teacher to Maybelle Sprague whose brother wants her married off to an Italian Prince (this is the era of the Dollar Princesses–aka, Cora Crawley of Downton Abbey or Winston Churchill’s mother, Jennie Jerome and his cousin’s wife, Newport’s own Consuelo Vanderbilt). In 1957 we have Maybelle’s great-granddaughter the oh-so-helpfully nicknamed “Lucky,” the 50’s upper-class party-hosting wife (JFK and Jackie are guests) of hard-drinking, Mad Men-ish skirt-chasing Stuyvesant Sprague, and daughter-in-law of secret-holding Dudley Sprague. In the present day (2019) we have TV host Andie who interacts with Lucky’s grandchildren while filming a reality show around the rules of “Don’t go near the boathouse” [cue the warning music] and “Don’t try to talk to Lucky” [more warning music]. Secrets, of course, abound!

My Thoughts

This is THE historical fiction beach/pool book of the year! Exactly what I needed for my commute, too. Never mind that enough clues are dropped that even I guessed one of the big secrets! Or that there are eye-rolling things happening everywhere. This was a darned good read from start-to-finish. Improbable? Sure, but why let that spoil any of the fun? It’s a beach or pool book — just roll with it (like the waves of the sea).

A few annoying things:

But why, oh why, do people try to voice children with crap like “I founded a worm?” or have them stuff crap up their noses when they are school aged?? Ugh!! And can’t anyone do anything to show affection to a little boy but tousling the kid’s hair? (It’s as annoying and ubiquitous as the guy always “tenderly” tucking a lock of hair behind the woman’s ear). The kid things were made worse by the reader doing super annoying speech impediment of w for r for the kid! (Hopefully he’s getting help for this at that school he’s always puking to get out of attending). More reader problems included pronouncing the Latin “Pater” as “Patter” and can’t decide if Joanie says “Ma-Ma” or “M’ma” (ala Prince Charles)–I didn’t think even the Preppy-ist of 50s era Preps said “M’ma” but who knows, right? 

My Verdict

3.5

Lost Summers of Newport: A Novel by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White

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Two Reviews: A Real-Life Odyssey and a Nonfiction Thriller

These two books were what people used to call “real pills”–as in trouble. Trouble to review that is. I decided to quit trying to review them in my normal way and do a shorter version.

Candace Millard’s books are must-reads for me (though I skipped her Churchill book). She can tell a whale of a story. This time out is no different. Her portraits of her characters are vivid and full of life. (Though her strong prejudice against Speake came through a little too loud and clear). The adventures chronicled in this book are better than an Indiana Jones movie. But why was it important for us to know about one person’s pornography collection and porn sharing club?? This is the kind of crap that takes serious history down to the level of a bodice-ripper. Happily, that was a tiny blip in the book. Just about every human emotion is in here somewhere and believably conveyed, too.

River of the Gods by Candace Millard

The Special Air Service, SAS, was Britain’s covert paratroop unit in World War II. These men deployed via parachute behind enemy lines in France to wreck havoc any way they could to aid the Resistance. Unfortunately, things do not always go as planned on such covert operations and some were killed, others taken prisoner. Sadly, these men, though in correct uniform, were not treated as POWs by the Nazis–they were treated as spies and tortured. This is a true thriller–true in both it meets the criteria for the thriller genre and that it is a true story. The courage and heroism displayed here was extreme.

Churchill’s Band of Brothers by Damien Lewis

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Review: Illyrian Spring by Ann Bridge

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Thanks to blogger Covered in Flour (aka The Messy Baker) for alerting me to this book.

Won’t you be nice and click the link above and read her post, too? Leave a comment. We bloggers live for comments.

My Interest

A woman fed up with her husband, fed up with her grown children? Never! A lady whose hobby has become a profession for which she now has a real reputation? Yes! And she runs….away???  And finds a younger man to adore her? Oh yeah! Sounds like an Anne Tyler except that she’s a painter and the time is the early 1930s in England and “Illyria” which is sort of today’s Croatia down to Albania. So, a book as pleasant as a Dean Street Press/Furrowed Middle Brow story, but helpful to my Reading the World project too, since I go by setting rather than nationality of the author. A final vote in this book’s favor was the title including the word “Spring” since it was still Spring when I started reading it–so it fit with my seasonal reading goal.

The Story

“…I’ve begun to find out what it is to feel free, out here–and now I’ve got to find out how to be free at home.” (p. 251)

Grace Stanway, aka Lady Kilmichael, wife of renown economist Sir Walter Kilmichael and mother of Linnet, Teddy and Neville, goes off to paint in much the same way my mother used to threaten (jokingly) to go off for a pound of butter and never return. Grace goes off to the Continent to paint and escape a headstrong daughter, a husband who treats her like an idiot and twins who, being in college, know everything. That’s not to say that she hates them! No, she does love them–in fact various things everywhere bring them happily to mind. She’s just, well, she’s just had it with being the family’s joke. She isn’t taken seriously. And, what’s more, it appears that dear Walter is “straying.” But is he? Does he take her for granted and see her as unintelligent–silly even? Hmmmm.

Along the way she meets a disenchanted, but charming and well-bread young man who aspires to be a painter. Except his father, a General, is imposing Architecture School on his dream to make him more respectable and to get him off the General’s payroll. Nicholas explodes telling Grace she simply can’t draw before he learns who she really “is.” After the explosion the two come to know each other and learn from each other. Nicholas falls in love, but Grace simply likes being taken seriously and being adored. She also enjoys showing him tricks of the painting trade–all of which help him improve his craft.

While this idyllic trip goes on, Walter is back home worried. Finally, he and Linnet go abroad as does The General. You can imagine what happens next I’m sure.

My Thoughts

This was the perfect novel to read out on my deck in the evenings! I loved Grace, I loved Nicholas–I loved Walter and came to like Linnet. This is a sweet, wonderful story without being cloying or precious. There are a few things that modern readers may find disagreeable (I don’t think there was anything that would anger someone)–especially Grace or Nicholas’ thoughts on the locals. The book came out in 1935, that was then. We’ve moved on so ignore it and enjoy the story.

My Verdict

3.5

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Review: The Ardent Swarm: A Novel by Yamen Manai, translated by Lara Vergnaud

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My Interest

I was trolling thru my Kindle looking for something different and landed on this short novel. I’m counting it in my Reading the World project as “Tunisia” because the author is Tunisian, it draws on the culture of that country and though set in am unnamed country, the story could be set there. CIA World Fact Book–Tunisia.

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The Story

(Don’t be put off by the first chapter). Sidi is a beekeeper who keeps to himself, takes good care of his bees and his donkey and minds his own business. He lives outside a small village in an undeveloped (“backward”) part of a poor North African country. The country is ruled by “the Handsome One.” One day everything starts to change in ways Sidi and his rural neighbors could not imagine. Largely illiterate they are faced with a new challenge–electing their own leader. Religious leaders arrive in the village and teach them to vote for their party by it’s symbol. To reinforce their voters’ learning they bring crates of food, clothing, blankets, and other necessities to the very poor villagers. A voting booth is put up. A village with no electricity or running water, no school, now had a voting booth. A voting booth where they could vote for the pigeon symbol instead of learning to read and think for themselves.

Soon after Sidi’s bees are violently attacked by a strange black hornet the likes of which no one has ever seen before. Society changes as rapidly as the life in the beehives. Suddenly women are covered head-to-toe, men dress differently too, and many carry rifles or even semi-automatics. The religious leaders make pronouncements. The professor Sidi goes to see about his bees suffers greatly from this new regime (trying to avoid spoilers). What will become of the bees and the people?

My Thoughts

This novel (novella in length), told in the style of a parable shows what can happen when people don’t pay attention to what is going on around them. Sidi, shows the difference one man (my “one” vote that people refuse to cast because it is “useless”) can make. 

I found it chilling to read this book at a time when many (I am not divulging my political opinions) feel the USA is now going the way of Sidi’s country–to a theocracy. It also brings to mind the famous quote about the Nazi’s

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

(Martin Niemoller)

“After the revolution, the time had come for democracy and journalism, but what came was and endless media debate in which politicians blamed one another for all that ailed the country.” (p. 114)

Too often today people want to ignore politics, to live in their own “bubble.” New is skewed totally to the opinion of one party or the other. “Serious” journalists now take only a Liberal point of view. It is too easy to tune it all out and focus on a ridiculous prince and his horrible wife or on real housewives or sports or (fill in the blank). We must be awake in life. As anxiety-producing and anger-invoking as politics can be, we must not turn a blind eye to it. We must not let corrupt politicians drive our nations an internal cataclysm of “us” versus “them.” We must unite to save ourselves from those corrupt politicians of we, too, will have the fate of the professor Sidi consults. Wake up, America. Unite.

The Ardent Swarm The Ardent Swarm: A Novel by Yamen Manai, translated by Lara Vergnaud

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Review: Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? by Séamas O’Reilly

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My Interest

My constant search for audio books for my long commute led me to this memoir on Net Galley. I am fascinated by big families, so a widowed father with 11 kids–why not? The author is one of the kids.  Dad did well enough to provide a housekeeper even when his wife was alive. I liked the sound of it. Add to it that this is a novella-length memoir and you have the perfect book to finish the week that starts finishing a book on the wrong day. I like “week-length” audio books for my commute. Sometimes, though, I have to to take longer ones.

The Story

My parents were formidably, perhaps even recklessly Catholic.”

“To be one of eleven was…demented.… [and] It didn’t help that we were so close in age and traveled often singling in the kind of large, vaguely municipal transport vehicle usually reserved for separatist churches and volleyball teams made up of young offenders.”

MINOR SPOILER ALERT

I know that in Ireland “Mammy” means Mom. Here in the USA, however, the term is cringe-inducing and might get you banned from social media if you used it. (While reading this book, I watched a  Neil Sean YouTube video that included the Al Jolson film, “The Jazz Singer” and I cringed just thinking the word  “Ma….”].

Anyway, the book’s title comes from the fact that when the author was little, his mother died of breast cancer, and he in his kindergarten-aged-logic went around telling everyone at the wake, “Did ye hear Mammy [Mommy] died?” like it was news. Ouch! Recounting his life in a series of vignettes (columns?), O’Reilly tells about life as one of the “wee ones” of the family–those who rode at the back of the families airport shuttle bus. The little boy with the cereal box full of toy dinosaurs, whose engineer Dad, recorded on VHS (and catalogued) nearly everything broadcast in Northern Ireland in the Full House tv years grew up to tell the story of how little he remembers about the mother he knows was wonderful. He also tells about how his father coped by keeping busy.

It was the Dad I really liked. He did obsessive things like catalog everything he recorded on 3 to 4 VCRs, he kept a garage full of stuff as interesting as three chain saws, and how was a true Catholic–not just one who wasn’t successful with any birth control method. He gave of himself and his time to the church, his family, and his community. He thought his kids were best served living in nowhereville, having poor little entertainment aside from a house crammed with books, and did little or nothing to get involved at school. In spite of this–or maybe because of it, his kids did well. I wish I’d been more like Séamas’ dad. Maybe my kids would be readers today!

The O’Reilly kids sang at church events but didn’t get preachy–this is not the Irish Catholic Duggar family. At least Séamas (and I assume others) read every book in the house and followed his own rabbit trails of interests so that he came to know all kinds of weird facts about stuff like dinosaurs. Séamas, though, also came to a point where he did not sleep, constantly felt he deserved more attention but, guess what? He didn’t go off the rails. He did not become a drug addict or kill people or anything like that. Instead,  he had his appendix out and go back to life. And, he learned to tell his story with humor and grace. After all, if your dad was the kind of guy who had a pet name for his favorite step-ladder, how could you not turn out ok?

Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? by Séamas O’Reilly releases tomorrow, June 7, 2022, but is available now for pre-order.

My Verdict

3.0

A good, fun, memoir

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Review: Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason

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“Everything is broken and messed up and completely fine. That is what life is. It’s only the ratios that change. Usually on their own. As soon as you think that’s it, it’s going to be like this forever, they change again.” 

My Interest

Most months I enjoy participating in a book meme called 6 Degrees of Separation hosted by the blogger Books Are My Favourite and Best. There is a starting book and then you build a “chain” of books that are somehow related. It’s fun! June’s starting book is Sorrow and Bliss so I thought I’d read it. (You do not have to have read the starting book to participate). So stop by this Saturday to check out my 6 Degrees post, too, please! An added interest is that this book was shortlisted for the 2022 Women’s Prize for Fiction. I track my reading of prize winners on Goodreads.

“There isn’t a name for the emotion that registered on his face then. It was all of them.”

The Story

Martha’s father was a young sensation. His first poem was published in the New Yorker and he soon received a huge advance for a book of poetry–a rare accomplishment. Martha’s mother was makes “art” out of garbage. Somehow, though her parents are still married, the book of poetry has never happened, nor has the garbage art been celebrated. Meanwhile, Martha and her sister have grown up in a very odd home. Their aunt, who has her life so together that she lives in Belgravia and sends her kids to posh boarding schools in Scotland, shores up the family’s miniscule finances. Along the way, Martha develops “problems.” Problems her mother tends to dismiss. Her mother also tends to be dismissive about her successful sister and…well, anything that isn’t alcohol.

Now before  you think this is a super-depressing Oprah’s Book Club book, think again. There are layers to this story. One Christmas, one of the Belgravia kids brings home a classmate whose father forgot to buy his ticket “home” to Singapore for Christmas. The boy’s mother is dead and his Dad might as well be for all the care he gives him. The boy, Patrick, is beyond happy to be included in a family Christmas and begins a long association with the family.

As the years go on Martha’s problems, like her mother’s drinking, escalate to where no one wants to deal with her –finally even [No Spoilers] gives up. Desperate for someone to talk to one day, Martha settles for talking to her mother. Eventually she asks her mother to stop drinking. This leads to change for the mother and for Martha, but change is not always a cure or a solution. There is still something deeply buried that must come out.

In and around all of this, Martha’s sister is having her four children born in 9 years. She, too, is overwhelmed, but expected to be.  Her marriage is stable and she gives a lot of time to Martha. But does this time together help?

“…things do happen. Terrible things. The only thing any of us get to do is decide whether they happen to us or if, at least in part, they happen for us.”

My Thoughts

Mental illness is the elephant in the room here. We are not told what the diagnosis is (and the author goes to great pains in the before/after sections of the book to stress its symptoms are NOT those of any real mental illness). The mother’s drinking, Martha’s “problems,” Dad’s failure to live up to his huge initial potential are all part of the dysfunction here. But so too is Patrick’s lack of a family life and so too if the sister and the Belgravia aunt and…..families are messy, aren’t they?

I liked the fact that Martha’s problems did not see her put into some stereotypical “horror” unit in a hospital. Instead, her life goes on. Her mother’s life, in spite of the drinking, goes on. This is what happens with mental illness most times–at least in the U.S. This story is set in the U.K. [the country, not the University], but it sounds like it is much the same. I also liked the way change finally happened (No Spoilers). No miraculous “cures” or magical epiphanies. This was a very real world story.

Lastly, I liked the touches of humor in here. The décor being character building” was a special favorite of mine  from among the funny lines. My mother was beginning to describe herself as a conscientious objector where domestic matters were concerned,” was both sad-funny and funny-sad and so relatable.

“Even the women who get those things lose them again. Husbands die and children grow up and marry someone you hate and use the law degree you bought them to start an Etsy business. Everything goes away eventually, and women are always the last ones standing so we just make up something else to want.”

My Verdict

4.0

Sorrow and Bliss: A  Novel by Meg Mason

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Review: The School for German Brides: A Novel of World War II by Aimie K. Runyan 

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My Interest

I had this on hold at the library, but reading Davida’s review on her blog The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog, made me certain I would want to listen to it and finish it. In the end, I agreed completely with her review and add a few more thoughts. Won’t you be nice and click on the link to her review, read it too, and leave her a comment?

I’ve read a ton the lives and education of girls and women in Nazi Germany. Their indoctrination was an odd mix of the ultra-conservative plus a solitary liberal touch (the need for “pure” babies outweighed the need to shame single mothers being the liberal touch) so this book caught my eye instantly. While Hitler was venerated and worshipped instead of God or Christ, there is so much similarity with the American Quiverfull movement, whose purpose is to “outbreed” their opponents (and so much similarity with EVERY extremely conservative religion or society–even Stalin’s USSR during World War II) that I just kept looking for more and more information. For more on the Nazi Bride Schools read this article from The Daily Mail.

The Story

Three young women, just at the age of entering adulthood in Hitler’s Germany in 1938. Hanna embarks on a new life with her Uncle and Aunt, party stalwarts in Berlin, following the death of her mother. A midwife and herbalist, her mother had been a natural healer whose practice was outlawed by the regime. Hanna’s father has sent her Berlin to get her on the correct, safe, path for adulthood. Klara, the daughter of her Uncle and Aunt’s friends, becomes her first friend in Berlin. Both are expected to make advantageous marriages to ranking Nazis. Tilde, half Jewish, is the daughter of a dressmaker who serves both families, and is friends with Klara who apparently has not figured out her heritage.

Both Hanna and Klara are “guided” (forced) into the role of perfect German wives by their aunt or mother. But neither is a 1930’s version of a Stepford Wife-to-be. Particularly not Hanna. When the women are given the “honor” of attending the most exclusive of Hitler’s Bride Schools, the fit with the school’s ethos is less than perfect.

My Thoughts 

First the picky stuff 

  • Who used the word “trope” in 1938?
  • Swearing–girls like that were NOT brought up to swear. Saying “God” or Damn or Hell even in private would not have occurred to them.
  • “It’s complicated….”
  • In 1939 Nazi Germany, where professors were under total scrutiny would any professor have spoken out so clearly to a student? Maybe, if he was stupid.
  • Did people really say “go to Uni” [University] in 1939? [Since Americans say “college” not “uni” I’m not sure, but I doubt it].

Characters in historical fiction using modern speech or behavior is a pet peeve. Happily, while there were a couple of other things like this, overall it did not lessen my enjoyment of the story. I point it out to show, for the millionth time, that skimping on REAL editors and (apparently) relying on spell check does not produce as wonderful a book as a real, experienced, human editor would.

My Thoughts on the Story

SPOLERS

As a modern woman with 20/20 hindsight, I liked Hanna’s spirit. She knew her own mind and didn’t want to marry anyone at that age, let alone an SS Captain in his mid-30s (with her Uncle’s connections she could have landed a much older Colonel, so it wasn’t as bad as all that). She was interested in becoming a doctor or at least going to college–a perfectly normal ambition to someone today. Many young women in the 30s did go to college, but not in all countries.

Klara, too, had spirit. Perhaps because she was with her parents, lifelong habits of obedience let her be more accepting of their influence on her future. Regardless, she was the bolder of the two in reaching out to help Tilde once she admitted knowing her secret. That was admirable. She could be a typical young woman and be both catty to her friend and loving. Her advice to “try to make the best of it” was sincere and very good advice. Once she got over the loss of her potential excellent marriage, and accepted an only slightly lesser one, she at least got a man who seemed sincere and decent in spite of his high party affiliation. But, she took the greatest risk–showing both maturity and immaturity in so doing. Maturity in refusing to see someone as less than human or less than deserving, but immaturity in the way she chose to help. A more mature woman would have done so with much greater discretion.

I have no sympathy for the Nazis, but I do realize they were, in part, educated to be the way they were with the party hyping up the anti-Semitism that was present in all societies then to a fever pitch. Still, the SS were fanatics, so I found it interesting that Friedrich occasionally evidenced some genuine humanity. Of course, his finance,  Hanna, was an Aryan and a “good catch” in so many ways. But not many men of that era (or any era), regardless of nationality, religious or political beliefs, would have put up with a finance embarrassing them, though, of course, not all would react in a bad way. I thought Hanna, again, took the risks only the young and naïve would take. A more mature woman would have worked against him in more subtle and more effective ways.

Tilde’s story was nearly miraculous in the way her mother was so swiftly gotten to safety. At that point, lines at the U.S. Consulate were days-of-waiting-long. I also found it tough to believe she fell for Samuel that quickly. Through the mother-right, she was born Jewish, but in Nazi terms, she did not “look” Jewish. She was hiding in plain sight. The young take risks so lightly no matter how noble and honest it was of her to embrace her heritage.  

Nevertheless…

I found this book well written–the story was so compelling I kept listening in the evenings at home–I just HAD to hear more! Even so, I was very disappointed though, that little to nothing of the actual Bride School experience was in the book–that was just a “hook” of a title and a handy location for the ending. I would like to have read much more about that experience which was meant to make fanatical followers of Hitler and perfect German wives–especially for S.S. officers like Friedrich. In that, the book failed to deliver. Regardless, I still found it a very good story. 

My Verdict

3.75

For more on the Nazi Bride Schools read this article from The Daily Mail

See Also:

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Nazi Wives by James Wyllie

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Review: The Far Country by Nevil Shute

I’ve read A Town Like Alice by this author twice. I always intended to read more of his work. I found this on sale for Kindle in 2021 and bought it. It was just the “right” moment to read it–I had no idea I’d read it the same week I’d read another book set in Australia! My brain works in mysterious ways.

Note: Do I call this historical fiction? A historical contemporary? It was written close to the time it was set, but today it is historical. Conundrum.

The Story

Here is a land where a man can live a proper and sane life…. (p. 327)

Jennifer lives a ho-hum life in suburban London around the time the Korean War kicked off. She is typist in a boring government job, living a boring life in a boarding house. Her brothers have died in the war. Her father, a doctor, is struggling in the new National Health Service in his practice in a city in the midlands. Her mother’s health is suffering with the lack of coal for heat–she is an asthmatic. Her grandmother is dying of pride and malnutrition, though it is cleverly hidden from the family. Her niece in Australia sends her food parcels, but believing all is well, sends mostly candied fruits with which to bake fruit cakes. When the niece gets an inkling all is not well she sends a check to the old lady. On her deathbed she signs it over to Jenny to go and see the relative in Australia–whom the old lady believes is a struggling farmer’s wife. Jenny reads the letter and knows, thanks to the price of wool, the relative is doing very well. She decides to go to Australia.

There, in very short order, she makes a life for herself–falling in love with a “New Australian”–a formerly displaced person, a Czech doctor. She loves the life in Australia, but will she stay?

My Thoughts

I loved every word of this story! Nevil Shute tells a story so well. I couldn’t stop reading! This is a big deal since my print reading has been so little since COVID. I devoured this book. I found Jenny and Carl’s story so believable–so wonderful! This is the kind of story I love.

My Verdict

4.0

Aussie-Author-Reading-Challenge-2022

Learn more about he 2022 Aussie Author Reading Challenge at the blog, Book Lover Book Reviews

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Review: Valor by Dan Hampton

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Thank you to #Netgalley who gave me a copy of the audio version of this book in exchange for a fair review.

My Interest

How amazing that I’d find a World War II (nonfiction) book, set in the Philippines, featuring a guy from a Kentucky family after having just read a novel set in the Philippines in World War II and have just read two books featuring young men from families in…you guessed it…Kentucky! Plus there was a lot of talk of Australia. Now, just where were two of my books set recently? Yep, Australia!

My interest in World War II is always with me. When I saw this book, I immediately requested it.

The Story

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Map of the Philippines in 1944–Batan is at the very top of the map.

Bill Harris, son of a Marine Corps General, Annapolis grad, and all-around decent guy, happened to be serving in the Philippines when the Japanese attacked, General MacArthur fled with his wife, child, and nanny, and the U.S. forces surrendered. Bill did not like the idea of being held captive–being a Marine he preferred to go on fighting. He and a buddy (I thought the story sounded a bit familiar) escaped. The buddy went on to be Governor of Indiana many years later and I have his book on this escape in my Kindle. (I haven’t finished it. He may have been elected governor, but he wasn’t a gifted storyteller).

In a odyssey that would span most of the war, and at times would involve more Americans, Bill Fields starved, swan miles, paddled, sailed, hiked, climbed and more to stay free. When finally his freedom ended the war was nearly won.

My Thoughts

This adventure was very exciting. I often stayed in the car in the parking lot at work listening until the very last minute. Ditto in the driveway at home. It was that interesting. I especially enjoyed the comments the author made about “Dugout Doug”–General MacArthur, who like Britain’s Lord Mountbatten, was an early adopter of modern public relations tactics to promote himself. How a 5-star General got away with skedaddling to Australia to sit out the war (supposedly it was to avoid capture to continue directing the war–it really just got him out of having to surrender) while his men were taken prisoner, yet he STILL got the nation’s highest honor, the Congressional Medal of Honor, is a testament to the man’s ego and powers of self-promotion. You can read the citation here. Then men Bill Fields knew had little regard for him before the surrender and even less after. (Though to be fair, he did get a lot right in the reconstruction of Japan).

Harris had MacGyver-level resourcefulness. He used just about every bit of his Naval Academy education and training as well as all that was taught him after graduation at Quantico to stay alive, stay free, and keep going. This refusal to be defeated, his insistence on continuing to try and try again, earned him a spot on the U.S.S. Missouri to see the Japanese surrender.

This is an amazing story and deserves to be made into an outstanding movie.

Valor by Dan Hampton

My Verdict

4.0

To learn more about the battle for the Philippines in World War II, check out this page from the U.S. National Archives.

Governor Whitcomb’s Book on the Escape

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Escape From Corregidor by Edgar D. Whitcomb

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Review: Under the Golden Sun by Jenny Ashcroft

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My Interest

Thank you to #Netgalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.

I enjoyed the author’s earlier book, Meet Me In Bombay, in spite of some problems with the story. I liked the sound of this story, too. World War II, an orphaned child, a long journey–so much to attract my interest.

The Story

Rose, who has recently been discharged from the Women’s division of the RAF for an unwed pregnancy, signs on to accompany a mixed-race child back to his family in Australia. Her uncle is close to the Prime Minister, her boy friend is an upper-class New Yorker working for a newspaper (whom the audio performer unfortunately makes sound like a gangster in a B movie). She instantly falls in love with Walter (the child) and agrees to accompany him to his extended family in Australia.

Their ship with go in a convoy hoping to evade German u-boats.The boy’s mother was struck by a bus and his grandmother is dying. Her Uncle (the one friendly with “Winston”) asks, sanely, “is there anyone else [the boy] can go to?” Still recovering from her miscarriage, Rose sees this as a great opportunity. Her brother, Joe, is an RAF pilot who happens to have known the child’s uncle, Max, who flew for the RAAF before miraculously surviving a crash. Rose arrives in Australia after the long months at sea and …..

My Thoughts

I’ll be totally honest: I was in the mood for a book like this! I need some adventure, some romance, and some tweaking at the heartstrings. This book fit the bill and then some.

Were there problems? Mistakes? Yes, The only one I’ll harp on (ok, aside from “grabbing her seat belt” in an Australian Ute in 1941) was that “Winston” had Rose’s family over to ride at Blenheim Palace. Now Winston could very well have rung up or written to his first cousin (Consuelo Vanderbilt’s son) the Duke of Marlborough and asked him to let friends ride the Duke’s horses on the Blenheim estate, but I think it much more likely that “friends” of “Winston” would have gone to HIS home, Chartwell, in Kent and ridden his horses. But, that’s just me. Minor point.

I liked this story very well in spite of any flaws. I thought Walter was sweet. I thought Rose’s Uncle Lionel was right to be concerned, but I knew she’d be ok in spite of everything. This is a great poolside or beach read.

My Verdict

3.0

Under the Golden Sun: A Novel by Jenny Ashcroft

Questions for the editor: They waited for a SHIP to take them from Brisbane to Sydney in 1941??

Previous review of a Jenny Ashcroft book

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Meet Me in Bombay by Jenny Ashcroft

Historical Fiction

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