Posts Tagged 'WWII'

An enclosure around space

The Glass Room by Simon Mawer provides a story of WWII that is difficult to forget. The image of a house built to enclose space is haunting — its inhabitants walk into the unease of WWII and then are enclosed by the events of history. Liesel’s story, and the multiple romantic entanglements between her, her husband Viktor, and their extended group of friends manages to give a view of lives that are messy and interesting, and not so heroic as to be unbelievable. And through it all, the house remains as stolen property, like the lives that were stolen from the protagonists. Things got so messy in the novel, I worried there wouldn’t a close to the book that would leave me satisfied, without it feeling false. I’ll let you read to see how Liesel and Viktor’s story finishes in a tangential way.

Since the house itself was a real one, even though the lives in the novel are very fictionalized, you can walk through the house’s sun-drenched rooms if you visit Czechoslovakia. There’s an article from 2012 here, with some photos of the space. Definitely a modernist aesthetic — and interesting that the house remained through it all and has been restored.

The Irregulars

I’ve been reading The Irregulars by Jennet Connant. It’s engaging reading, if you need something you can set aside and pick up again later. It isn’t a new book, and I picked it up at the library. But the information about Roald Dahl is new to me, so it’s diverting. (I never knew how carefully the elections in America were followed during WWII, with different friendly Canadians and British visitors chatting up politicians and newspapermen in Washington, DC, hoping for information or to sway votes.)

And, in the way that books connect you to other books, it has inspired me to pick up Dawn Powell’s A Time To Be Born for a re-read, now that I’ve read contemporary recountings of what Clare Luce Booth was like. Anyone else follow this sort of bookweb of associations out there, or is it just me?

In less bookish news, the weather has been rather dreadful here in the USA. Many of us on the Eastern seaboard have been told that the heat and humidity will push out today, after a week long heatwave. We have thunderstorms pushing through now, so maybe it will be nicer tomorrow.

A girl in a blue beret

From his seat on the train now, he watched as the farm filed yielded to ragged outskirts, which melted into factory buildings, which gave way to the switching yards …. His stay with the Alberts in 1944 overlapped his visit now, as if he had jumped over time and might still be hiding behind an armoire or in a haystack with a cat. The shadowy figures of the brave people who had saved his life — in barns, in hidden rooms, on bicycles — were coming clearer, almost reachable. He welcomed them. … he could almost believe that the girl in the blue beret would be waiting when the train pulled in to the station.” — Bobbie Ann Mason. The Girl in the Blue Beret. Published by Random House, 2011.

A lovely book, well paced and interesting. For me, it was more about the mysteries of lost connections than WWII, but there’s enough of both. Sometimes the main character seems egocentrically North American, but that seemed to ring true to the character’s development and his reason for visiting France decades after his plane was shot down during the war. I enjoyed the gentle unfolding of the different truths within this tale, and will look for more books by the author.

Knitting things (apropos of nothing): I have done some knitting for PS5 blue. But mostly, with the hot weather and book sales at closing bookstore chains, I’ve been reading or taking photos of cool blue. If you’re doing PS5, hope you had a good time with blue and are gearing up for August (pinks and purples).  I’ll probably be wrapping up “blue” a little late, since I still have some yarn to photograph and I got some yarn that fits in with this months’ theme as well.

Looking Back East

Purple white and yellow irisGail Tsukiyama’s book, “The Samurai’s Garden” was a dense, well-measured, spare book with beautiful imagery. I was drawn into the story from the minute that I read the first line, that began, “I wanted to find my own way…” I read very, very slowly, dipping into a totally different world, of a young, Chinese man living in Japan during the eve of the Second World War.

There were so many filters/screens here for me — time, gender, and the eyes of someone from another culture discovering Japan. From the blurb on the back cover, I worried that the story would be dulled, like one’s vision looking through rice paper screens. However, there were also themes of writing, art, appreciation of nature, and the rhythms of events beyond one’s control, that allowed me to follow the story and appreciate its still voice.

Your mileage may vary. But it was quite a relief to be carried through to the satisfying closure of following the seasons through a year that begins with Autumn.