Cook, Kevin. The Burning Blue: the Untold Story of Christa McAuliffe and NASA’s Challenger Disaster. New York: Henry Holt, 2021.
Reason read: as a member of the Early Review Program for LibraryThing, I occasionally win books to read and review.
If someone asked, you probably couldn’t remember where you were on January 28th, 1986, but if the question was phrased a little differently I know you can: “Where were you when NASA’s space shuttle Challenger exploded?” Say the name Christa McAuliffe and everyone knows her name. Personally, I know exactly where I was when the tragedy occurred: high school, in the Vortex, cozying up to a guy named Jim. I remember hiding my face when the plumes of white smoke arced across the sky. No escaping the tragedy.
As outsiders witness to the unforgettable horror, we all have preconceived notions of what really happened that day. Cook takes the Challenger tragedy and puts a face to all who were impacted. Christa and her fellow space travelers were not the only souls lost on 1986’s twenty-eighth day. It is obvious from the level of personal detail, Cook researched the entire event and those leading up to it very carefully and was extremely thorough with every detail. All in all, it is a well-told tale. In truth, as the pages went by I had a hard time reading it. Just knowing every chapter would take me closer to the time of McAuliffe’s demise made it hard to continue. As an aside, I felt the same way about reading Anne Frank’s diary. This is a story that doesn’t have a Hollywood ending. It is strange how NASA provided some resistance to the Challenger accident investigation and even stranger that simple 0-ring problems were reported for years and no one listened when Sally Ride leaked the information.
Here’s what I fully believe: Rumor has it Reagan was going to cut funding if the shuttle didn’t launch on January 28th, 1986.
An added eeriness to McAuliffe’s story is just how often people alluded to the dangers as she trained for the event. It was if there were signs trying to tell her not to join the launch.
Playlist: Jefferson Airplane, Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, Madonna, Queen, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, U2, “A Time for Us,” “Sunshine on My Shoulders,” “Rocky Mountain High,” Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” “We are The World, “Stars and Stripes Forever,” “God Bless America,” “Flying for Me” by John Denver, and “God Bless the USA.”
Author fact: Kevin Cook has written for the New York Times, Men’s Journal, GQ, etc., but the coolest fact is that he currently lives in Northampton, Massachusetts. That’s just up the road from me.
Book trivia: The Burning Blue was scheduled to go on sale in June and should have 16 pages of photographs.
Brockmann, Suzanne. Over the Edge. New York: Ivy Books, 2001.
Reason read: to continue the series started in May in honor of Brockmann’s birth month.
If you have read any of Brockmann’s other Troubleshooter books you will know she has a formula for her plots. They all include Navy SEALs who are blindingly, devastatingly, glaringly, or outrageously handsome and the women they lust after, deeply love, or obsessively desire are all undeniably gorgeous, remarkably good looking, or intensely (or sinfully) attractive. Everyone, male and female, has exotic eyes or cheekbones, lush, full, or bee-stung lips, and they always, always, always a hard body to die for. No one seems to have an ounce of fat or ugliness or plainness anywhere. Despite everyone being impossibly beautiful that wasn’t what really bothered me. What irked me is the amount of sex on the brain. Someone could be talking about the abuse they suffered as a child but thinking lustfully about the person across from them. A murder could happen right in front of someone’s face and within minutes he or she has forgotten the death because they’re too busy trying to unzip their pants. Every couple seemed to be either arguing, miscommunicating, making assumptions, or having blistering hot sex. Seriously, there were so many sex scenes I started to skip them to the detriment of the plot. I don’t think it’s a spoiler alert to say the hijack rescue, despite taking the whole book to set up, was over in a matter of minutes. Oh yeah, back to the plot:
In Over the Edge the plot alternates between a present day plane hijacking and a forbidden love during the early days of World War II. Terrorists land a plane in Kazbekistan in hopes of trading hostages. The Navy SEALs are brought in to negotiate a rescue of an American Senator’s wayward daughter. The most interesting character who tied present day with the past was Helga Schuler, a journalist and Holocaust survivor who is losing her memory.
Author fact: Brockmann has written over fifty novels.
Book trivia: I got nothing.
Playlist: “Like a Virgin” by Madonna, “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin, Wynton Marsalis,
Nancy said: I like what Pearl said about Brockmann’s novels. She said Brockmann gives a “female slant to the James Bond ethos.” The characters are “sharply drawn” and the reading of her work is “interesting.” Too bad I didn’t agree when reading Over the Edge.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romance Novels: Our love is Here to Stay” (p 203).
Bangs, Richard and Christian Kallen. Rivergods: Exploring the World’s Great Wild Rivers. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1985.
Reason read: June is National River Cleanup Month.
Rivergods balances adventurous text from Bangs and Kallen with gorgeous photography. Christian Kallen and Richard Bangs bring many of the most powerful, yet mostly unheard of, rivers to life as they describe trying to raft or kayak each one. By traveling all corners of the globe, they are able to meet indigenous peoples in South America, Australia, Africa, and Asia. By studying their anthropologies, they learn a little about each culture including head hunting and cannibalism. Each river teaches them about the power of Mother Nature and the real dangers of trying to tame her.
As an aside, when I started running with Dr. Tommy Rivs, one of the things he taught me early on was about Islamic religion. In accordance with the beliefs of Islam, no humans or animals can be portrayed or duplicated by man. All art such as tile work, tapestries, and carpets must be of geometric shapes and flowers. It was cool to see Bangs and Kallen talk about it in Rivergods.
Lines to like, “It was like trying to admire a beautiful painting after having been mugged” (p 108). I wish I could quote all of the reviews from the back cover of Rivergods. Admiration, humor, and maybe a little envy are evident in the reviewer’s words.
Author fact: Richard Bangs has a pretty cool website here. Christian Kallen coauthored another book with Bangs called Riding the Dragon’s Back.
Book trivia: Rivergods is oversized and full of gorgeous photography.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Rivergods.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Water, Water Everywhere” (p 252).
Smith, Alexander McCall. 44 Scotland Street. New York: Anchor Books, 2005.
Reason read: The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee is in June.
This is a delightful book if the characters do not drive you nuts. You will meet the community of 44 Scotland Street and the surrounding neighborhood: Tim, Jamie, Bertie, Irene, Stuart, Big Lou, Hugh, Angus, Ronnie, Mags, Pete, Christabel, Melanie, Domenica, Matthew, Bruce, Gordon, Raeburn, Todd, Sasha, Lizzie, and Pat. Twenty year old Pat is at the center of the story. Newly relocated to 44 Scotland Street, she rents a room from vain Bruce Anderson and finds a job in an art gallery with Matthew. She is sort of at a loss as to what to do with her life (she’s on her second gap year from university). It is only after a painting from the art gallery goes missing that the plot picks up, albeit a little predictably: Bruce is an exaggerated narcist who Pat can’t help but fall in love with, while Matthew, sweet and a little bumbling, falls in love with Pat. There are heroes and villains at 44 Scotland Street. They all have their moments of love and loss. At the center of it all is a painting that may or may not be worth some money.
Author fact: Smith has a new book coming out in October. Check it out here.
Book trivia: 44 Scotland Street started off as a daily in a newspaper so it was written as it was being published. Before that, it was an idea from a conversation with Armistead Maupin at an Amy Tan party.
Playlist: “As Time Goes By,” “The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen,” “Good-Night Irene,” “Play Misty for Me,” Red Hot Chili Peppers,
Nancy said: Pearl called 44 Scotland Street “entertaining.”
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Scotland: More Than Haggis, Kilts and Ian Rankin” (p 198). Interesting to note that Ian Rankin does appear in 44 Scotland Street as himself.
Evanovich, Janet. Seven Up. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2002.
Reason read: to continue the series started in January in honor of Female Mystery Month.
Has this ever happen to you – you read a book so fast with as little thought as possible and by the time you finish it, you have no idea what you read? Unfortunately, this is what happened to me at the end of Seven Up. Suddenly, I was on the last page and Stephanie Plum was about to sleep with the wrong guy. What? Here’s what I remember: Stephanie’s newest collar is a retired old mobster in his seventies who has a hard time getting an erection. Pun totally intended. Despite Eddie DeChooch’s advanced age, Stephanie can’t bring him in no matter how easy it seems to be. DeChooch is elusive even when she has help. He is only wanted for stealing cigarettes but something seems amiss. Two members of the mafia are also looking for him. Here’s where the plot takes a twist: when Stephanie tries to apprehend DeChooch, she finds a dead body in his shed. Of course she does. Stephanie is notorious for finding dead bodies all over Trenton. As a side plot, Stephanie’s friend Mooner goes missing, and when his roommate also disappears, Stephanie can’t help but think they are involved in the mafia hunt for DeChooch. Of course all of the usual suspects are in the plot: grandmother Mazur, Lula, Ranger, Joe Morelli, and Rex, the hamster. New to the scene is Stephanie’s sister, Valerie. She comes to visit Trenton with her two kids after her husband left her for the babysitter. If you are keeping track of Stephanie’s relationship with Joe, they are engaged and she has “bought” a wedding dress. If you are keeping track of the cars Stephanie kills, two: a Honda and a Cadillac.
Consistencies: Plum still keeps her .38 in a cookie jar, Grandmother Mazur still finds dates by attending funerals, People are still breaking into Plum’s apartment no matter what kind of lock system she has in place, her mother still calls with that night’s dinner menu, and pineapple upside down cake is still her favorite.
Lines to like, “No matter if you are suffering depression or wanted for murder, you still pay your respects in the Burg” (p 33) and “I might be a stay-at-home mother someday, but I’ll always be trying to fly off the garage roof” (p 269).
Author fact: This is the seventh book I have read by Ms. Evanovich. What have I not told you about the author? Did I tell you in some photographs she reminds me of Reba McEntire? It mush be the red hair and perky smile.
Book trivia: Evanovich is up to twenty six Plum books. this is only number seven, obviously.
Playlist: Godsmack and Coolio.
Nancy said: Pearl doesn’t consider Seven Up a mystery. She does think it is hilarious.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Ms. Mystery” (p 169).
Perry, Paul. On the Bus: the complete guide to the legendary trip of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters and the birth of the counterculture. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1990.
Reason read: Allen Ginsberg’s birthday is in June. He was not a bus rider with the Merry Pranksters, but he was on the scene and subsequently interviewed for the book. Additionally, the famed bus trip started on June 14th, 1964.
Written in 1990, twenty-five years after the famed Kool-aid acid trips, Paul Perry pulls together interviews from the most influential mindbenders of the day: Ken Kesey, Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Ram Dass, and of course, Neal Cassady…to name a few. They look back on the time when a total of thirteen free spirits (fourteen, if you count the teenaged neighbor) called themselves the Merry Pranksters, boarded a psychedelically painted school bus, and hit the road in search of the ultimate trip. What started as acid parties in Neal Cassady’s San Francisco home soon became experimentations on the road in the converted bus they christened, “Furthur.” Traveling through Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, New York, and Calgary before heading home to Big Sur, California, they conducted their LSD tests, made new friends, connected with musicians like Wavy Gravy and Jerry Garcia, and rode the wave of the psychedelic revolution. By the time the Merry Pranksters got home they were never the same again.
What I am constantly wondering about is how much of the tapes and recordings of the trip survived?
Line to linger over, “Arvin Brown, who drank several [cupfuls] of the green stuff, tells me what he didn’t recover full consciousness for 24 hours” (29). Good times. Here are a few more, “Mercy and goodness were swallowed by cannons and bombs” (p 84), “I live in a world where there is no error, so that is what was meant to happen” (p 102). Last one, “Speed was the thing keeping him awake” (p 190).
Author fact: Paul Perry was once the editor of a running magazine. Cool.
Book trivia: my copy of On the Bus was so weird. There wasn’t any publishing information anywhere within the book. I could only find the last name of the author on the spine and I needed to look at the marc record from the library I borrow the book to find more information.
Playlist: “Love Portion Number Nine,” Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia, Jefferson Airplane, Wavy Gravy, Country Joe and the Fish, Rolling Stones, “Turn on Your Love Light,” and “The Flower.”
Nancy said: Pearl included On the Bus in a list of books she said “no discussion of books about the 1960s would be complete without” (More Book Lust p 179).
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The 1960s in Fact and Fiction” (p 178).
Manning, Olivia. The Balkan Trilogy: the Great Fortune. New York: Viking Penguin, 1960.
Reason read: the first Yugoslav conflict of the 1990s started in June.
The year is 1939 and Europe is seething with the threat of war. Germany has just invaded Poland and shows no signs of stopping. At the heart of The Great Fortune is newlyweds Guy and Harriet Pringle. Having just arrived in Bucharest, Harriet is shy and unknowing while her gregarious husband is back on old familiar stomping grounds. As an English professor and lecturer he knows multitudes of friends, students, colleagues, and old lovers alike. Driven by the political and military headlines of the day, The Great Fortune details civilian reactions: the chatter over coffee in cafes, the arguments behind bedroom doors, gossip in the streets. The blasé expatriate community regards the approaching Germans as a trifling that won’t affect them.
I am not sure why, but Manning’s first book of the Balkan Trilogy took me a long time to slog through. I didn’t connect with the characters; thought Yaki was downright annoying.
As an aside, the 1939 Hispano-Suiza was a sexy car. It looks like something Al Capone would have driven around in.
Author fact: Manning lived in Bucharest. Her experiences shaped the Balkan Trilogy.
Book trivia: The Balkan Trilogy and the Levant Trilogy form a single narrative called the Fortunes of War. I heard a rumor that the entire trilogy is autobiographical.
Playlist: Chopin, and Beethoven.
Nancy said: absolutely nothing about Great Fortune.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “100 Good Reads, Decade by Decade: 1960” (p 175). Actually, to be fair, the individual books that make up the Balkan Trilogy were left out of Book Lust.
Doig, Ivan. The Sea Runners: a Novel. Orlando: Harcourt, Inc., 1982.
Reason read: Doig was born in June – read in his honor.
Four men escape their Russian-controlled work camp in a stolen canoe: Braaf, Karlsson, Melander, and Wennburg. Courageous, when you consider they started in New Archangel (Sitka), Alaska in the mid-1800s. Herculean, when you add how while paddling their way to Astoria, Oregon they faced rough ocean swells, unrelenting weather, unfamiliar coastal environments, insufficient maps for navigation, hostile Tlingit Indians, starvation, sheer exhaustion from relentless physical toil, and an instinctual deep distrust of one another. They were not friends before they made their escape. Imagine putting your trust in a man who gets seasick often and has a deep fear of the ocean. Even though Sea Runners is fictional, it is based on a very similar true story of a daring escape. Doig learned of Karl Gronland, Andreas Lyndfast, Karl Wasterholm, and a fourth man who was killed by Indians during the journey. From these actual men sprung the stunning adventure of Braaf, Karlsson, Melander, and Wennburg. You could say the sea was a fifth character as Doig’s words makes the ocean come alive with emotion.
As an aside, Doig favors words like slim and slender.
Quotes to quote: none. I would have mentioned a few here, but no part of the publication could be reproduced in any form without the permission of the publisher. I wasn’t going to take the time for a blog no one cares about but me.
Author fact: Doig also wrote Bucking the Sun which is also on my Challenge list.
Book trivia: Sea Runners is fictional but based on true events.
Nancy said: Pearl only said that while other books about the Inside Passage talk about going up Alaska’s coast, Sea Runners goes down.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Inside the Inside Passage” (p 105).
Perrotta, Tom. Bad Haircut: Stories of the Seventies. New York: Berkey Books, 1994.
Reason read: June is short story month.
Comprised of ten short stories:
- The Wiener Man – Your past is never far behind you. A mother connects with an old friend.
- Thirteen – Coming of age is terrible when trying to help a best friend get the girl.
- Race Riot – Which side are you on? Racial tensions and peer pressure and a bad combination.
- Snowman – revenge is not as sweet as you think.
- Forgiveness – standing for the flag is a choice.
- A Bill Floyd Christmas – Bill loses his wife and latches on to another family to fill the void.
- You Start to Live – take chances in life.
- The Jane Pasco Fan Club – Dating in high school can be dangerous.
- Just the Way We Were – prom memories.
- Wild Kingdom – sometimes people can be animals.
Lines I liked: “The world was a still as a photograph” (p 61) and “She had that voice special tone of voice that she only used when she had company,” (p 119).
Author fact: Perrotta is from New Jersey.
Book trivia: all of the short stories are linked and are in chronological order.
Setlist: “We May Never Pass This Way Again,” Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are,” Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” The Carpenters, Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Donny Osmond, Aerosmith, Grateful Dead, a couple of Jim Croce songs, “I’ve got a Name” and “Operator.”
Nancy said: Pearl called Bad Haircut “heartfelt yet unsentimental.”
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Near Novels: Linked Short Stories” (p 175).
Marquez, Gabriel Garcia. Love in the Time of Cholera. Translated by Edith Grossman. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997.
Reason read: June is the most popular month for marriage.
Confessional: I have a way more personal connection to this story than I rightly should. To scratch the surface and say I love John Cusack’s movies should suffice. If you haven’t seen Serendipity, suspend your belief in reality and let yourself get lost in the possibility of things happening for a reason no matter how absurd.
The game of chess is like the game of love, one strategic move at a time. Who waits for over fifty-three years to possess the woman of another? Fear not! Florentino Ariza has not waited patiently or chastely for Fermina. Despite staying in the town of their romance, Florentino has womanized his way across a broken heart. All the while he has never forgotten the girl who stole his soul so completely as a young man. Fermina Daza, for her part, has gone on to marry the region’s most distinguished men and remains brutally loyal all the days of her marriage. Star crossed lovers from the start, Florentino and Fermina orbit one another. This is the time of cholera. The illness mimics the passions of love with burning fevers and uncontrolled trembling.
When I am eighty-one years old will my spouse know my routine so well he can send a message to the correct location just by noting the time of day?
Quotes to quote, “She did not permit herself the vulgarity of remorse” (p 182),”Years later, when Florentino Ariza had the resources to publish the book himself, it was difficult for him to accept the reality that love letters had gone out of fashion” (p 208).
Author fact: Marquez was exiled in Europe in the mid-1950s for writing articles which had upset the Columbian government.
Book trivia: Love in the Time of Cholera in part tells the story of Maquez’s parents.
Playlist: Mozarts’ “La Chasse,” Schubert’s “Death and the Marden,” “In Questa Tomba Oscura,” “When I Wake Up in Glory,” Enrico Caruso,
Nancy said: Pearl said absolutely nothing specific about Love in the Time of Cholera.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Latin American Fiction” (p 145).
Larsson, Stieg. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Translated by Reg Keeland. New York: Random House, 2008.
Reason read: Sweden festival of Trastock occurs in July.
Mikael Blomkrist put his tail between his legs when he lost a libel suit brought against him by multimillionaire Hans-Erik Wennestrom. Unlike the United States where if you are convicted of a crime you immediately start serving your sentence, in Sweden Blomkrist is allowed to travel to the coastal town of Hedestad to help an old man solve the case of his missing niece under the guise of writing Henrik Vanger’s storied biography. Beware, it’s a huge family tree so study it well.
Meanwhile, back in Stockholm Croatian born Dragan Armansky, financial director, CEO and COO of Milton Security, and expert in financial fraud is investigating Blomkrist. He knows there is more to the story than what was exposed in court. How can a top notch journalist screw up so badly? He puts his best researcher on the case. If anyone can dig up the dirt it’s Lisbeth Sander, the girl with the dragon tattoo. Known only as Wasp in certain circles, Lisbeth could pass for a child if it weren’t for a bunch of punk face piercings, a really bad attitude, and a steel trap memory.
It goes without saying Sander and Blomkrist team up. Together, they uncover corporate corruption and a horror that runs far deeper than the mystery of a missing niece.
Confessional: when I stand over a tombstone, the first thing I do after reading the deceased’s name is to do the math to figure out how old they were when they died. Is that horrible of me? In the beginning of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo there is a family tree. I was surprised to see at least four people died at a young age and immediately knew that would be part of the mystery.
Author fact: Larsson died in 2004 after delivering the manuscripts for his “Girl with…” series.
Book trivia: I think everyone knows The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was made into a movie. I also think everyone has seen it but me.
Nancy said: Pearl called Girl with the Dragon Tattoo an immediate best seller.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the odd chapter called “Swede(n), Isn’t It?” (p 222).
Shields, Carol. The Box Garden. New York: Open Road Media, 2013.
Reason read: Carol Shields was born in June. Read in her honor.
In a nutshell, Box Garden paints an uneasy picture of a grown woman returning home to attend the wedding of her elderly mother. Charleen lives a very unsettled life. Divorced. Single mom. Dating. Strained relationships with everyone around her. She lives a sparse life by choice and seems incredibly fragile. However, when confronted with a series of intensely emotional situations, Charleen emerges as a surprisingly strong and capable woman.
As an aside, the very first thing that struck me about The Box Garden was the uncomfortable realization Charleen Forrest’s mother could have been my mother. I found myself highlighting passages that struck a chord with me. Every missed opportunity for a kind word, a hint of compassion. It was unnerving.
Author fact: Even though Shields was born in the United States, she is considered a celebrated Canadian author.
Book trivia: The Box Garden is one of Shield’s less popular titles.
Nancy said: Pearl did not say anything specific about The Box Garden.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Carol Shields: Too Good To Miss” (p 197).
Theroux, Paul. The Mosquito Coast. New York: Avon Books, 1982.
Reason read: June 21st is Father’s Day. Ahem.
Despite this being a book read in honor of Father’s Day, Charlie Fox’s dad isn’t the ideal father figure. He could fit into the role of Jack Torrance in Stephen King’s The Shining. Allie Fox, from the town of Hadley in Massachusetts, doesn’t trust the traditional school system, doesn’t trust the government, doesn’t trust his neighbors. He believes he can teach his children (Charlie, Jerry and the twins, Clover and April) all they need to know. He doesn’t suffer fools and constantly tests his children’s courage, especially eldest son Charlie’s. He is in constant competition with other men (“How many push ups can you do?”); he is proud, defiant, and must not, absolutely cannot, be embarrassed in front of his family. Fed up with his own country, Papa Fox is easily swayed by Honduran migrant workers to pack up his family and move to the Mosquito Coast. Once there, Theroux threads a growing sense of unease throughout the pages. The first whiff of danger comes with Father jokes about throwing Mr. Haddy overboard and it is possible to believe he is mad enough to have done it. Like Kings’s Jack Torrance, Allie Fox displays an escalating sense of craziness as time goes on. Paranoia grows like mold in the jungles of Honduras. It goes without saying that things don’t end well for the Fox family; or maybe they do if you like endings like The Shining.
As an aside, it is really strange to read about the area in which I currently call “home.” I try not to over analyze Theroux’s descriptions of Northampton or Hatfield or Springfield.
Lines or phrases I liked: First the phrases – “four-o’clock-in-the-morning courage,” and “creepy-quiet.”
Here are the lines I liked – “It was the town of dead ends” (p 108), “But what can you do with people who have already been corrupted?” (p 190), and last one, ” When a person is suffering and afraid, his ailments are obvious and his injuries stick out” (p 298).
Author fact: I think it is obvious Theroux spent some time in Massachusetts.
Book trivia: Woodcuts are by David Frampton. Another piece of trivia: Mosquito Coast was made into a movie in 1986.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Mosquito Coast other than explain the plot.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the obvious chapter called “Fathers and Sons” (p 85).
Terkel, Studs. “The Good War”: an Oral History of World War Two. New York: Partheon Books, 1984
Reason read: I am taking a full two months to the “The Good War.” Victory Day is May 9th and D-Day is June 6th.
The best way to read “The Good War” is to sit down with a cup of coffee and envision a WWII vet sitting across from you. He has a faraway look in his eyes and a slight tremor in his hands as he remembers best a single event that most likely changed his life forever. But, don’t stop there. Now sitting across from you could be a businessman, a nurse, a dress maker, a dancer, a man who was just a child during the war and thought the battlefield was place of adventure. you might imagine someone who survived a prison camp, or a conscientious objector, or a young boy who thought enlisting would be a chance to prove himself…Terkel interviewed people from all walks of life. Each story is unique and yet, yet hauntingly similar. You hear of young men losing their sense of humanity in the face of unimaginable cruelty: a man remembers watching his comrade in arms throw pebbles into the open skull of a dead Japanese soldier; the smell of cooking cats. Other young men speak of hiding their sexual orientation while trying to appear manly enough for battle (Ted Allenby’s story reminded me of Ryan O’Callaghan a great deal). But, you also hear from the women: wives and girlfriends left behind, Red Cross nurses on the front lines, even singers sent to entertain the troops. It is easy to see why this stunning nonfiction won a Pulitzer.
Quotes to quote, “No matter what the official edict, for millions of American women home would never be again a Doll’s House” (p 10), and “I got on the stick and wrote the President again” (p 21), and “Must a society experience horror in order to understand horror?” (p 14).
Author fact: Studs’s real name was Louis.
Book trivia: “The Good War” won a Pulitzer for nonfiction in 1985.
Nancy said: Pearl said you could never do better than Terkel’s “The Good War” for an oral history. Agreed.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “World War Two Nonfiction” (p 254).
Abramsky, Sasha. Little Wonder: the Fabulous Story of Lottie Dod, the World’s First Female Superstar. Brooklyn, New York: Akashic Books, 2020.
Reason read: as a member of LibraryThing, I was chosen to review this for the Early Review program.
Charlotte Dod. If you don’t know her name, you don’t know the history of women in sports. Don’t feel bad though. Despite being a multitalented athlete, her fame as a star burned bright in many arenas, but faded from all of them just as quickly. First known as a tennis sensation at the age of fourteen, Lottie (as she was known), only played competitively for five years. In that time she became the doyenne of tennis, winning five Wimbledons. The only years she didn’t win she didn’t even compete. Sadly, it was as if she grew tired of smashing the competition and needed new thrills. She left the sport…at twenty one years of age. After tennis, Dod set her sights on field hockey. She helped pioneer the sport for women. Then came skating. Obsessively training for hours on end, Dod was not only able to pass the rigorous women’s skating test, she passed the much more difficult men’s test as well. When she was done with ice skates and cold weather , she moved on to golf and mountaineering and archery and Voluntary Aid Detachment nursing and choral singing. She climbed mountains in support of women seeking equal rights and won a silver medal for archery at the 1908 summer Olympic games.
While Abramsky does a great job detailing Lottie’s life, he has to fill in the gaps with speculation because sadly, much of her correspondence was lost or deliberately destroyed. Expect words like “maybe” and “perhaps” and “might.” The photographs are fantastic.
Arabella Garrett Anderson, Agatha Christie, Emmeline Pankhurst, and Nelly Bly were contemporaries of Dod’s.