Thursday, April 21, 2011

World War II Reading

I’m on a bit of a World War II kick at the moment. I’ve got more reading up to do on the subject, but after having just finished two related books last week, I think I can rest for a moment and type out what I’m thinking. I’ve long since been fascinated by this time in our history, and I think it’s mostly thanks to reading The Diary of Anne Frank for the first time at age 11 and being the same age as the writer, and also because my four grandparents were young adults during the War, and I know all sorts of snippets from them about what life was like for them then.

My grandmothers were both in college during the war. One grandfather was in Officer Training School stateside and the War ended before he finished and was deployed. There are a bunch of pictures of the other grandfather walking around the French countryside in the snow with either a cigarette in his hand or what was likely a M1 Garand rifle, the standard issued weapon for most Army infantrymen during WWII. The first three grandparents talked about life during the War, and the other one, the one who saw all the action, never did. I have no idea what he experienced and he’s not here anymore to tell me if I asked.

My interest in the War hasn’t changed over the years, and it was something I paid close attention to when in London. I picked up several books on the subject, and I have already talked about three of them here, here and here.

Last week I read Churchill Goes to War: Winston’s Wartime Journeys by Brian Lavery and listened to The Postmistress by Sarah Blake. To be quite honest, the first was a bit of a bore for me. The book outlined all the logistics involved in transporting Churchill from place to place during the War on the down-low. It just wasn’t the right book for me when what I wanted to know was how he operated during the War, but when in London. I had hoped to see more mention and detail on Olive Christopher, one of Churchill’s secretaries who did some traveling with his entourage. She was only briefly mentioned in a few places, getting no more than a paragraph each time. I really liked the book I read about her at the end of 2010, and hoped I’d get a hefty portion of third person interpretation on Christopher, and that would be an interesting perspective to supplement what I already know about her. A well-research book though. I did learn a few things.

On the other hand, I thought The Postmistress was possibly the best book I’ve read so far in 2011 (it will probably make the top 10 list for the year). In it was an American broadcaster in London, the Blitz, life on the American home front and plenty of dramatic irony to keep me happy. There was so much going on and end the end, characters start coming together in a way that really wowed me. This was truly an excellent book. Read it if you haven’t. You won’t be sorry.

So what I have so far: accounts Churchill’s travels, of a London child sent to the country during the Blitz, of the Blitz from an American adult perspective, a German soldier dropped off on the American Gulf Coast to carry out a top-secret mission and of a civilian secretary working closely with Churchill. More reading is to come. On the horizon I have a fictional account of London children in the country, The Guernsey Potato Peel and Literary Society, two more biographies on Churchill and the story of a German civilian in Berlin in 1940.

More to come.

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