It is Paris in the spring of 1942. Paris, the glorious “City of Lights” is even more wondrous in the springtime….but not for the French, not in 1942. It is the second year of the victorious Nazi occupation, and the French are struggling to get by. There are economic problems with the payment of the costs of a three-hundred-thousand strong occupying German army, which amounts to twenty million Reichmarks per day; lack of food for French citizens – the Germans seize about 20% of the French food production, which causes severe disruption to the household economy of the French people; the disorganization of transport, except for the railway system which relies on French domestic coal supplies; the Allied blockade, restricting all imports into the country; the extreme shortage of petrol and diesel fuel; (one walks or rides a bike); France has no indigenous oil production and all imports have stopped; labor shortages, particularly in the countryside, due to the large number of French prisoners of war held in Germany. And then there was the Jewish problem.
Only those who fully venerate war can think of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima as a glorified event. Indeed, many fictional books that are set in post-Hiroshima reconstruction are filled with vivid, colorful and poignant descriptions.
So it comes as a surprise that Michael Knightâ€™s THE TYPIST is such a gentle book. It is devoid of precisely what one might expect in a book set in the wake of World War II: no brow-beating, no heart-wrenching, no intrusive authorial political statements.
THE ADJUSTMENT, Scott Phillips latest novel, World War II veteran Wayne Ogden (from THE WALKAWAY) returns to work in Wichita Kansas for Everett Collins, the rich, but lazy owner of Collins Aircraft. Although Ogden is supposed to be the head of the Publicity and Marketing Department, he spends more time finding women, alcohol and drugs for his boss and also helping the women get abortions that his boss has impregnated. Ogden is not above sharing in the alcohol and women despite having a very attractive and pregnant wife at home. He also likes going to the abortion doctor in Kansas City to see his favorite girlfriend Vickie.
NEXT TO LOVE starts out very strong. We meet three childhood friends in Massachusetts â€“ Babe, Millie, and Grace â€“ whose men are on the cusp of going off to World War II. Ms. Feldman deftly juggles their stories and breathes life into their characters. Grace is the beauty who is married to the heir of one of the townâ€™s most illustrious citizens and has a young daughter; Millie is married to Pete, the pharmacistâ€™s son; and Babe is the feisty wrong-side-of-the-tracks gal who is in a committed relationship with an upstanding man who wants to become a teacher.
THE ASTOUNDING, THE AMAZING, THE UNKNOWN by Paul Malmont is a celebration of science fictionâ€™s golden years via the pulp magazine ethos. Taking place in 1943, it recounts a story partially based in fact about how the guiding lights of science fictionâ€™s heyday were brought together by the military and tasked with making science fiction real in order to defeat the Nazis. Virtually all the authors who were the mainstays of science fiction and fantasy from 1930â€™s through the 1960â€™s are there.
They say there are two sides to every story. In the case of PORTRAITS OF A MARRIAGE, there are three. There is the story of the erstwhile housekeeper cum second wife, Judit; the pragmatic and loving first wife, Ilona; and there is Peterâ€™s story, the husband of wife number one and wife number two, whom we find at the end of the novel, lost and destitute. It is not a complicated story, the one told here; nor is it particularly unique or poignant, though the story is laced with insight. The story told here, the story, as the title suggests, of a marriage, is told in straight-forward narrative, albeit from three perspectives, and set against the fabric of a damaged Hungary between the wars. It is an elegant and beautiful book, a rich tapestry on love, marriage and class. It is, as well, deeply psychological, almost Jamesianly so.