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.
A “story man” walks from village to village across bare African lands, carrying a heavy book bag over his shoulder, filled with an odd collection of English language classics that visitors gave to him when passing through the villages. The books have opened his mind, like windows into another world: “I have read their books and told their stories very many times. I understand them, have seen the places that made them, seen the lives they want to live…” Charles Davis’ new novel, STANDING AT THE CROSSROADS, set most likely in Sudan, is an heart-rending example of superbly imaginative storytelling.
The quotation shows Margaret Leroy at her best, describing the ordinary routines of everyday life, in a strongly realized setting, and an acute emotional sensitivity. The place is Guernsey, one of the British Channel Islands nestling off the French coast between the arms of Normandy and Brittany. The time is 1940, when the islands came under German occupation, after being more or less abandoned by the British as indefensible. The sadness comes from the fact that man of this little farm has been one of the few inhabitants killed in the bombing that preceded the invasion. One of the very few, actually…
In her new novel, CHILDREN AND FIRE, Ursula Hegi tells the story of Thekla Jansen, a teacher in the fictional German village of Burgdorf, familiar to readers of the author’s previous novels. Taking for the most part the perspective of her heroine, Hegi explores, from the inside out so to say, the emotional confusion and moral dilemmas that Germans were confronted with after the Nazis’ rise to power. The author sets the historical stage effectively, and while alluding to pivotal events, she focuses her attention on one specific day in February 1934, a day that, while starting off like any other, ends with the Burgdorf residents shocked, emotionally scarred and deeply dividedâ€¦
In Hodgkinsonâ€™s first novel a young Polish couple and their 7-year-old son Aurek, separated for six years during WWII, reunite in England at warâ€™s end in 1946.
If only it were that simple.
World War I was the deadliest conflict in Western history, but contemporary portrayals of war in literature and cinema primarily focus on examples of combat from the past fifty or sixty years. At a time when the Great War is receding into the annals of distant history, this elegiac and edifying novel has been released–a small, slim but powerful story of a young soldier, Josef Vinich, who hails from a disenfranchised and impoverished family in rural Austria-Hungary.
May 25, 2011
Â· Judi Clark Â· One Comment
Tags: Bellevue, Mining, Real Event Fiction, Time Period Fiction, War Story, WWI Â· Posted in: Austria, Coming-of-Age, Debut Novel, Facing History, Reading Guide, US Frontier West, World Lit