A Thought From All the Light We Cannot See

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“Werner thinks of his childhood, the skeins of coal dust suspended in the air on winter mornings…” from All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

For some reason, this stirred a childhood memory of milk. For a very short time when we first moved to Jacksonville, FL, we had our milk delivered by the “milkman”. On our front porch sat a metal crate where we would leave our empty bottles and take delivery of fresh milk. I remember the tops were sealed with thick paper lids. This milk was probably from Skinner’s Dairy, a hometown company that later built numerous drive-thru milk stores across Jacksonville.

In north Florida it didn’t get cold very often, but there were some winter mornings when we were excited to be able to see our breath in the chilly air. There was one winter I’ll always remember as the temperature got down in  the upper teens and our heat went out. Our dad was out of town at the time on one of his many business trips. We bundled up and played outside anyway. The very large ditch – like a creek – behind our house was frozen on the top. Our friend’s little dog, Ginger, skittered across easily. Our dog, Dixie, followed her and went right through to the icy water.

Other fall and winter days were filled with my brothers playing football in the front yard and a few evening fires in our fireplace. In high school it was a time to wear stylish sweaters to school, then go outside for PE in the short gym suits we had to wear. I remember being teased about the chill bumps on my legs – referred to as chicken skin.

After moving to Birmingham in 2014, I was so excited about our first fall and winter. Sweaters and boots and scarves were so much fun! But, then it seemed to last forever and I yearned for the warmth of spring.

Last year, summer far outlasted its welcome. And this year we’ve had our share of hurricanes in the south. Now I long once more for the cool air and some justification for a pumpkin spice latte.

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Step Back in Time

 

Last year I read some wonderful books set during World War II. Besides being drawn in to care for the characters and having to google location images, I learned a bit of history along the way. The following is a brief review on my selections.

 

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All the Light We Cannot See

Set mostly in France, this heart-wrenching story follows two main characters: blind Marie-Laure whose father works for the Museum of Natural History in Paris, and Werner, an orphan recruited into the Nazi army. “Seeing” the war through blind eyes was interesting. Marie Laure’s father made a model of their city so that she could eventually earn her way around unaided. Later, he had to do it all over again in a new town, but this time his model was more than just a way to help his daughter. It also held a secret.
Marie-Laure’s and Werner’s paths eventually crossed, as I hoped they would. But it was a bittersweet timing.

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

This story was a little more light hearted, yet still contained moments of sadness that can’t be avoided in war. Written in the form of letters between the main character, Juliet Ashton and others who were a part of her life, this one has an element of romance sprinkled in with the courage shown by those who faced wartime with tenacity and tenderness. The “society” was a cover story made up on the fly, but one which led to a community coming together under the bond of reading. This one is a book lover’s delight!

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Suite Francaise

Written in 1939, it was the last work of Irene Nemirosky, who met her untimely death in a concentration camp before she finished this work. It’s almost too full of characters, so it needs to be read carefully. I often found myself backtracking to pick up storylines or remind myself who the characters were. Still, it is an interesting take on a side of war that we don’t often see. It shows what happens to those who aren’t on the front lines, but at home, forced to house the enemy. Yet, sometimes the enemy seems like a friend.

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Once There Was a War

The only non-fiction work on my list, it was easy to read Steinbeck’s collection of his news articles. Sometimes I breezed through the technical military aspects, but I got the jist of them. There is something about his style that makes you feel like he’s sitting across the table telling you about his day.

If you want to brush up on your history and lose yourself in a good book, any of these would make an excellent choice!

 

 

 

 

 

Step Back in Time

Last year I read some wonderful books set during World War II. Besides being drawn in to care for the characters and having to google location images, I learned a bit of history along the way. The following is a brief review on my selections.

all-the-light-we-cannot-see-9781476746586_hr (1)

 

All the Light We Cannot See

Set mostly in France, this heart-wrenching story follows two main characters: blind Marie-Laure whose father works for the Museum of Natural History in Paris, and Werner, an orphan recruited into the Nazi army. “Seeing” the war through blind eyes was interesting. Marie Laure’s father made a model of their city so that she could eventually earn her way around unaided. Later, he had to do it all over again in a new town, but this time his model was more than just a way to help his daughter. It also held a secret.
Marie-Laure’s and Werner’s paths eventually crossed, as I hoped they would. But it was a bittersweet timing.

pot (1)

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

This story was a little more light hearted, yet still contained moments of sadness that can’t be avoided in war. Written in the form of letters between the main character, Juliet Ashton and others who were a part of her life, this one has an element of romance sprinkled in with the courage shown by those who faced wartime with tenacity and tenderness. The “society” was a cover story made up on the fly, but one which led to a community coming together under the bond of reading. This one is a book lover’s delight!

sf (1)

Suite Francaise

Written in 1939, it was the last work of Irene Nemirosky, who met her untimely death in a concentration camp before she finished this work. It’s almost too full of characters, so it needs to be read carefully. I often found myself backtracking to pick up storylines or remind myself who the characters were. Still, it is an interesting take on a side of war that we don’t often see. It shows what happens to those who aren’t on the front lines, but at home, forced to house the enemy. Yet, sometimes the enemy seems like a friend.

once (1)

Once There Was a War

The only non-fiction work on my list, it was easy to read Steinbeck’s collection of his news articles. Sometimes I breezed through the technical military aspects, but I got the jist of them. There is something about his style that makes you feel like he’s sitting across the table telling you about his day.

If you want to brush up on your history and lose yourself in a good book, any of these would make an excellent choice!

Dream On

 

“Cancel subscriptions to Southern Living, Veranda and Southern Lady magazines”

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– I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg

In Flagg’s book, the main character, Maggie Fortenberry, is making plans to kill herself, but she just can’t leave the world without putting everything in order first, including canceling her magazine subscriptions. I am familiar with all three of these magazines; in fact, Southern Living and Southern Lady are both published right here in Birmingham. In another fact, I worked for Southern Lady for two whole weeks. But, that’s a long story for another day.

The bad thing for me about magazines like these is the desires they stir up. Everything is lovely and perfect… and usually expensive. Granted, there is a lot of good information between the pages, such as gardening tips and recipes. But, then again, I don’t have a green thumb and don’t cook like I used to. Maggie Fortenberry didn’t really garden or cook, either. So, why do we get these magazines?

Sometimes it’s fun to just dream. We think about houses we’d like to live in one day, places we’d like to visit, clothes that are lovely. Others of us get inspired: I could make a table like that; I could paint my room that color; I could visit that town on a budget. There is a lot of potential good if we peruse the pages with a little common sense. Or, we can just cancel those subscriptions altogether.

Bama Books

I’ve been working through some books that are either by Alabama authors, or take place in Alabama, or both. Here are a few brief reviews.

I Wish I Was in Dixie collected and edited by Marie Stokes Jemison and Jim Reed
This is a collection of stories from all across Alabama, from Birmingham to Montgomery to Tuscaloosa

Dear Slave – poems by Irene Latham. These are rich retellings of stories taken from the mouths of slaves and recorded by Ruby Pickens Tartt many years ago.

I Still Dream of You by Fannie Flagg.  This was an enjoyable read and one that had me doing a little research about Birmingham. I read this for my book club, but no one else was able to finish it that month.   😦

Fried Green Tomatoes At the Whistle Stop Cafe – also by Fannie Flagg. I couldn’t read this without picturing Kathy Bates in the role of Evelyn. I STILL need to go to the cafe in Irondale!

Previously published @ Carry Me Home 6/20/17

 

I Can’t Even

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Some of my Maeve Binchy books

 

I decided to tackle my bookshelves in April.  I reorganized, categorized some, discarded a whopping five books. Along the way I made a few discoveries.

I’d consider about 21 of my books to be reference books; I’m not ever going to read them cover-to-cover. About 41 are fiction books I’ve read that I just have to keep, including my collection of  22 Maeve Binchy books.  I didn’t make a final book count in the house because that would have meant counting my husband’s books and all the books I have for grandkids and other littles that visit. Speaking of kids’ books, I have 13 Golden books, 15 in my set of Chidlcraft from my own childhood, 12 Great Illustrated Classics, a set of 11 “My Book House”  books from my father-in-law, plus quite a list of pictures books.

Of the 270 (+) TBR books, here are some breakdowns:

  • 11  “Irish” books
  • 33 biographical
  • 17 “classics”
  • about 50 kid/YA books
  • 8 short story/ collections
  • a variety of 49 fictional books
  • and… I think I’m embarrassed about this … 42 books about writing

So, where does all this lead? Hopefully to me stepping away from the computer and TV and reading more. But, when I AM on that computer, I need to be putting one of those 42 writing books to good use.
(previously posted @ Carry Me Home on 4/5/17)

Book Treasures

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I love opening up a book and finding a surprise. I found three in the past two days. Yesterday, I found the sticker seen above. I googled it, and came up with three things

  1. A Greek vehicle manufacturer
  2. A German beer
  3. The Pakistani Elvis

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I think it is really LOVE, scrambled.

So, today I found two more unexpected things. First, a sad one, a card from a funeral.

Using my googling/detective skills, I found the memorial for this man on Find a Grave and posted the picture there. I’d like to think one of his friends left the card in my book. I got the book in either Florida or Alabama, I don’t remember, but Mr. Canavan was buried in Massachusetts.

My most exciting find was an autograph I’d completely overlooked. My copy of  The Bride of Innisfallen by Eudora Welty is actually SIGNED!! It’s inscribed to a Mrs. George Barrett. There is a copy online that is inscribed to someone and signed and it’s selling for $120. Think I’ll keep the book to myself a while;  just knowing she signed it makes me feel connected to her.

ew

A few years ago I found a baptismal certificate and photograph in a book. Using those skills of mine, I’m pretty sure I found the owner’s brother on facebook, but he never responded to me. I don’t think he was very active online. Now, however, I may pursue it once more. I’d love to be able to return the items.

There is a book  and blog called Forgotten Bookmarks that is about just these type of finds. I hope to get a copy of the book soon. In the meanwhile, I think it would be fun to write stories about the items I find.  If I do, I’ll post some here.