Daily Archives: July 6, 2014

Triangle: The Fire That Changed America Book Review

March 25th, 1911 is the day that forever changed the American work force.

It started as a warm spring day. That morning, the employees of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory made their way to work as they did everyday. By nightfall 146 of them were dead.

The majority of the victims were women,  between the ages of 16-25. They were Jewish and Italian immigrants, working for very little pay and working without the benefits that many of us take for granted today.

David von Drehle’s 2003 memoir, Triangle: The Fire That Changed America personalizes the story. He starts several years before with previous strikes by employees seeking better pay and improved safety standards. The chapters that take the readers through the fire and providing details in the lives of those who lived and didn’t live are climactic and heartbreaking. The final chapters go through the trials where the owners were accused of manslaughter and the lives of the owners after the fire.

I’ve owned this book for a few years, no matter how many times I read it, I have to have box of Kleenex nearby. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.  The details of the fire and how many of the victims died is  so vivid.  The reader can feel the heartbreak of the families who are lining up to identify their loves ones. Many of the victims were burned so badly that their families could not identify them.

One of the reasons that I enjoy this book is that it connects me to my roots. My ancestors, like many immigrants who came to America from Eastern Europe in the early 1900’s and worked in factories like the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. They led strikes for better pay and better working conditions. They are long gone, but it’s as if I am getting to know them and the world they knew.

I highly recommend this book and make sure you have a box of Kleenex handy.

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Maureen O’Hara: The Biography Book Review

Maureen O’Hara is a movie legend. The list of her leading men include John Wayne, Henry Fonda and Tyrone Power.

Aubrey Malone’s biography, Maureen O’Hara: The Biography  follows Ms’ O Hara’s life from her childhood in Dublin through her decades long movie career to her present retired state.

Born in 1920 in the suburbs of Dublin, she made her screen debut in the late 1930’s.  The movies she made are all very different: family classics (The Parent Trap, 1961, Miracle on 34th St, 1947), technicolor pirate and sword and sandal adventures (The Black Swan, 1942, Sinbad The Sailor, 1947) and Westerns (The Redhead From Wyoming, 1953, McClintock, 1963).

The book not only sheds light on her career, but on her private life. Unlike many of her colleagues, Ms. O’Hara lived a very quiet life, keeping her personal life out of the headlines. Compiling press clippings, movie reviews and film journals, Mr. Malone  presents a complete picture of a performer whom many did not know about outside of her films.

I recommend this book.

On a related note, if there is one movie of her vast career that I would recommend, it would be Only The Lonely .

Made in 1991, Ms. O’Hara took herself out of retirement for this movie. She plays Rose Muldoon, the very overprotective mother to her son Danny (the late John Candy). Danny has sacrificed himself for his mother and brother (Kevin Dunn). When Danny meets Theresa Luna (Ally Sheedy) and starts fall in love with her, he finds himself torn between his mother and his girlfriend. Very sweet movie that just tugs at the heart strings.

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I Shall Be Near To You Book Review

War has been a man’s game since the beginning of time. The men went to war and the women stayed home.

The Civil War began to slowly change that idea.

Erin Lindsay McCabe’s new novel, I Shall Be Near To You, is the story of a woman who donned men’s clothes, changed her identity and fought in the Civil War.

Rosetta and Jeremiah are newlyweds at the outbreak of the Civil War. Jeremiah joins his brothers and the other young men of the community to fight. Not satisfied to stay home and wait for her husband to return, Rosetta dresses in her husband’s clothes, takes the names of Ross Stone and joins his regiment. Jeremiah is quick to figure out that the new recruit is his wife. Their marriage is tested by the war itself, as well as the constant danger of her true identity being revealed.

I enjoyed this book.  Rosetta is not the meek and mild woman to wait at home patiently while her husband fights for the North. She spurns many of the conventions of being a woman in that period, even before she joins the army. Jeremiah, equally as strong willed, is incredulous that his wife is dressed in his clothes and is now acting as a man. But he still treats her like any of the men in his regiment.

The details in this books make it that more real. There were women who did forgo the female conventions to fight in the Civil war. Rosetta’s story is fiction, but these women’s heroism is real.

I recommend this book.

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