Monthly Archives: October 2014

Her Promised Road: A Novel Book Review

Sometimes, we have to make choices in life. These choices are not easy and no matter what decision we make, we loose something or someone in the process.

Efrat Israeli’s new book, Her Promised Land: A Novel is about these hard decisions. The book is loosely based on the life and career of the late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. Devorah Abramson, like millions of Eastern European Jews, emigrated to the United States in the years leading up the first World War. Raised in the Midwest, she made Aaliyah (emigrated) to Israel when it was still ruled under the British Mandate.

In the early 1930’s, with her young children in tow and her marriage slowly fading away, Devorah is sent to the United States to be the emissary for the Women’s Worker’s Council in Palestine. Her goal is to not only bring in money, but to turn hearts and minds to the idea of a revival of the Jewish homeland. She often finds herself torn between her political mission, her children and her heart.

The idea of this book is interesting. Golda Meir was and still is a unique figure in not just Israeli politics, but world politics.  Using Golda as a mold for the fictional Devorah was very brave on the part of the author. It’s very difficult, when using a woman like Golda as the inspiration for a fictional character. One on hand, research is required to make sure that the details are accurate. However, this is a novel and not a documentary. The reader has to be taken in by the story and the character to finish the novel.

Did I recommend it?Yes, but only if the reader knows something about Golda and Israel before 1948. If not, then I would recommend that any potential readers first learn about Golda and then read about her fictional counterpart.

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The Book Of Eleanor Book Review

There is an old saying; “Behind every great man stands a great woman”.

This is especially true among the royal houses of Europe before the 20th century. Even if a woman was capable of ruling on her own, she often had to secede or share power with her husband, her underage son, or another male heir, if she was unable to produce sons.

Among the women and the queens of Medieval Europe, Eleanor Of Aquitaine was an unusual woman. As a child, she became Duchess Of Aquitaine. Before her 20th birthday, she married King Louis VII of France. In her early 30’s she married her second husband, Henry, Duke of Normandy, the future King Henry II of England. In a time when many women and children were lost to childbirth, Eleanor had 9 children, eight of whom lived to adulthood. She was intelligent, capable woman who understood her world and how to survive its treacherous and often unseen pitfalls.

Pamela Kaufman’s 2002 book, The Book Of Eleanor: A Novel Of Eleanor Of Aquitaine starts with Eleanor’s teenager years and her impending marriage to Louie VII and ends decades later. Recognizing that her husband is unable to rule, Eleanor, with her son’s have just led a rebellion to remove him from the throne. After the death of King Henry, her surviving son, John is crowned King Of England.

Born in 1122, Eleanor was given the title of Duchess of Aquitaine when she was still a young girl. Like many teenage royals of the period, she married young. Her fiance was to become King Louis VII of France. Raised by monks and religious clerics, Louis had a love/hate relationship with women, especially his wife. Their marriage was a rocky one, producing two daughters. Finally reaching her breaking point after 15 years of marriage, she was able to convince the pope to allow her to annul her marriage to Louis.

Not long after divorcing Louis, Eleanor was forced into another marriage. Her new husband was Henry, Duke Of Normandy. But Henry was not content to remain a Duke; his goal was to become King Of England. While Henry’s political aspirations matched her own, Eleanor was turned off by his brutality. Her one wish in life was to marry her childhood sweetheart, Baron Rancon, but politics and the class system forced them into keeping their life long romance a secret.

I can confidently say that I enjoyed this book. It could have been a very dry biography, simply stating the facts of Eleanor’s life in a college text book or documentary style of story telling. What Ms. Kaufman does very well is that while telling Eleanor’s story, she also bring the world of Medieval Europe to life. It is very apparent that Ms. Kaufman did her homework on the period and her subject. Writing a historical drama based on the life of someone who actually lived is not easy. The writer must tell the story in a way that is engaging while integrating the everyday details of that person’s life into the text.

One of the elements that struck me about this book was that Eleanor must have felt extremely stifled. She was an intelligent, educated and capable woman in an era when those qualities were considered inappropriate and un-lady like, even for a queen. If she was living today, I believe she would have easily thrived as a CEO of a major corporation or as a member of Congress. But because she lived in the 12th century, she was forced hide her brilliance to survive.

Another quality that I liked in the characterization of Eleanor was how complicated she was and how simple her husbands were. I though her first husband was a religious hypocrite; her second husband was brutal and self interested. Only Baron Rancon, the love of her life was complicated. He understood his place in society, but he was always loyal to Eleanor and the life long love they shared. Eleanor understood her duties as a wife, queen and mother, but she was also a realist who knew that to thrive and survive in her world, decisions had to be made. Some of these decisions were potentially dangerous and could threaten her life and the lives of those around her.

There is often a fairy tale like mystique about royalty, especially royalty from centuries ago. We think of their lives to be charmed and without difficulties. But the reality is quite different. Eleanor’s life was not easy, despite being born into great wealth and privilege. She was forced to make decisions that might have had dangerous and life threatening consequences. But at the end of it all, she was a survivor. At the end of her life, she accomplished her goal; John, her youngest son was crowned King Of England. After everything she had experienced, she survived and spent her last days as she wished to.

I recommend this book.

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I Hope Your Happy

SodaStream, a company that has revolutionized the beverage industry by turning ordinary tap water into soda and other sugary drinks has closed their plant in Israel,  forcing the company to fire their employees.

The BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanction) continue to state that their goal is to help the Palestinians. They claim that this is a victory for their cause.

If that is their goal, then they have failed. How does unemployment help the Palestinians? I would love to know. If someone would like to enlighten me, they are welcome to do so.

In their continued effort to undermine Israel, the BDS movement and their ilk have shown their true colors. They, like many others, are not there because they support the Palestinians. They want to wipe Israel off the map.

I hope they are happy.

 

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Flashback Friday- The Wonder Years (1988)

There is something universal about being 12 years old. It is an age where we start to grow up, but we are still very much children.

The Wonder Years (1988-1993) is the story of Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage), a boy growing up in the 1960’s and 70’s. Narrated by the adult Kevin (Daniel Stern) remembering his preteen and teen years, The Wonder Years stands out in the landscape of television.

Kevin’s family consists of his parents, Jack and Norma ( Dan Laura and Alley Mills), his hippie older sister Karen (Olivia d’Abo) and his tormentor/older brother, Wayne (Jason Hervey). His best friend Paul Pfeiffer (Josh Saviano) and his on and off girlfriend, Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar) were regulars in Kevin’s life during those very interesting and life altering years.

With the release of the series on DVD and the cast reunion, this show harkens back to a simpler time when the biggest dilemma was if the boy or girl next door knew you had a crush on them or the thrill of victory when you earned the A on the very difficult math quiz.

I recommend this show.

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Sinners And The Sea Book Review

In the Bible, most of the women, with the exception of a minority, we know nothing of. They are simply the wife of ____ or the daughter of ______. Their names, their faces, the details of their lives, other than being someone’s wife or daughter are unknown to us. Thankfully, with the feminist movement, scholars and authors have started to go back to the Bible and gives names, faces and lives to these previously unknown women.

Rebecca Kanner’s new book, Sinners And The Sea: The Untold Story of Noah’s Wife, tells the story of Noah and the flood from her perspective. Her name is unknown to us. We only know that she was born with a birthmark that causes her neighbors to accuse her of being marked from the other world. To keep her safe, her father marries off to Noah, a man who talks to g-d more than he talks to her. Noah’s home is in Sorum, a town full of outcasts. She initially believes that raising her sons in a town like Sorum will be the ultimate challenge, but the coming flood will pose a greater challenge than even she can imagine.

I normally like books of this nature, but I am not sure why I didn’t like this story. Is it because unlike the Matriarchs or  Queen Esther, we know something about their lives and we know nothing about this woman, not even her name? Maybe.  Ms. Kanner, I think took certain creative license with this story, which I would expect any writer to do.  But for some reason, this book did not click with me.

Do I recommend this book? Maybe.

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A Needle In A Haystack

Those of you who have been following my blog recently know that I was laid off over the summer.

About a month ago, I was lucky enough to be hired temporarily. This job, even though it is temporary, has been one of the most emotionally and professionally satisfying jobs I’ve had. But like most temp jobs, there is a finite end date which is coming up quickly.

The issue I am coming across in my search for long term, more permanent employment is that despite the fact that the government and the press keep saying that the economy is getting better, I don’t where the jobs are. The jobs I do see advertised are usually hover around $1o/hr salary wise. While many of these jobs are entry level, some are not, but still pay an entry level salary.

I am not entry level, I have not been for quite a while.

Is it me or am I just being foolish? If I am being foolish, please tell me so.  All I want is a job that fits my background that will hopefully be long term, that pays a reasonable living wage and provides reasonable benefits. Is that too much to ask? Or is this elusive white professional rabbit as easy to find as a needle in a haystack?

A while ago, I met a friend for dinner. He told about a neighbor of his. This neighbor has had a successful career as a librarian for a number of years. When the economy went under in 2008, like many people, he lost his job. To make a long story short, a man who has had a successful high level, high paying job for years and should be slowly moving toward retirement, had to move back to his parent’s house because the only job he could find was a minimum wage retail job.

I know I am not the only one who is unemployed or under employed. There are millions of us who simply want to get back to work to take care of ourselves and our families. I don’t think it is too much to ask, but every night that I go online and apply, it feels like I am looking for a needle in a haystack.

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Throwback Thursday- Kleenex Required Edition- Beaches (1988) And An Affair To Remember (1957)

The term chick flick is associated with a certain type of film. Sometimes these films may require it’s audience to have a Kleenex nearby. This, gentle readers, is the subject of this Throwback Thursday Post.

Beaches (1988)

CC Bloom (Bette Midler), an entertainer and Hilary Whitney Essex (Barbara Hershey), the daughter of a San Fransisco WASP family, meet as children in Atlantic City. Keeping in touch through letters, they reunite as adults when Hilary moves in with CC.  While they have ups and downs in their relationship, including falling for the same man, their relationship endures to the very end.

This movie requires a box of Kleenex. I love that the core of this movie is the enduring friendship between CC and Hilary.  It’s just one of those movies that is so life affirming and reminds it’s audience about the power of friendship.

An Affair To Remember (1957)

Fate sometimes works in strange ways. Nicky Ferrante (Cary Grant) and Terry McKay (Deborah Kerr) meet on a cruise ship and start to fall for each other. The only hitch is that they are engaged to other people. They agree to reunite in six months at the top of the Empire State Building. But when Terry does not appear at the agreed upon date, Nicky is concerned that she has either married or forgotten him.

Nicholas Sparks novels have nothing on this story. Whether it is Love Affair (1937), the 1994 reboot, or Sleepless In Seattle (1993), a box of Kleenex is always required.

I recommend both movies.

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The Tailors of Tomaszow Book Review

Before World War II, Jews in Eastern Europe were limited in their career opportunities. One of the professions that was open was that of the garment industry. While those who emigrated to the United States used those skills to make a new life in America, those same skills would turn out to save the lives of those who chose to stay in Europe in the face of impending Nazi invasion.

Rena Margulies Chernoff was one of the youngest child survivors of Auschwitz. She was also descended from a family of tailors and garment industry workers who used their skills to stay alive during World War II. Her memoir/autobiography, co-written by Rena and her son, Allen Chernoff, The Tailors Of Tomaszow: A Memoir of Polish Jews, is the first person account of Rena’s life before, during and after World War II.

Rena was born in the 1930’s to a family whose life work was in the garment industry. When the Nazis invaded Poland and began to slowly encroach on the rights and lives of Poland’s Jews, Rena’s family was able to stave off the oppression as best they could by doing what they knew best. While most of Rena’s relations and neighbors were killed, 250 survived, thanks to their skill with a needle and thread.

I’ve read many Holocaust related books. Fiction, based on the experiences of the survivors are wonderful tools to teach about the Holocaust, but ones that seem to hit home the hardest are the first hand accounts of the survivors. These people, now in their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, walked through the valley of death and somehow survived. When they are gone, it will be stories like the Tailors of Tomaszow that will live on.

I recommend this book.

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Vote!

My fellow Americans

Next Tuesday, the voting booths will be open across the country. I urge everyone who is 18 and older to take five minutes from their day and vote.

Our country and democracy is a marvelous thing. We have rights that many are still fighting for. But that does not mean we can take those rights for granted.

Those rights come with a price. A price that can easily be paid by spending five minutes at your local voting booth.

I especially urge women to vote. It was not so long ago that we did not have these rights, that we had to fight for the simple idea of telling our government what we thought.

If we forget the battles that previous generations of women fought for the most basic, precious right to vote, then it is our cross to bear for not raising our voices when we had the opportunity.

I recommend the movie Iron Jawed Angels as a reminder on why it is so important to vote.

It’s only five minutes of your day, but those five minutes could impact the rest your life.

Vote!

 

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Sarah’s Key Book And Movie Review

Over the years, Paris has developed a reputation for being a romantic city.

But like every city, there is a dark side.

During World War II, French Jews were forced out of their homes and rounded up in the infamous Vel D’Hiv roundup. Before the war, the Veldrome d’Hiver was an indoor cyling track. During the war, it was the first stop to the Nazi ghettos and concentration camps.

In 2008, Tatiana de Rosnay published Sarah’s Key. In July of 1942, Sarah is a 10 year old girl living in Paris. When the Nazis and their collaborators begin for force the Jews of Paris from their homes, Sarah convinces her younger brother to hide in the cupboard. She thinks that she will be returning home in a few hours.

On the eve of the anniversary of the roundup in 2002, journalist Julia Jarmond is writing an article on the Vel D’Hiv roundup. Through her research, she discovers that her family is connected to Sarah’s family and follows Sarah after her family is forced  from their home. As she goes through this process, she begins to evaluate her marriage and her life.

In 2008, Sarah’s Key was made into a movie with Kristin Scott Thomas as Julia.

I read the book a few years ago and saw the movie while it was in theaters. I’m no stranger to Holocaust movies, but this movie brought me to tears. One aspect of the book and the movie that I liked was that the brutality that the victims experienced compared to Julia’s humanity and curiosity about Sarah.

I recommend this book.

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