Tag Archives: World War I

House of Glass: The Story and Secrets of a Twentieth-Century Jewish Family Book Review

Every family has secrets and stories that disappear as the elder members of our families pass on. The question is, what happens when the younger members of our families start to ask questions and there is no around to ask?

Last month, writer Hadley Freeman published a memoir. Entitled House of Glass: The Story and Secrets of a Twentieth-Century Jewish Family, the book tells the story of her father’s maternal line in the 20th century. Her grandmother, Sala (also referred to as Sara) was born in Poland, the youngest child and only daughter in a family of six. After Sala’s father died as a result from his World War I wounds, the Glahs (renamed Glass) moved to Paris to escape poverty and antisemitism. All was well until 1939, when the world flipped on its head once again.

Initially inspired by the contents a shoebox Freeman discovered years after her grandmother’s passing, it took her a decade to put together the pieces of this intricate puzzle together. The final result is a thrilling and emotional narrative that speaks to everyone about the complicated topics of relationships, family, and faith.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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World on Fire Character Review: Tom Bennett

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series World on Fire. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. Sometimes, the only way to grow up is to be knocked down a peg or two. As difficult as the experience is, it is the only way to learn that lesson.

On World on Fire, Tom Bennett (Ewan Mitchell) is a young man living in England as World War II looms in the distance. Akin to many at that age, he is a headstrong know it all. Raised by his widower father Douglas Bennett (Sean Bean), he and his sister Lois Bennett (Julia Brown), Tom’s priorities are to be young and have fun. While Douglas lives with the PTSD after serving in World War I and Julia juggles work, household chores, and her growing singing career, Tom does not have a care in the world.

After one too many run ins with the police, he is given a choice: enlist in the army or go to jail. Though he originally intended to avoid enlisting by claiming to be a conscientious objector. Tom knows that he has no choice. He has no idea what he is about to experience and how that will change him.

Starts at 38 seconds

To sum it up: Though Tom is part of a certain generation, who he is when we meet him is emblematic of that stage of life, regardless of the era that we live in. Youth grows into maturity, but not without going to the school of life. Joining the military and fighting for his country teaches Tom that there is more to life than just having a good time.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

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World on Fire Character Review: Douglas Bennett

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series World on Fire. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. From the outside looking in, fighting in a war is heroic and glamorous. But anyone who has looked death in the eye knows that it is not as glamorous or heroic as it appears to be. Those who come home, if they come home in one piece, face internal battles that will last for the rest of their lives.

In World on Fire, widower Douglas Bennett (Sean Bean) is veteran of World War I. Dealing with the lingering effects of PTSD, he would do anything to avoid Britain getting involved in another war. But his attempts are unfortunately futile. Watching both his son Tom (Ewan Mitchell) and daughter Lois (Julia Brown) getting involved what would ultimately become World War II, brings back memories that Douglas would rather forget. They are made worse when Tom, who has joined the Navy, is briefly MIA.

But in spite of this darkness, there is still a little bit of light in his life. An unexpected friendship with a young refugee who is staying with his daughter’s ex-boyfriend’s mother, Robina Chase (Lesley Manville) and the news that Lois is pregnant allows Douglas to realize that it is still possible to hope that the future is bright.

To sum it up: Douglas is a man who has seen enough to know that war is not what it seems to be. But he lives in a world that for any number of reasons, does not see what he sees. It is not a surprise that given his circumstances, his PTSD is exacerbated. But to his surprise, he is able to find something to make him feel good. That gives him the opportunity to believe in the future and more importantly, believe in hope and humanity.

Which is why he is a memorable character.

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World on Fire Character Review: Lois Bennett

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.

*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the television series World on Fire. Read at your own risk if you have not watched the show.

There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.

Love and loss often compels us to act in ways that we would otherwise act. On World on Fire, Lois Bennett (Julia Brown) is initially introduced to the audience as an idealistic young woman living in England at the start of World War II. Though she has a day job, her true passion is singing. At night, she performs at night clubs with her friend, Connie Wright (Yrsa Daley-Ward). She is also happily in love with Harry Chase (Jonah Hauer-King), in spite of his upper class mother Robina’s (Lesley Manville) misgivings.

But life is not all sunshine and roses. Lois lives with her hot-headed brother Tom (Ewan Mitchell) and their widowed father Douglas (Sean Bean). Douglas is a veteran of World War I. Still dealing with PTSD decades after returning home, he is against Britain getting involved in another war.

After she and Harry break up, Lois joins the ENSA and the war effort. When she finds out that he has returned to England with a young boy who is his brother-in-law, she is furious. When they meet, one thing leads to another and they sleep together.

Upon finding out that she is pregnant, Lois decides to keep the baby. But, she does not tell Harry and rejects financial help from Robina. At a local army base, Lois meets Vernon Hunter (Arthur Darvill). She initially rejects him but eventually agrees to marry him.

Starts at 3:43

To sum it up: There are two ways to deal with loss, especially loss that is associated with romantic love. We can wallow in self-pity. Or, we can find a way to move on from that loss, even if it is difficult. What I like about Lois is that she does not let the breakup with Harry stop her from living. That strength I find to be inspiring and powerful.

Which is why she is a memorable character.

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Insulting the Military is Not The Way to Win a Presidential Election

An election, especially a Presidential Election is a unique time in the political history of the United States. It is a time in which we, the people, can hire and/or fire those who we choose to represent our interests.

The 2020 Presidential election is two months away. At this point in time, the pressure on both sides of the campaign is only beginning to ramp up. Both the Republicans and the Democrats are doing everything in their power to win the election. However, there is one way to lose voters. The way is to insult them.

Yesterday, you know who called American soldiers who were captured and/or killed in battle “losers” and “suckers”.

This, from the guy who got out of serving in Vietnam because of “bone spurs”. This man is a coward and a bully. He talks a big game, but is never able to follow up with action. While our military and their families serve and protect our country, he insults them.

When the late Senator John McCain was still alive, he was not shy in verbally attacking the Senator because he was a POW.

I come from military veterans. My grandfathers and uncles fought in World War II. One of my great-uncles on my mother’s paternal line was a veteran of World War I. Having their memories and their years of service spit upon by a man who did everything he could to avoid serving crosses a line that I take personally. It is just another reminder of who this person truly is and why he is unfit for office.

Obviously, his goal is to be President for another four years. Referring to those who gave their lives for the United States as “losers” and “suckers” is not the way to win a Presidential election.

#BidenHarris2020

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The Last Winter of the Weimar Republic: The Rise of the Third Reich Book Review

History has a way of teaching the current generation as only history can. But, we must be willing to listen.

The Last Winter of the Weimar Republic: The Rise of the Third Reich was released earlier this year. Written by R diger Barth and Hauke Friederichs with a translation by Caroline Waight, the book tells the story of the short time in which democracy turned into fascism in the 1930’s.

The book starts in November of 1932. The Weimar Republic is Germany’s version of democracy between World War I and World War II. The country is in shambles. The economy is crumbling as multiple political parties vie for power. President Paul von Hindenburg is presiding over a country in which democracy is on the verge of disappearing.

As political intrigue over takes the German political system, the Nazis slowly begin to take hold of power. Germany and the rest of the world will never be the same.

Two things struck me. The first thing was that this book is that it reads like a political thriller. Instead of being a fictional story with the fictional ending, it is a real story with an ending that resulted in war and the loss of millions of lives. The second thing is that the events in the book are a lesson that some political leaders in 2020 desperately need to learn.

I recommend it.

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When Should We Re-Open the Country?

With most of the country closed due to Covid-19, many have been asking when we can re-open the country?

I’m not a doctor, nor am I a scientist. But logic tells me that when we re-open, we cannot go back to where we were in early March as if nothing has happened. Depending on how hard the disease has it a certain area, re-opening must be done in stages. If history has taught us anything about epidemics, it is not to underestimate a virus.

In 1918, as World War I raged and the Spanish Flu killed millions, officials in Philadelphia bowed to pressure and chose not to cancel a parade. The result of this decision was the filling of the city’s hospitals and the death of thousands of people.

Across the country, there have been protests in regards to the stay at home orders. Three states across the South will soon be re-opening their economies.

I get it, I really do. It’s fine to stay home for a day or two to take a break from the daily grind. But staying home for a month or more without knowing when you can return to normalcy is frustrating. Especially when millions are out of work and not every employee has the opportunity to work from home.

I also get and respect the right to protest when we disagree with our governmental leaders. But I also know that New York City (where I live) is the national epicenter of this crisis. If the city (and the country by extension) were to open too soon, it might trigger a second or even third wave of hospitalizations and deaths.

My humble opinion is that the country as a whole can only open when testing is widely available and the number of cases is as close to zero as we can get. Then and only then, we can even consider opening the country and the economy.

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All the Ways We Said Goodbye: A Novel of the Ritz Paris Book Review

A building is more than the materials used to build it. It is a place of action and memories.

The center of the new novel, All the Ways We Said Goodbye: A Novel of the Ritz Paris is the Ritz Paris Hotel. Co-written by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White, the book is set in three different times and places in France: an aristocratic country house during World War I, Paris during World War II and Paris in the 1960’s.

During World War I, heiress Aurelie is trapped in her family’s ancestral home with her father. The Germans have taken over and are slowly sapping the land and the people of their resources. During World War II, Daisy was raised by her American grandmother. Married to a Frenchman who has joined the Nazi cause, she secretly joins the resistance. In the 1960’s, Barbara is a recent widow. She has come to France to seek out the lover her late husband never got over.

When three authors work together on one story, there is either the potential to create an amazing story or a mess of a novel with three separate voices that never quite merge together. This book is somewhere in the middle. It is far from the worst book I have ever read. However, it does not quite reach the potential that it promises.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Thoughts On the 78th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor

War is not the ideal state for any nation to be in. But when a nation is attacked, they have no choice to fight back.

Today is the 78th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Up until the day that Japan attacked, many Americans were wary of getting involved in the war. Many still had very active memories from World War I. But the attack changed everything.

A generation of young men died that day, their bodies entombed in the sea. They died fighting for their country. 78 years later, their service and their sacrifice will never be forgotten.

May the memories of those who died that day forever be a blessing.

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Hitler and the Habsburgs The Fuhrer’s Vendetta Against the Austrian Royals Book Reviews

As a reader and a history buff, I thought that I had read and/or heard of every story about World War II. But I was wrong.

The first half of the twentieth century is notable for any number of reasons. One of those reasons is the physical deaths and/or dissolutions of most of the major monarchies in Europe. The new book, Hitler and the Habsburgs The Fuhrer’s Vendetta Against the Austrian Royals, by James Longo, tells the story of World War II from a different angle.

As we all learned in high school history class, World War I started with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, the heir to the House of Hapsburg and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg. A generation later, a certain German Chancellor (who shall remain nameless on this blog post) controlled all of Europe and was responsible for the massacre of millions. Nursing a decades-long vendetta against the Hapsburgs and their orphaned children, it was the spark that eventually led him to power.

*There would normally be a video here, but there is none to be found.

This book is very interesting. It is obvious that the author thoroughly researched the period and his subjects. The story takes the reader on a journey that I have not experienced in a long time. However, this book is not for the casual reader. It is for one who is well versed and interested in the period and the history of that period.

I recommend it.

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