Tag Archives: World War II

Throwback Thursday-Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957)

Love stories come in all shapes and sizes. Though we tend to think of a love story with the typical happy ending, that doesn’t always mean that the couple walks into the sunset together.

The 1957 movie, Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison takes place during World War II. Sister Angela (Deborah Kerr) and Corporal Allison (Robert Mitchum) are stranded on an island in the South Pacific. When the Japanese overtake the island, Sister Angela and Corporal Allison take refuge in a cave. Within the small confines of their temporary shelter, they must rely on each other and his military expertise to survive.

What I like about this movie is that it is unconventional for the period. Most films made during this time had the traditional romantic narrative with the traditional Hollywood happy ending. But this film, even with the leads that have electric chemistry, does not end in the traditional manner. Which why I like it.

I recommend it.

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Grantchester Character Review: Geordie Keating

*For the foreseeable future, some Character Review posts may not be published every Thursday as they have in the past.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

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Grantchester to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

In the world of TV detectives, there is a certain perception of the character. He or she is hard bitten by life, excels at their jobs, but personal issues sometimes get in the way. Detective Geordie Keating (Robson Green) has seen it all. A veteran of World War II, he has seen the darker side of humanity from his time during the war and his job as a police detective. Married to Cathy (Kacey Ainsworth), they have four children and a very busy life.

The ying to Sidney Chamber’s (James Norton) yang, Geordie understands the criminal mind and is sometimes willing to break the rules to bring them to justice. This naturally creates tension with Sidney who is more intuitive in his methodologies than his partner. But, they balance each out in a way that bring out the best in both men.

On the home front, Geordie has another set of challenges. He had a mistress for a while, which obviously did not make for a happy marriage. After he broke it off and finally returned to the arms of his wife, Geordie had to face up to the fact that his eldest daughter, Esme (Skye Lucia Degruttola) was growing into a young woman. Ask any father and they will tell you that it’s not easy to admit that your little girl is growing up.

To sum it up: The character of the hard boiled police detective is one that has been seen many over the years. It is therefore, the job of the writer(s) to ensure that their version of the character is not only flesh and blood, but stands out from the pack.

Geordie Keating stands out because even though he is a hard boiled TV detective, he is so much more than that. He is thoroughly human, with flaws and mistakes. But he also knows when to make amends and tell those who he loves exactly how he feels.

That is why Geordie Keating is a memorable character.

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Grantchester Character Review: Sidney Chambers

My character review from Roseanne and The Conners has reached its end. Onto the next set of characters.

*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 GrantchesterRead 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.

In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from Grantchester to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.

When it comes to clergy people of any religion, we expect them to act and think in a certain way. We expect them to be buttoned down, conservative and living as close to the tenets of their faith as they can. In Grantchester, Sydney Chambers (James Norton) breaks all of those rules and more.

A World War II veteran and a man of the cloth, Sydney Chambers’s life is more than the Church. Drawn into the world of crime fighting, his ability to read and understand the human condition puts a new spin on his extracurricular activities. Paired with veteran policeman Geordie Keating (Robson Green), Sidney is the ying to Geordie’s yang.

When he is not doing his clerical work or fighting crime, Sidney can be found with a drink in his hand and a jazz record playing in the background. He can also be found with his best friend, Amanda Kendall (Morven Christie). Sidney is in love with Amanda. But according to the rules of 1950’s England, a woman of Amanda’s stature does not marry a clergyman, especially one whose parish is in the country.

Throughout his journey, it is Sidney’s heart that both helps him and gets him in trouble. When a pregnant Amanda walks away from her marriage, she goes to Sidney. The “will they or won’t they” questions hovers above their relationship, but ultimately becomes a won’t they as Sidney chooses the Church over Amanda.

In the end, Sidney’s heart chooses his fate. Falling in love with an African-American woman, he leaves England, his chosen profession and his friends for a new life in the States.

To sum it up: Sidney Chambers is one complicated character. Though he is a man of the cloth, he is far from the stereotype of a clergy person. As an audience member, I personally find the contradictions to be interesting. As a writer, we look for ways to break molds in characters and allow them to stand out.

Sidney Chambers stands out, which is why he is a memorable character.

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The Yellow Bird Sings: A Novel Book Review

The bond between a mother and her child is powerful. In times of war, what will a mother to do protect her child?

The Yellow Bird Sings: A Novel was published last week.

Written by Jennifer Rosner, the novel is set in Poland during World War II. Róza and her 5-year-old daughter, Shira, are hiding in a barn owned by their Christian neighbors. Her husband, parents and the rest of the town’s Jews have all disappeared. To keep her daughter quiet and calm, Róza tells her the story of a yellow bird. The story works, but not forever.

Soon, Róza must make a choice. Keep Shira with her or send her away with strangers to give her a chance to survive.

This book hits all of the emotional and narrative points that is standard for the genre. However, it did not tough me in a way that other books in the genre do. I wanted to feel the tension as to whether both characters would survive and find their way back to each other. Unfortunately, I did not.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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The Light after the War: A Novel Book Review

Sometimes, surviving The Holocaust required a split-second decision in which one did not know the outcome of that decision.

The Light after the War: A Novel, was published last month. Best friends Vera and Edith survived by jumping from a cattle car headed toward Auschwitz. They spent the rest of the war hiding in a farm. Once peace is declared, both Vera and Edith know that their futures are not in Eastern Europe. They start their new lives in Naples, where Vera gets a job working for an American army officer.

Life becomes complicated when Vera falls for her employer and he for her. They are set to begin a new life as husband and wife, but then the officer disappears. So begins the multiple twists and turns that will take these women across the globe several times and expand their worlds in ways that neither had previously considered.

At the core of this book is a friendship that remains strong under circumstances that would break most friendships. As Vera and Ellen fall in love, go into the work world and expand their horizons, they continue to rely on each other. That is what makes this book great and kept me hanging on to the last page.

I absolutely recommend it.

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A Bookshop in Berlin: The Rediscovered Memoir of One Woman’s Harrowing Escape from the Nazis Book Review

Surviving the Holocaust was sometimes due to intelligence, the ability to predict the future and just plain luck.

Françoise Frenkel was one of the lucky ones. In 1945, she published her memoir, which was recently re-published at the end of last year. It is entitled A Bookshop in Berlin: The Rediscovered Memoir of One Woman’s Harrowing Escape from the Nazis. In the early 1920s, Frenkel’s dream became a reality when she opened a bookshop specializing in French and France related books in Berlin. Life was normal for her until 1939. As a Jew of Polish descent, she knew that remaining in her then present location was not a wise decision.

Her first stop in a bid to escape the horrors of the Holocaust was Paris. When Paris was no longer safe, Frenkel made her through Southern France with the help of brave strangers. She knows that survival depends on getting out of Nazi occupied Europe, but it won’t be easy, given the increased brutality by the Nazis.

As any regular reader of this blog knows, I’ve read quite a few Holocaust books, both fiction and non-fiction over the years. As the years pass by and the survivors begin to leave this world, it becomes ever more important to hear the stories of the Holocaust first hand. Unfortunately, this book is not the best Holocaust book I’ve ever read.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Today is the 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz

Today is the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

As I write this post, I am an ocean apart and multiple generations separated from the Holocaust. When my family, like millions of Jewish immigrants, came to this country in the years before World War II, they could have never imagined the fate of the loved ones they left behind.

Though it is nearly a century since the prisoners of the death camp were set free, it feels as potent and relevant as it did 75 years ago. Hate still flourishes. Antisemitism has once again has reared its ugly head. Humanity still has the capacity to be inhumane to our fellow mortals.

The number of survivors who are able to tell their own stories are dying out. There will come a day in which the stories of the victims and the survivors of the Holocaust will only be available via second hand or via fiction. We must hear their voices while they are still around to tell their stories. If we don’t, then we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Z”l.

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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 75th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz

This coming Monday is a somber day. It is the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Earlier in the week, PBS aired an episode of Secrets of the Dead that focused on the fact that though the Allies knew about the death camp and were urged to bomb it, they chose not to.

What makes me angry is that the purpose of this war was to fight for democracy and human rights. And yet, when the Allies had an opportunity to make a statement about the very thing that they were fighting for, they chose not to.

I can’t help but think of the time, energy, resources, and the lives that were wasted in the Holocaust. We will never know what the victims and their forebears might have given to the world. We will also never know what those who worked in the camps might have done with their lives if they had not given into the hate and believed the lies of the Nazis.

We talk about “Never Again” and how we will never let a specific people be ostracized, traumatized and murdered. And yet, in our modern world, with all of the hate that has started to once more consume us, the message feels as important as ever.

May the memories of those who were killed within Auschwitz be a blessing and a reminder of how inhuman we can be to our fellow humans.

Z”l.

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The Daughter’s Tale: A Novel Book Review

As parents, we will do almost anything to ensure that our children will grow up to be happy, healthy and productive members of society. But during wartime, a parent’s main concern is that they, their children and their family survives the war.

Armando Lucas Correa’s latest book, The Daughter’s Tale: A Novel starts in modern-day New York City. Elise Duval is in her golden years. Born in France and raised as a Catholic, her formative years were during World War II. After the war, Elise moved to the United States, where she was raised by her uncle. Then a stranger brings Elise a box that opens the door to her past.

In 1939 in Berlin, Amanda Sternberg and her husband live a comfortable life with their two young daughters. But Amanda and her family are Jewish and the noose around Europe’s Jews is tightening. Making the ultimate parental sacrifice, Amanda puts her older daughter on a boat to the Americas before fleeing to France with her younger daughter.

Amanda hopes that living in France will provide the respite that she and daughter desperately need. But the Nazis are not too far behind. When Amanda is forced into a labor camp, she knows that the only way to save her daughter is to send her away.

This book is fantastic. What drew me in was the force of Amanda’s love for her children and how she knew instinctively that in order to save her children’s lives, she had to send them away. Regardless of faith, family background or cultural history, it is a message that I believe speak to all of us, especially those of us who have children.

I recommend it.

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