Sunday, February 11, 2018

In This Grave Hour

This is the eleventh in the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. It stands alone nicely, for it is the first I have read and I had no trouble following the plot. Maisie is an investigator with unique skills and friends. As Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain broadcasts Britain's declaration of war with Germany, a Secret Service agen, Dr. Francesca Thomas, approaches Maisie with an urgent mission. Find the killer of a man who escaped occupied Belgium as a boy during the Great War. Soon after the investigation begins, another former Belgian refugee is murdered, and it is obvious the murders are related. As the investigation continues, London prepares for war.

This is a work of historical fiction and is meticulously researched. As an American born after World War II, at a remove from the events, I found it both heartbreaking and fascinating. It would be hard enough to have your husband serving in harm's way, but to send your children away? Yes, for their safety, yet...? Barrage balloons, blackout curtains, rationing, gas masks, bomb shelters... the rending of families. How does one prepare for and endure this sort of hardship?  And there are countries where this sort of hardship is current. May I never forget.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Two Nights

This is a novel by Kathy Reichs. Sunday Night, former military, former police, current recluse, is pulled from her Goat Island home to search for the granddaughter of Opaline Drucker, a Charleston grande dame. Stella Bright, the granddaughter, managed to survive the bomb blast that killed her mother and brother, but hasn't been seen since. Mrs. Drucker also wants revenge and offers Sunnie a per head bounty for each bomber she catches...or kills. Sunnie's search begins in Chicago, to Los Angeles, to Louisville, all the while trying to repress memories of her own childhood that may just be why she took this case to begin with.

The Handmaid's Tale

A dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood which I read for book club. I didn't like the book, the ending, the subject matter, and I'm not inclined to read another by Atwood based on it. I will agree it is good fodder for book clubs simply because there's so much to discuss. The book is set in the not-too-distant future; a  religious, political party is in power in the United States. To address the problem of a low birth rate, all women who have proven themselves capable of child bearing have been separated from those children and the men who fathered them and are set up as handmaids  for the men who now run the country and their wives. The handmaids have to bear at least one child for the couple who has hired them; failure equals death in most cases. The handmaids also lose their names. They become Of the man. Our titular tale is told by Offred, and it is a horrifying tale indeed. The book is unsatisfactory in that there's no resolution. After reading this train wreck of a life we're not told how or if it ends. Not to my liking.