Subject:  A book set in Europe

Stella Bain by Anita Shreve

An American woman is found suffering from shell shock in a garden in London. A surgeon and his wife agree to take her in. She cannot remember anything prior to four months earlier when she was found wounded on a French Battlefield. The book goes back and forth from Europe and America with the backdrop of a war that destroyed a generation.

Speak, Silence by Kim Echlin

A book about the Bosnian war from 1992 to 1995. Yugoslavia was breaking up and areas like Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia were formed. Fighting was among many factions, and this tells the atrocities they endured through three generations of a Muslim family. Because they were women, they were silent about what happened to them. Once one woman spoke up the rest finally found their voice. This book told their story.

A Thurber Carnival by James Thurber and A Collection by Rudyard Kipling

Who cannot remember chuckling at the pokes taken at stuffed shirts by James Thurber.  Remember his alter ego?  Or remember the excitement of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories.  Remember the boy who sent underground, became a spy, with camouflage on his face, or Riki Tiki Tavi, The Elephant’s Child, Mowgli?

This led to a discussion of at what age we started reading or reading to our children. No one remembers turning on a movie but rather sitting on a couch with arms around the child (if they were small enough) and enthralling the children with all sorts of adventures. Who doesn’t have fond memories of those times.  Changing voices for characters, the kids delighted giggles?

An Island at War by Deborah Carr

A tale of the Isle of Jersey which was invaded by the Germans in 1940. The younger sister (9) was sent to England to an aunt for safety. She kept a journal as communications were very difficult. The father, a widower, was killed by a strafing raid [GS1] at the beginning of the invasion. The 18-year-old daughter and her grandmother kept up the farm and survived. Because there was a lack of lodging a German officer was billeted at their small farm home. The story tell about the care they had to take to survive. 

The Windsors at War by Alexander Larman

This is the second of two books Mr. Larman has written about the abdication of Edward VIII and George VI. The first was about what led up to the abdication and the second was after the abdication.  He explains that many records were released between the publication of the two books, and this is based largely on private diaries of George VI, his secretary, Lascelles, Winston Churchill, Alec Hardinge, M15 and others.  Edward and Wallis wrote several books with their side of the story. Some of the M15 records are still held secret. There is a lot of intrigue with the Second World War. The family dynamics are fascinating — a spoiled child, Edward, and a man who rose to the occasion, George.  Our reader actually re-read about half the book after doing some fact checking.  Great book for those who love history.

One Senior Book Club member sent two reviews in via email
One Hundred Saturdays by Michael Frank

Wonderful book! I’ve read a lot about Jews/Europe/WWII, but never anything about the Sephardic Jews living on Rhodes since 1492. Stella talks about her life, including her time in Auschwitz.  What an amazing woman, what an amazing life she’s had.  I knew nothing about Rhodes and its history, had to look it up on the map.

Axis Sally by Richard Lucas

This is a biography of American Mildred Gillars, who was one of the women whose radio broadcasts from Germany during WWII were directed at “our boys.”  That woman was a hot mess!  She had such a chaotic early life (possibly sexually abused by her stepfather, made poor choices about the men in her adult life), but was determined to be a successful actress and be known.  Things didn’t work out quite that way. Like many Americans of her day, she was antisemitic and anti-FDR based on the false assumption that he was Jewish. She also was against the U.S. allying with England and the USSR, the latter based on her anti-communism. She felt that the U.S. should be allied against the USSR, and that if the USSR won over Germany, the U.S. would also fall.  Not all her reasoning was faulty, but her prejudices were unsavory to say the least. I have to admit that from where she sat in Europe, certain things looked very different than they appeared to many Americans, who were still naive about a lot of history and foreign policy issues in those days.

This book covers her trial for treason and the aftermath.  She did find a good and happy path in her last decades.