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Friday, November 18, 2016


Mrs. T. wants to go to a movie. "What's showing," she says.  I dunno  but I'll check. I did.  "Mostly the usual trash and a few kids shows. Oh and a sci fi that Time says is "for adults."  " I know you don't like those monster mash ups but maybe...."  Out of the goodness of her heart she agreed to give it a try. :) We went.
Linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) leads an elite team of investigators when gigantic spaceships touch down in 12 locations around the world. As nations teeter on the verge of global war, Banks and her crew must race against time to find a way to communicate with the extraterrestrial visitors. Hoping to unravel the mystery, she takes a chance that could threaten her life and quite possibly all of mankind.
Cutting straight to the chase Arrival  definitely was for adults. Meaning no shoot em ups and bombs going off everywhere. There is plenty of suspense and more than a little tension. Amy Adams is quiet, afraid and strong, clearly the only person who can  ultimately figure out what's going on. I can't believe I'm writing this but Ms. Adams star turn is definitely in the Meryl Streep category. Also, not as a turn off, but I must admit the theme  that communication between alien  races was nigh impossible and potentially catastrophic brought to mind Republicans and Democrats during the recent horrific election season.  But I digress. It's an interesting and thoughtful movie...:)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Steel Wave

A tad late in acknowledging Veterans Day I review The Steel Wave. This book reminds us of the sacrifice of The Greatest Generation. It is the second volume of a historical fiction trilogy that tells the story of the Second World War in Europe.  Jeff Shaara,   following his fathers footsteps in Killer Angels , tells this story  through the points of view of some of history's most fascinating people , The Steel Wave traces the D-Day landing and subsequent days in the Normandy campaign of WWII.  Generals Eisenhower, Bradley, Montgomery,  Rommel are the main characters. The author puts events and opinions into their mouths and thoughts based on his research. For the many who know this story well it’s an interesting sidelight. For those unfamiliar with the history of this shattering event it makes the vast details easy to digest.
But where this novel really stands out is in conveying what this battle, so renowned but now, with World War II veterans dying along with their first hand memories, felt like for the fighters:"The awful noises returned: screaming wails, the air above them ripped and shattered. The shells began to thunder above them, jolting him, the men tumbling again, more dust, the concrete shaking, deafening blasts. He lay flat, held his helmet to his head, curled his legs in tight, felt himself bouncing on the concrete, his hands hard on his ears, his brain screaming into the roar of fire, the terror grabbing him, pulling him into a complete and perfect hell."And here is a pitch-perfect description of what it must have been like to leave the nausea-inducing landing vessels for the nausea-inducing terror of the most nightmarish run on a beach in history: "He . . . looked straight ahead, smoke rolling past, screaming men, more blasts, more fighter planes overhead, wide flat sand, the cliffs so far away."
Shaara wrote in a very interesting introduction: "I realized that the greatest drama here is not the event but the raw and frightening uncertainty for everyone involved. It is easy to view history in hindsight, as though it were a foregone conclusion how the war, or this particular piece of it, would turn out. But for those men whose deeds and accomplishments created this history, there were no foregone conclusions at all."

The reader is left with two conclusions. The first is that William Tecumseh Sherman was right: War is hell. The second is that this is a hell of a war novel. As a matter of fact all three novels in this series are very well done.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Historical Photography Quiz

A German soldier holding up Hitler’s shredded pants after a failed assassination attempt at German headquarters in East Prussia, June 20, 1944,

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

People of the Book

Geraldine Brooks historical novel People of the Book traces the journey of a rare illuminated manuscript through centuries of exile and war. 

 Brooks, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her previous novel, “March,” has drawn her inspiration from the real Sarajevo Haggadah. As she explains in an afterword, little is known about this book, except that it has been saved from destruction on several occasions, twice by Muslims and once by a Roman Catholic priest. 
The story begins in 1996 when Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, is offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, which has been rescued from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Priceless and beautiful, the book is one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images.  Hanna is able to trace the book’s journey from its salvation back to its creation. This makes for a fascinating story with lots of detective work.  Along the way we find art forgers and nationalist fanatics and even some romance.  What is the origin and the whole story behind the survival of this wonderful book? Lots of action will tell us along with some fascinating historical vignettes.   Perhaps a broader context and personalization of the main characters would help but then again history and historical fiction should  open our eyes and hearts to different times and places and touch our curiosity to want even more.
As a small footnote to the locale of much of this book, I am presently receiving physical therapy from a young woman who came to America as a child and war refugee during the Bosnian war. She is of Croatian ethnicity and fled Belgrade the Yugoslav and Serbian capitol during the bombing..... Small world indeed.

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@Barrie Summy