Barbed-Wire University, I watched the 1953 movie Albert R.N., which accurately portrays life in a European POW camp.
Christian movies are often sappy and theologically thin, so I was pleasantly surprised by Paul, The Apostle of Christ. The writing and acting were good and the ending was magnificent. (Quite a nice change from modern drivel that teaches if you come to Christ all your problems will go away.) One more movie I watched was The Trip to Bountiful. I'm a sucker for any movie based on a play because it usually has good dialogue. This 1985 film is about an elderly woman who dreams of returning to the town where she grew up. It is slow-moving, heartbreaking, and garnered the Oscar for best actress for Geraldine Page.
As far as reading goes, I slowly worked my way through C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity (3 to 4 pages a day) and loved every bit of it. I listened to The Scarlet Pimpernel (for the umpteenth time) whenever I was working in the kitchen. But that was only after I'd listened to House at Pooh Corner TWICE. Lovely!
Three books that were okay, but that didn't wow me, were Miss Read's Celebrations at Thrush Green, Anthony Trollope's Dr. Wortle's School, and 101 Great American Poems.
Anyone else familiar with Kate Howe's Victober Book Challenge? Every year in October she encourages her listeners to read more Victorian literature. I'm already a big fan, but I appreciate the nudge to add more of it to my literary diet. I hope to read one Charles Dickens title and one Thomas Hardy. Here's her video introducing the challenge.
Friday, September 28, 2018
Friday, September 21, 2018
A good name is more desirable than great riches;
to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.
What is honor? Once lost, can it be regained? At what cost? Is Pacifism equal to
It took me a while to become invested in this novel, but I'm glad I stuck with it. The story
begins in 1870 with veterans of the Crimean war seated around a table together. As they discuss their past battles, a young, sensitive boy listens to their stories and wonders if he can successfully join in the tradition of his military ancestors.
Although Harry Feversham follows in their footsteps, he has no taste for military life. When he leaves the army, he is branded as a coward and must regain his honor in the eyes of those he loves. Since it takes him six years to do that, you won't find a lot of fast-moving action in this book. But if you enjoy better-than-average writing and some good ideas to chew on, you'll appreciate this book, which has been the source of at least four movie adaptations.
My one quibble with the book is that in order to exonerate Harry Feversham, Mason depicts career military men as less than human. Early in the book a group of them is described as men of one stamp; no distinction of uniform could obscure their relationship—lean-faced men, hard as iron, rugged in feature, thin-lipped, with firm chins and straight, level mouths, narrow foreheads, and the steel-blue inexpressive eyes; men of courage and resolution, no doubt, but without subtleties, or nerves, or that burdensome gift of imagination;
Still, I enjoyed the book a great deal, especially because of the excellent narration done by Ralph Cosham.
Saturday, September 15, 2018
Friday, September 14, 2018
Whereas European POWs could order books from home, it was not until March 1945 (after the war in Europe had ended!) that the British Red Cross even began planning to send books to the Far East. Book lovers had had to fend for themselves throughout the war. In some camps libraries were formed. The only requirement for membership was to contribute a book toward the stash. But prisoners were often forced to hand over their books to the censor shortly after capture.
The assortment of available books was eclectic to say the least. Fiction by A.J. Cronin, Daphne du Maurier and Richard Llewellyn were in demand, but bored men would read whatever they could get their hands on. Stephen Alexander remembers reading Gone with the Wind, War and Peace, The Musical Companion, Life of Samuel Johnson, some Dante, and The Oxford Book of English Verse. Childhood favorites such as Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland, and Winnie the Pooh were in high demand as read-alouds: As they lay exhausted and starving in their makeshift huts, Alice's transportation to a world of shrinking bodies, summary executions and exotic creatures from which there appeared to be no escape, must have seemed less of a flight of fancy than their own transformation from guardians of one empire to slaves of another. (544)
Artist Ronald Searle held onto his precious books as long as possible, but when forced to march in temperatures of 105 degrees, he lightened his load by discarding his least favorites and by removing the covers of his most treasured volumes. In some Thai camps books were in such short supply that they were cut into pieces so that 12 men could be reading the book at the same time.
Those who loved books had to protect them from smokers who used every piece of available paper to make home-made cigarettes. Paper was so scarce that the chaplain had to give permission for them to use pages of the Bible for this purpose, "after they read it, of course." I found it fascinating that pages of the Bible went up in smoke before any pages containing recipes since food fantasies were everyone's favorite mental escape.
Also of interest is this article on How WWII Turned Soldiers into Bookworms.
Saturday, September 8, 2018
One Far East POW described their work as "soul-destroying, heart-breaking labor" for which they were paid ten cents a day. Survival was as much about finding mental release as physical endurance. In many detention camps the men turned towards books and classes to relieve their minds of their suffering. By learning new skills and uncovering talents, they stole back some of the months and years that the war had robbed them of. Study kept boredom and depression at bay and it offered a hope that the years in captivity would not be entirely wasted.
Author James Cavell wrote of his POW experience in WWII: "Changi became my university instead of my prison. Among the inmates there were experts in all walks of life -- the high and the low roads. I studied and absorbed everything I could from physics to counterfeiting." Amid the hundreds of skills that soldiers imparted to one another were sewing, Roman history, Arabic (and a dozen other languages), pig-farming, accounting, painting, chess, shorthand, and acting. (Denholm Elliot and Clive Dunn pursued acting careers after the war.) POWs from many different backgrounds enriched each others' lives with their treasure troves of knowledge.
|Painting done in captivity by Terry Frost|
It is important to remember the huge difference between the prisoners held by the Germans and those held by the Japanese. European POWs had access to books, letters from home and Red Cross parcels - and a one percent death rate. Some of them studied law, took exams in the mail and became lawyers after the war. Most POWs in the Far East had few books, letters and packages and twenty-five percent died from malnutrition and tropical diseases. It was a good thing that Gillies wrote of the European prisoners in the first section of the book because once she described the deprivations of the FEPOWs, the others' hardships appeared trivial in comparison.
A fascinating book!