Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Books with a WWI time frame
When I packed for my Kansas trip, I included two books just picked up from the library. At the time I did not know that the National World War I Museum would be a part of the itinerary. I had requested Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by The Countess of Carnarvon back in March. Having jumped on the Downton Abbey fan club train, I knew this book would tell the story of the real people who inhabited Highclere Castle which is where Downton Abbey was filmed. I knew that the time period of WWI would be included.
I found the story of Lady Almina, her family, and friends to be much more interesting than the characters of Downton Abbey. The time frame of the book is 1895 to World War II so the reader gains a better understanding of life in prewar England as well as how much that life changed after the war including the reasons for the second war just a generation later.
The real people of Downton Abbey make unlikely marriages, spend lots of money, go on archaeological digs in Egypt, do charity work, and have fancy house parties. Why, that sounds like the characters in Downton Abbey except for the digging part. Maybe they'll get to that in Season 3.
I requested The Shoemaker's Wife from the library because I am a Adriana Trigiani fan. I did not know that it would be about the same time period. It is fiction based on Adriana Trigiani's own family history and those who immigrated from Italy to the United States. The main characters, the eventual shoemaker's wife and the shoemaker, come from the mountains of northern Italy which border the Alps of Austria. Though not from the same village, they meet as teenagers one time, then randomly over time after immigrating to New Jersey and New York. It's an epic story including much history but more important, it is a love story. The shoemaker fights in the trenches of France in WWI and by doing so gains his US citizenship, but the lasting effects of the mustard gas bring grief and tragedy in the end.
When I arrived home, I had a message telling me that The Cove by Ron Rash was available for pick up. I had read a review and it had sounded interesting. Not only was the main character named Laurel but once again the time is WWI but now we are in the mountains of western North Carolina. Laurel and her brother Hank Shelton are the only survivors of their family and live on the family farm deep in a cove with gigantic granite outcroppings blocking the sun. Hank has returned from serving in WWI with one less arm. Laurel is treated badly due to a birthmark and many of the locals fear her. Their lives seem to improve with the arrival of a mysterious stranger who can not speak. He helps Hank with restoring the farm and wins Laurel's heart. This book is beautifully written, almost poetic in nature, and the storyline will break your own heart. You will feel it coming, but will blindly hope that it might end well.
It was interesting that I had selected three books representing three different cultures and countries during the time period of WWI while also having the opportunity to visit the WWI Museum.