“When I am dead, I hope it may be said: “His sins were scarlet, but his books were read.”
— Hilaire Belloc
This is the report on our February meeting so naturally I started looking for red books, red shelves, red things…Valentine’s references of course. Once I had the shelf I just couldn’t resist the quote I found from Hilaire Belloc but then I thought who is this Belloc person? Seems that Hiliare Belloc was one of the most prolific writers in England during the early twentieth century. Well that surprised me, I’d have thought I would have at least heard of the man. The article I looked at also went on to say that, “He has been called one of the Big Four of Edwardian Letters, along with H.G.Wells, George Bernard Shaw, and G. K. Chesterton, all of whom debated with each other into the 1930s.” I certainly have heard of those writers so why not Belloc? For me, this man fell through the cracks, which makes me think how many other well-known writers of their time have disappeared from our/my attention? I proceeded to look into Mr. Belloc, who besides being an orator, writer, poet, sailor and political activist, was a satirist. Two of his best are “Cautionary Tales for Children” and “The Bad Child’s Book Beasts”. His books are in Project Gutenberg so you can find them quite easily ( I have included links). As I read some of the poems I realized Hilaire was the Shel Silverstein or, maybe, the James Thurber of his day. Some are funny, some are droll – quick verses to enjoy.
So, where am I going with this, well right to another quote, this one by Frank Zappa, that I will paraphrase, ” So many authors, so little time.” Now on to the books my group enjoyed last month.
1. Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben MacIntyre (2012) 399 pages. This is the story of Operation Fortitude, which protected and enabled the invasion, and the Double Cross system, which specialized in turning German spies into double agents during WW II. This is how they deceived the Nazis into believing that the Allies would attack at Calais and Norway rather than Normandy.
2. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (1980) 536 pages. This book has it all – medieval history, Gothic noir and a classic whodunit rolled into one. Warning, it is a very slow – however if you persevere, your time will be rewarded.
3. The Bootlegger by Clive Cussler, Isaac Bell series #7, (2014) 403 pages. It is 1920, and both Prohibition and bootlegging are in full swing. When Isaac Bell’s boss and lifelong friend Joseph Van Dorn is shot and nearly killed, Bell swears to him that he will hunt down the lawbreakers.
4. A Walk in the Woods : Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson (1997) 397 pages. This book describes the adventures (& misadventures) of author Bryson and his friend, Katz, on the Appalachian Trail.
5. The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon (2014) 304 pages. A fiction story based on the actual disappearance of State Supreme Court Judge Crater who was never found. Told from the point of view of the three women in his life, this book also is a historical depiction of New York City in the early thirties.
6. The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (2012) 320 pages. A post-apocalyptic tale in which the world has been decimated due to an out of control flu and blood disease. Hig, who has survived the flu lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog. His only neighbor is a gun-toting misanthrope. As time goes on Hig feels he must fly out and see if anyone else has survived even if it costs him his life.
7. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather (1937) 297 pages. “This book is about two ‘pioneering French missionaries’ and their missions in New Mexico. The novel is based on the true life stories of Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy, the first Archbishop of Santa Fe and his companion, Joseph Projectus Machebeuf and their mission among the Mexicans and the Indians of New Mexico in the 19th century.” -Goodreads. Considered one of Cather’s best.
8. The Light Keeper’s Legacy by Kathleen Ernst, Chloe Ellefson Mystery #3 (2012) 360 pages. Third in this enjoyable cozy mystery series, this one takes place on Rock Island, which is the farthest island off of the Door County peninsula in Wisconsin. Besides being a good mystery a lot of history of the fishing industry and the Potawatomi Lighthouse is included.
9. Kafka’s Last Love: The Mystery of Dora Diamant by Kathi Diamant (2003) 416 pages. The author attempts to give insight into who Kafka was, particularly in his last year of life when he met and fell in love with Dora Diamant. That story only covers the first third of the book. Following Kafka’s death, we find out what happened to Dora as she travels from war-torn Berlin to a declining Russia and eventually to England, but not to safety.
10. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (2014) 272 pages. A.J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. He never remarried after his wife’s death, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. But when a mysterious package appears at the bookstore, its unexpected arrival gives him the chance to make his life over.
11. Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey : the Official Companion to all Four Series by Emma Rowley (2013) 288 pages. Now that Downton series has finished its run you will want to pick up this book to learn how all that magic was accomplished. Perfect for the diehard fan.