Monday, June 24, 2024

A Visit from My Local Book Pusher



 For the past several years, Allegra and I have done book swaps. Great bulging shopping bags filled with books we think the other would enjoy change hands and we have lunch and talk--some about the books but more about the current state of politics and the world.

The recent haul included Absolution, which I picked up somewhat at random and was at once captivated by the setting: Vietnam, 1963, and then by the protagonist--newly wed Tricia whose attorney husband is 'on loan' to navy intelligence. This is before actual war breaks out. There are military advisors but the families of officers and civilians like Tricia's husband, live in secure compounds, enjoying a luxurious life. 

I too was a newlywed in 1963 and the mindset that Tricia has, as well as the social expectations are all so familiar. 

Tricia is swept up in the wake of Charlene, who is trying her best to 'do good.'  And underlying all of this is the question of American meddling in another country.

Charlene and Tricia are compelling characters and the descriptions of Saigon and the countryside are beautifully done. 

I found it to be compulsive reading--highly recommended!

My next choice from the bulging bag was Good Night, Irene, a novel based on the experiences of the Donut Dollies, a Red Cross corps formed to bring a touch of comfort to American GI, sometimes frighteningly near the frontlines.

Set in 1943 (another significant year for me as it's when I was born,) the novel follows Irene and Dot and a changing cast of Third Girls as they (wo)man the unwieldy Clubmobile throughout wartime France, dispensing hot coffee and donuts (fried fresh in the Clubmobile!) as well as their smiles and cheerful flirtation that are the real comforts.

Holding those smiles is hard as they encounter increasingly dangerous and heart-breaking situations. But their strong support for one another sees them through the worst of times. It's a fine testimonial to friendship, without ever getting soppy

It's a terrific war story--told from a female perspective and with a long overdue look at the heroism of women. 

The writing is beautiful, poetic and moving--when I finished to book, it was hard to return to the here and now, so caught up in the story I'd been.

Another winner and another highly recommended.


1 comment:

Merisi said...

"Charming Billy" is so far my favorite book by Alice McDermott. She lived not far from my neighborhood back then in the 1990s, and I met her at several author readings at local bookstores. A fine writer and a very kind woman too.