As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee
This is a sequel to ‘Cider With Rosie’ and describes a carefree journey from the Cotswolds to London and then on to Spain in the mid 1930s. He walks, sleeps rough or in simple accommodation and plays his violin to earn some money. It has a simple but very descriptive and appealing style that makes it very readable. While it makes one want to be young and free again, it does end up in Spain at the start of the civil war, so there is an underlying current of seriousness.
I heard some of it on the radio and really enjoyed it: ‘Ever since childhood I’d imagined myself walking down a white dusty road through groves of orange trees to a city called Seville’. Jacqui and I read it together (starting back in August). It makes a very relaxing bed-time read.
The Naked and the Dead by Normal Mailer
After reading some Steinbeck I decided to catch up on some American literature and so I read this.
It’s a war novel describing the US invasion of a pacific island held by Japanese. It’s completely told from the US perspective. It tells the story through a number of characters working through their life stories. I do wonder how old this is as a literary device, particularly in a war novel. Maybe it seems related to 1950’s war movies with the idea of ordinary people dragged into extraordinary events.
It reminded me of the ‘Thin Red Line’ film, but that was based on another Pacific war novel. I guess I’ll have to read that.
Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder
I got this book as part of a set of holiday books without really thinking beyond the general topic. However, it was well worth reading. It covers the extreme violence of the middle twentieth century with the killing of so many people by both the Nazi and the Soviet regimes. What is notable is that this was all quite geographically confined to Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, the Baltic states and western Russia.
It is interesting that many who are listed as Soviet victims really had not been Soviet citizens for very long, due to the western encroachment of the Soviet state into Poland and the Baltics (in 1939 and 1940). It is also interesting to see Soviet actions in a national context, both in famines (which fell heavily on Ukrainians) and in the terror (which fell heavily on Poles). One wonders just what impact this has on present day politics.