Check It Out

Courier Article by Pam Locker
Sunday, November 1, 2009

Library to commemorate 90th Armistice Day

The Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library system is commemorating the 90th anniversary of Armistice Day with a variety of events. Topics include the music of WWI, the tragedies of trench warfare, and the contributions of Rosie the Riveters, as well as a WWI poster exhibit at Central Library and "heroes trees" at all library locations.

Go to the library website at www.evpl.org for more information.

Here are some new novels imbued with wartime horrors and their physical and emotional scars.

"Homer and Langley" by E. L. Doctorow (2009). The award-winning Bronx-born author of "Ragtime" and "The March" bases his latest novel on the infamous Collyer brothers, a pair of rich eccentrics who barricaded themselves inside their Manhattan townhouse, allowing it to deteriorate into squalor.

Doctorow is a master of atmosphere and characterization, so we live inside these brothers' skins from their early twentieth century birth, through Langley's wartime mustard gas maiming, their parents' influenza deaths, the internment of their longtime Japanese servants in WWII, and the death of their cook's son in Vietnam. Along the way their house fills with newspapers and scavenged objects that just might hold the answer to life's mysteries.

Since Doctorow is also a wise and witty commentator on the human condition, "Homer and Langley" is an intriguing little book that can be read on several levels.

"A Duty to the Dead: a Bess Crawford Mystery" by Charles Todd (2009) is the first in a new series by the mother-son writing team known as Charles Todd, the authors of eleven Ian Rutledge mysteries set in the WWI era.

Bess is an upper-middle-class Englishwoman who has chosen to serve as a nurse in the Great War. On leave following an injury, she takes time to visit a family in Kent to deliver a deathbed message. In doing so, she gets caught up in the household's affairs and realizes that it is up to her to address a grievous wrong.

Here is a smart, brave, and likeable young heroine who will please Todd fans.

"Among the Mad: a Maisie Dobbs Novel" by Jacqueline Winspear (2009). After private investigator and psychologist Dobbs witnesses a violent suicide on a busy London street, she is drawn into an investigation into some death threats against British officials. In this sixth Maisie Dobbs novel, it is 1931, and the war is long over, but its many wounded and shell-shocked veterans are still feeling the consequences. One of them seeks revenge.

Maisie is another gutsy and independent woman who holds her own in a man's world.

"The German Woman" (2009) is Paul Griner's third published work, following the acclaimed novel

"Collectors" and the story collection "Follow Me." He is a University of Louisville associate professor of English and creative writing.

This is a breathtaking work - both heartrending and beautiful - that plays out across both world wars. Its protagonists - Kate Zweig and Claus Murphy - have complicated backgrounds that bring their national loyalty into question.

The first part focuses on Kate, an English nurse, and her German physician husband working in a German battlefield hospital after being forced out of England. In the second part, during the Nazis' V-1 bombing reign of terror on London, the now-widowed Kate falls in love with a film director and block warden of German and Irish ancestry who is being forced by British military intelligence to play a deadly game.

Living like strangers in their own land, they find in each other some brief respite from the storm.

IF YOU GO
The Music of WWI
Presented by NPR Fascinatin' Rhythm host Michael Lasser
Sunday, November 8, 2 p.m.
Central Library