Monday, July 22, 2013

War Nevermore: War is a Force, Cavaliers and Roundheads, and Sarah's Key

"Ain't gonna study war no more" isn't a phrase used at Nevermore, because war is a frequent book topic both in non-fiction and fiction.  Here are some of the books about war which were discussed recently:

Foreign correspondent Chris Hedges has covered conflicts all over the world, from the Sudan to the Balkans to the Americas.  He’s studied accounts of historical warfare (including Shakespeare’s portrayals) to compare with contemporary wars, looking the ways they differed and were similar.   The resulting book, War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, is a fascinating look at “the virus of war,” a disorder to which human beings seem all too susceptible.  War brings a complete breakdown in morality, and makes for a black and white world in which soldiers on our side are not only good, they’re all heroes; those fighting for the other side are all evil. Battles are glorified; dissenters, even artists or musicians, are silenced. This seems to be true through both time and place. Jud Barry, our director, felt this was definitely a book for reading and reflection.

Speaking of conflicts, there was a lot going on during the English Civil War, none of it good.  Christopher Hibbert’s book Cavaliers and Roundheads does an excellent job of presenting the war on a more personal and intimate level. Communities and families were divided; collateral damage was enormous.  Hibbert highlights the personalities involved, including some of the minor players whose names aren’t as well known as Charles I or Oliver Cromwell.  The religious component was enormous, but it was more nuanced that a simple matter of Protestant against Catholic. This well-written, revealing and well-researched account is highly recommended.

World War II is the catalyst for the novel Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay. In 2002, journalist Julia Jarmond is writing a 60th anniversary piece on the round up of Jews in Paris, which were done with the complicity and sometimes active participation of the French authorities.  As Julia does her research, she discovers that the apartment where she lives once belonged to the family of a young girl named Sarah who was taken along with most of her family by the Nazis. Left behind is Sarah’s younger brother, who is hidden in a locked cupboard. The novel alternates between past and present, as Julia learns more about the fate of Sarah’s family and of a very dark period of French history.  Jud found the book to be a well-written, plot driven book with good pacing which drew him in quickly and kept the pages turning.

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