Sunday, February 19, 2006

BOOKS READ FROM 1941, PART FOUR

The Illmade Knight, TH White, GP Putnam's Sons, 1941, 200 pp
We come to Book III of The Once and Future King. This is Lancelot's story and was the easiest read so far, though maybe I am getting used to his style. There was not a boring moment. What a different view of Lancelot from Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon.


The Castle on the Hill,
Elizabeth Goudge, PF Collier & Son Corporation, 1941
As I mentioned in the 1940 list, this is one of my favorite authors. I have read all of her fiction and her autobiography. This one takes place during World War II. She had only been publishing novels for six years at this point and was just 37 years old. She has such amazing insight into people. Was I that wise and able to perceive at 37? I don't think so.

Miss Brown is the heroine. She is plucky but shy, capable but a dreamer. She assists a young man who is upset by the war. The message of this book is that the way to find happiness is to embrace all of life, confront your demons, be kind and believe in the power of good over evil. The book could well be laughed out of existence in today's world.


Wild is the River, Louis Bromfield, PF Collier & Son Corporation, 1941, 326 pp
Here we are in New Orleans again, the time is post Civil War. The main characters are Yankees and are portrayed as repressed, humorless and dishonest people preying on a conquered city. Tom is a Yankee soldier with a wild, promiscuous streak. The young countess is a Creole woman with a hard controlling heart. Agnes is the young fiancee of Tom, and she comes to New Orleans with her spinster aunt to visit Tom.

Amidst conflicts and rebellions, all these people resort to other relationships. Some find true love, some get what's coming to them and some get away unscathed physically if not emotionally. I found the book annoying and boring by turns. The characters were cardboard, the plot obvious and the author has that irritating way of having a character think or feel one way and then instantly have an opposite thought or feeling, similar to Edna Ferber. Really it was just a silly romantic historical novel of the 40s.


Without Signposts, Kathleen Wallace, GP Putnam's Sons, 1941, 298 pp
This story was an interesting but little known aspect of life for women in England during World War II. Just before England got into the war, people were being evacuated from London into the countryside for safety, especially children and mothers. Tamsin Heywood is a widow with two small children and among the evacuees. She must find housing and schools for the children on little money.

They end up in a boarding house run by Russian emigres from the revolution. It is a similar scene to the one in The Family, which I read in the 1940 list. Genteel poverty and various cultures trying to live together. In the end, everyone finds love including Tamsin. The writing is not great but the happy ending with the underlying potential for loss because of the war is a true portrayal of life at that time, particularly for mothers.


Now we come to the award winning books. There was no Pulitzer Prize winner in 1941.

The Matchlock Gun, Walter D Edmonds, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1941, 50 pp
The Newbery Medal winner is a story of an Indian raid on a family in upstate New York. The 10 year old son fires off an old matchlock gun and saves his mother and sister, while his father has gone off to try to prevent the Indians from getting that close.


Make Way For Ducklings, Robert McCloskey, The Viking Press, 1941, 64 pp
The Caldecott Medal winner features great illustrations and the story of a family of ducks settling in Boston. The way the mother duck wants to keep looking until they find a safe place to raise ducklings reminded me of the beaver story in James Michener's Centennial.

That completes the books I read from 1941 and my plan worked. I am now ready to write up the chapter for my book that corresponds to that year. I should have it posted tomorrow.

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