Focus On: WWI & WWII


Ever since the latest season of Downton ended, I’ve been searching for something to fill the void. Though there’s nothing quite as funny as watching Maggie Smith talk about weekends, I found a few substitutes. It’s only natural that I turned first to historical fiction set in the 20s  before moving on to fiction set in the 40s.

I'll Be Seeing You

I'll Be Seeing You

First up is I’ll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan.

It’s January 1943 when Rita Vincenzo receives her first letter from Glory Whitehall. Glory is an effervescent young mother, impulsive and free as a bird. Rita is a sensible professor’s wife with a love of gardening and a generous, old soul. Glory comes from New England society; Rita lives in Iowa, trying to make ends meet. They have nothing in common except one powerful bond: the men they love are fighting in a war a world away from home.

Brought together by an unlikely twist of fate, Glory and Rita begin a remarkable correspondence. The friendship forged by their letters allows them to survive the loneliness and uncertainty of waiting on the home front, and gives them the courage to face the battles raging in their very own backyards. Connected across the country by the lifeline of the written word, each woman finds her life profoundly altered by the other’s unwavering support.

A collaboration of two authors whose own beautiful story mirrors that on the page, I’ll Be Seeing You is a deeply moving union of style and charm. Filled with unforgettable characters and grace, it is a timeless celebration of friendship and the strength and solidarity of women.

Summary from

This one is an absolute joy to read — it’s a mixture of nostalgia, romance and the power of friendship. Written as a series of letters between two women whose husbands have gone off to war, the novel show the intense impact the war had on those at home. Glory and Rita are endearing as women, mainly because the authors have allowed them to be imperfect. All too often in historical fiction women are shown as perfect wives and mothers, not so here! This book is guaranteed to make you pull out your stationary and write a letter to a friend!

Rating: 4/5

House-Bound by Winifred Peck


Next up is a book that I haven’t quite finished but am absolutely adoring, House-Bound by Winifred Peck.

Penelope Fitzgerald wrote: ‘If I could have back one of the many Winifred Peck titles I once possessed I would choose House-Bound. The story never moves out of middle-class Edinburgh; the satire on genteel living, though, is always kept in relation to the vast severance and waste of the war beyond. The book opens with a grand comic sweep as the ladies come empty-handed away from the registry office where they have learned that they can no longer be “suited” and in future will have to manage their own unmanageable homes. There are coal fires, kitchen ranges and intractable husbands; Rose is not quite sure whether you need soap to wash potatoes. Her struggle continues on several fronts, but not always in terms of comedy. To be house-bound is to be “tethered to a collection of all the extinct memories… with which they had grown up… how are we all to get out?” I remember it as a novel by a romantic who was as sharp as a needle, too sharp to deceive herself.’

Summary from Persephone Books.

House-Bound is  part of a delightful series of books published by Persephone Books. Persephone takes books written by women over the past 200 years and gives them new life. Often these are the books that have fallen out of print with time or, in the case of several of their books, were never printed at all. House-Bound is a lot of fun to read but certainly isn’t as action-packed as modern novels. It’s the perfect answer to what to read before bed.

Rating: Withheld as I’m not finished yet!

In case you’re looking for a quick fix, here are two television series I highly recommend that capture both the glamour and the scarcity of wartime. (Bonus: they’re both available on Netflix!)

  1. Land Girls: A fun mini-series about girls who have joined the Women’s Land Army in England. Though most of them are used to hard work, when an aristocratic girl who has never lifted a finger shows up hilarity ensues.Land Girls
  2. Bomb Girls : This series follows Canadian women who are employed in a munitions factory during the war. Tensions are high as pressure is put on the factory to produce more bombs.Bomb Girls

A Quick Bit of Delight for Your Monday!

I stumbled across this behind the scenes trailer for Les Mis this morning and thought that it absolutely had to be shared!

I remember reading Les Mis in high school English class and falling completely in love with the story. Seeing it brought to the big screen, especially since I’ve never had the opportunity to see the musical, is incredible!

The Education of Shelby Knox

After hearing Shelby Knox speak at NCCWSL last week (post on that conference coming soon), I knew that I had to see the documentary about her life. She fought the school board in Lubbock, TX in an effort to institute sex education in the public schools.

Here’s the trailer:

Wow. If I thought she was great when I heard her speak, this documentary makes her seem unstoppable! Her energy and drive is inspirational and I hope that I can work this passionately for a cause some day. Shelby Knox is truly a role model.

I highly recommend this film to all young would-be-activists as well as anyone who believes that this country’s youth don’t care about politics.

The King’s Speech–A Must See!


Today Samantha and I decided to spend the afternoon in town, to celebrate being finished with our first semester in England. Disgruntled after turning in our papers and already stressing about the next semester, we decided that a break was in order. Orange mobile offers its customers “Orange Wednesdays” which allow you to buy two movie tickets for the price of one. Using our student discounts as well we spent less than three pounds per ticket–a big deal when it usually costs seven or eight!

The King’s Speech was amazing! It was refreshing to see Colin Firth in a role that had a real story; sometimes I find myself forgetting how great of an actor he is! The story is a mostly true one, recounting the life of King George VI before his ascension to the throne. A man who was so afraid of his father and brother that he began stuttering at age five, Albert (“Bertie”) had tried every speech therapist in London. His wife, played by the lovely and remarkable Helena Bonham Carter, finds Lionel (Geoffrey Rush) whose methods are unorthodox to say the least!

The movie allowed for laughter and tears of the best kind; you fell in love with this crazy man’s way of fixing a speech problem and your heart broke every time Bertie stuttered in public. I highly recommend this film–though it’s not exactly fun for the whole family (One speech training scene involves copious curse words)

I must admit, however, that my favorite part of the film was seeing Helena Bonham Carter being somewhat ordinary. I have fallen in love with each of the quirky characters she plays–the Queen of Hearts and Bellatrix–but this character was so utterly normal !

Ta for now,