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Tag Archives: 1940’s

Characters Series: Heroines in the Worst of Times

When I was a kid, I wished that I could do something really BIG and dramatic that would save the day.  I think that I still do have this desire, and I think it is a common one.  We humans want to know that our lives have a purpose and meaning.  It’s all very well to talk about character when things in life are going so nicely.  Of course, character is needed in everyday life.  But it’s so much harder when you’re in the midst of scary events. 

We’re usually not aware of these kinds of heroines until we put them in the context of history.  The real-life heroines are the most admirable, for they show us that it is possible to have integrity for real and that it’s not just for fiction.  One of my personal favorites ever since I was little has been Queen Esther—Persian queen (Jewish commoner) in disguise!  Even though she was in the prime of life and could easily talk herself out of it, she felt a duty to go to the king on behalf of her people because she could do something. 

One our favorite Lord of the Rings quotes goes something like this: 

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. 

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”  

Thinking of history not that long past, there are the character role models of Diet Eman and Corrie ten Boom.  They were also both women in the prime of life who did what they could while their country was occupied by the Nazi regime.  I cannot think of anything more terrifying than facing a concentration camp, yet that is what they risked experiencing (and did experience) because of their belief that all people matter.  What heart, what courage these women modeled!  Come to think of it, why else do heroes do what they do, other than because of their value for human life and freedom?  In the moment of their action, they put aside their safety and sometimes very lives for the treasuring of another. 

I have never read the book, but I recently watched the movie The Help for the first time.  This story is full of women in a particular place (deep Southern America) in a particular time (violently racial 1960’s).  Some did what was popular and easy in the community—letting others bully them as to their personal decisions and relationships.  Others saw their neighbors as human beings with souls.  And still others decided to take a stand, to say ‘enough is enough’, and try to help each other in the middle of what was impossible conditions.  They were scared; they were hesitant at first or said no at the beginning, because they were risking so much.  But each decided that their friends and family were more important than their present fear and took the step forward that eventually became fruitful.  No longer ‘Strange Fruit.’ 

Sometimes heroines will never see the fruit of their labors.  In Tangled Ashes (Michele Phoenix), Marie is a seventeen-year-old girl living in an obscure village in France during WWII.  She is just an ordinary teenager, but living in extraordinary times.  She is forced to serve in a nearby manor house where strange and secretive things are taking place under the German occupation.  She “hears nothing, she sees nothing”– until she is forced to face the facts that her best friend is pregnant with an enemy soldier.  Suddenly, she cannot live for her preservation alone.  She has a tiny, innocent life to look after and it ends up costing her dearly.  But her love puts others first, and she has to trust that her courageous actions are more important in the long run. 

What becomes of the people we have influence over?  Maybe we will never know.  Or maybe their lives will touch others in a great, wide ripple effect that never stops.  All we can do is strive to pass on a heritage that will be life-giving and honoring for others.  And maybe this idea is not relegated to the big, grandiose acts of queens, but starts with the everyday little yeses and considerations in this world. 

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2: 3,4) 

 
 

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Movie Review: The Book Thief

d326e3e8deb69479ae2a56a451ab07e8Based on the book by Markus Zusak.

Version: 2013; starring Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson

Genre: drama, WWII

Plot Summary: Liesel Meminger has been orphaned by the circumstances of WWII and adopted by a new set of parents in a different town.  She is also new at school and ashamed to admit she cannot read.  But Papa helps to educate her as he learns to improve his schooling as well.  Meanwhile, there are other things to be learned while living in Germany during the time of the Third Reich.

My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not by comparing it to that novel.  Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book.  

This was a film that had my interest from the first, but I didn’t have a chance to watch it until a little while ago. The trailer looked so intriguing, and I guess I get my interest in WWII history from my mom.  Plus, it doesn’t hurt that it included the actor Geoffrey Rush in a major role.  His voice is one of my favorites (he played the voice of Nigel the Pelican on Finding Nemo).

The Book Thief was interesting in that it followed the story of a German civilian (Liesel) throughout the duration of the WWII.  Because of the perspective, it sort of reminded me of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, another film I would recommend.  Liesel is involved with the Hitler Youth and other activities just like many other young people her age.  Her adoptive parents aren’t too particularly anti-Hitler, but aren’t entirely for him, either.  However, they go with the flow as many do and keep the peace.

That is, until a young Jewish man enters their home and they are compelled to hide him in their basement. Liesel doesn’t completely understand what is going on, only that Max is her friend and she wants to protect him.

1ea864bc74e07178ed875aaca980711bI really did enjoy this movie, but I get a sense that the book was probably better. There were parts (mostly at the beginning) that I didn’t understand.  Why was Liesel’s mother taken away?  What exactly happened to her brother?  What was the burgermeister’s reasons for banning Liesel?  What’s the deal with the abstract narrator called Death?  Although the story was called “The Book Thief”, that really wasn’t so much of the plot.  It was hard to suspend disbelief when several years go by, yet Liesel and her girlhood crush Rudy don’t appear to get any older.  But I did get a kick out of the Christmas scene in the basement, where the family smuggles in snow, has a snowball fight and builds a snowman.  “This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done!” Rosa states.  😀  I also really liked the scene where Liesel enjoys a good book at the burgermeister’s library.  The colors, mood, and design are something I would like to replicate someday for my own personal library.

Another thing I appreciated is that the end of the story takes a different twist that I did not expect, as real life sometimes does. It was sad, but not altogether so.  There is not really ‘content’ issues.  This film is based on a YA book and I was glad to see it kept age appropriate.  But there is what you would expect in a story that takes place during such a time as 1940’s Germany, and there are beatings, bombings, etc.

I would recommend this, but parents will probably want to watch it with their kids and decide what age it’s appropriate for.

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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Book Review: “Matorni’s Vineyard,” by E. Phillips Oppenheim

serveimageGenre: futuristic; suspense; intrigue

Plot Summary: Mervyn Amory is a British tennis player on his way to Monte Carlo for a holiday.  He takes a train trip that turns out to be anything but leisurely.  When an Italian spy passes on vital information to him just before he is assassinated, who will Mervyn trust?  Can we trust him?  And who is the beautiful Italian diva who has close ties to the Princess?

My Book Review: It’s been a few years since I’ve dipped into Oppenheim, but I have to say this was much more interesting to me than the last two I’ve read.  It had a flavor of The Great Impersonation, as far as the intrigue and atmosphere go.  It wasn’t hard to read, and provided some fun entertainment.

The best part was that it kept you guessing about who you could trust. I can’t say there were any huge plot twists that maybe the average reader wouldn’t see coming, but yet it keeps one suspecting everyone– even the main character.

I felt disappointed in how the Dictator was treated in the end. SPOILER ALERT: I felt the winners dealt him too soft a hand and they dared to trust someone to continue leading a large European country who had just threatened to pitch the continent into another world war.  Who’s to say he wouldn’t ever try something like that again?  On the other hand, I suppose this type of international dealing is realistic, considering how the world treated Hitler and Germany before WWII. END OF SPOILER. Oppenheim set his book in the 1940’s, which would have made the tale futuristic for readers at the time it was published in 1928.  Of course, the dictator-character Matorni represents Mussolini himself.  Oppenheim also had some of this type of foresight in my favorite of his (The Great Impersonation).

I loved the exotic location set in Monaco. Although the story is not historical, the details feel accurate, as if they were.  There is a romance as a side plot included, but I can’t say it was very believable because of how fast it occurred in such a short amount of time.  But if you want a bit of ‘alternate history’ type genre, this might interest you.

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2017 in Book Reviews

 

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Used Book Shopping at Thrift Stores

Ah!  🙂  Time to grab a chai and a blanket and for a little ‘random book shopping’ post!  There aren’t a ton this time around, but I can tell you I was pretty excited over these:

*This was the best find out of all of them!  Have you heard of the story of Diet Eman?  This brave young Dutch woman defied the Nazis along with her fiancé in hiding Jews during WWII.  About ten years ago, I listened to a recorded speech she gave that aired on Focus on the Family.  It was split into two parts and I remember being so engrossed in the Part 1 and not wanting to miss the next day’s continuation.  But I was unable to at that time (didn’t have the benefit of looking up past programs on the internet), and was so sorry to have missed it.  A short time later after moving to another state, I saw a flyer announcing a small community theater performing a play based on Diet Eman’s biography.  It was said that Diet herself may be there to meet and greet afterward!  I was so excited and we all bought tickets.  The play (named after the book, “Things We Couldn’t Say”) was riveting.  Unfortunately, Ms. Eman (who is now quite elderly) couldn’t make it that night and we never got to meet her.  But.  I was looking through the wealth of books at a local Salvation Army store and came across her autobiography in great condition.  And when I opened it up… I saw she had autographed it!  !!!!!  How COOL is that?!  I am so thrilled and honored to have a book signed by her own hand to keep for my own and pass on.  It is my hope that I get to meet her one day in person.

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You never know what you might find at a thrift store!  Do you have any special book finds?  Please share!

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2017 in Book Shopping

 

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P.L. Travers Christmas story on BBC

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I came across a beautifully dramatized Christmas story on BBC this afternoon, originally written as a short story by P. L. Travers.  It’s called “The Fox at the Manger” and the voices and music are lovely to listen to.  Actress Wendy Hiller lends voice as the narrator.  It would make a great bedtime story for children this holiday season.  It is available for a limited time only.

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2016 in Audio/Radio Dramas

 

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Edgar Harrell’s Story

d0514d0abee471e4c05a881c3932ed31Not one weekend newspaper goes by that I don’t see at least one -if not several- World War II veteran obituaries.  It is estimated that 430 of the ‘greatest generation’ vets pass away each day.  So with Independence Day approaching, I thought I’d post a link to the story of a noble WWII vet with a remarkable survival story.  I remember listening to Edgar Harrell being interviewed years ago by Charles Morris on Haven Today.  It was such an edge-of-your-seat true tale that we didn’t dare miss the next day’s episode!  I wasn’t able to find that same interview unfortunately, but you can listen to Harrell’s interview on In the Market with Janet Parshall by clicking here.  You can also watch him tell his story on a video posted below.  Edgar wrote an autobiography about his experiences called “Out of the Depths.”  I highly recommend this to you!  And don’t forget to say thank you to the veterans who fought for your freedom (regardless of which war) in your life!

 

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“The Goebbels Experiment”

023adc95ba40c93716a80dd303688acbI recently watched a riveting documentary, The Goebbels Experiment.  Using text taken completely from Joseph Goebbel’s diary and speeches, the film documents the Nazi Minister of Propaganda’s life, especially his work in the years leading up and during the Second World War.  Goebbel’s voice is narrated by Kenneth Branagh, and his acting made for a completely believable retelling of what happened.

There are no graphic descriptions of the mass murders that took place during the holocaust.  However, there is some disturbing film footage of Goebbels, his wife Magda, and their six little children after they were found dead at the end of the war.  There is also a brief description near the beginning of the film of a passionate love affair Goebbels was involved in with a girlfriend.  I wouldn’t recommend this for children, obviously.  Parents would be well advised to preview it for older kids first.

It was eye-opening, and a bit creepy to be a viewer to so much material about the Nazi “spin doctor.”  I found it educational in learning how Nazis like Goebbels thought, how they manipulated the public’s perception of information, and could see similarities in things going on in the modern world today.  I highly recommend this film– the more we learn from history, the more alert we are to the things going on around us.

 

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2016 in Movie Reviews

 

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