Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mount Vernon Love Story

"March 4, 1797
11:45 A.M.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
It was a windswept, raw March morning and the city looked bleak and dreary as it shivered under the overcast sky. But the man who stood at the window of his study in the large house on Market Street didn't hear the rattling of the wind against the panes or even feel the persistant draft that penetrated between the window frame and sill. He was staring unseeingly into the street."
First paragraph of Mount Vernon Love Story by Mary Higgins Clark

I read this as my 8th book for the Back To History reading challenge and really enjoyed it. This was Mary Higgins Clarks first book, written long before her fame as a murder mystery writer and published afterwards. It is written very well, really gave me so much more information on this first family then I was ever aware of and reads like a good story.
Two thumbs up!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith

"Serene was a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York. Especially in the summer of 1912. Somber, as a word, was better. But it did not apply to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Prairie was lovely and Shenandoah had a beautiful sound, but you couldn't fit those words into Brooklyn. Serene was the only word for it; especially on a Saturday afternoon in summer."

I've had this book on my shelf for several years now and the What's In A Name challenge gave me the push I needed to read it, fulfilling the Place category. What a fun, sweet and light read. I absolutely loved it. The version I have is not the one pictured, but a hardback Reader's Digest version that came with a paper insert flyer about the author. This was Betty Smith's first novel and it is autobiographical. Betty grew up in a tenement house in Brooklyn, eldest daughter to German immigrants, with a Chinese sumac tree growing outside of her window. At age 11, two of Betty's poems were published in a local newspaper. Her father died the next year and Betty had to quit school to work and help support her family. We read about those jobs in Betty's novel. Just like in the book, Betty was accepted into the University of Michigan's writing course without her high school diploma. There she met and fell in love with law student, George Smith. In 1938, Betty had two kids and was divorced, but continued to write, starting A Tree Grows In Brooklyn in 1939 and finally getting it published in 1943 to great success. Betty also wrote three other, much lesser known, novels.

From Amazon.com:
"Francie Nolan, avid reader, penny-candy connoisseur, and adroit observer of human nature, has much to ponder in colorful, turn-of-the-century Brooklyn. She grows up with a sweet, tragic father, a severely realistic mother, and an aunt who gives her love too freely--to men, and to a brother who will always be the favored child. Francie learns early the meaning of hunger and the value of a penny. She is her father's child--romantic and hungry for beauty. But she is her mother's child, too--deeply practical and in constant need of truth. Like the Tree of Heaven that grows out of cement or through cellar gratings, resourceful Francie struggles against all odds to survive and thrive. Betty Smith's poignant, honest novel created a big stir when it was first published over 50 years ago. Her frank writing about life's squalor was alarming to some of the more genteel society, but the book's humor and pathos ensured its place in the realm of classics--and in the hearts of readers, young and old. (Ages 10 and older) --Emilie Coulter --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title. "

The Diary of a Young Girl - Anne Frank

"Sunday, 14 June, 1942
On Friday, June 12th, I woke up at six o'clock and no wonder; it was my birthday. But of course I was not allowed to get up at that hour, so I had to control my curiosity until a quarter to seven. Then I could bear it no longer, and went to the dining room, where I received a warm welcome from Moortje (the cat)."

The Diary Of A Young Girl by Anne Frank is the 7th book that I have read for the Back To History Challenge. Again, this is a book that I would have sworn I read in school, but it must have just been pieces and parts because I know now that I have never read the full book before.

Anne's diary opens on June 14, 1942, just two days after her 13th birthday. She recieved a blank diary as one gift for this momentus birthday as well as a fun birthday party with her friends. Anne and her Jewish family live in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam during WWII and within just a few short weeks of her first diary entry find themselves in hiding with a second family, and a middle-aged dentist that joins them shortly. Anne is in many ways a typical teenager, hating her mother, jealous of her sister, with very scathing remarks about the others around her. At anytime it would be hard to live in such close proximity to 7 other people. In war time it would be almost unbearable ~ not being able to go out of doors, not having enough to eat, outgrowing your clothes and having no private space of your own, amongst many other complaints. The residents of the Secret Annexe had to spend much of their days making absolutely no sound so as to not get caught. What a hard life. Anne's wisdom and belief that all would turn out good in the end are amazing under such circumstances. Don't get me wrong, she most certainly fussed and fumed about all sorts of issues in her diary, but she was also a very remarkable writer for her age. I think anyone who reads Anne's diary eye's will be opened to the horrors that so many people faced during those horrible years. This is a book each and every one of us should read, so that we never ever forget.
Thank you, Anne...