Winners and Losers

Quigley, Martin. Winners and Losers. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1961.

Winners and Losers is such a stoic story! In Part I: Soldier, we first follow the life of Damon Mitchell as a staff Sergeant and patrol leader in World War II. It is while he is behind enemy lines in Germany that he learns of his younger brother Johnny’s death. In Part II: Boy, we jump backward in time to Mitchell’s teenage years to when his father loses his job in the Great Depression and family dynamics start to change. Damon must go out and get a job to help support the family. It’s at this point in the story we learn how close Johnny and Damon are as brothers and how removed Damon is from friendships and other meaningful relationships. In Part III: Man, Damon is becoming more and more successful. As he moves up the corporate ladder he becomes lonelier and lonelier. He is winning and losing at the same time.

Lines to like, “Long ago Damon had learned that asking questions just got you information” (p 37). Later in the story, if you are paying attention, you will notice just when Damon learns that lesson. One more, “They were precariously alone in the room” (p 217).

Reason read: April is National Sibling Month and Winners and Losers has two brothers. The story isn’t about them as brothers, though.

Author fact: This is really depressing but my copy of Winners and Losers didn’t come with any author information. So, I guess my author fact is that Martin Quigley isn’t plastered all over the internet.

Book trivia: My copy of Winners and Losers traveled from the Florida State library. Again, not a very popular author around here…

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “My Own Private Dui” (p 165). Pearl puts this in the category of “Books that are simply treasures and ought not go unread” (p 165). Also, from More Book Lust in two chapters, “Friend Makers” (p 95) and “Oh, Brother!” (p 180).

Thrush Green

Read, Miss. Thrush Green. Read by June Barrie. Hampton, NH: BBC Audiobooks America, 2005.

High blood pressure? Stressful job? Crazy life? If your answer is yes to any of these questions, read Thrush Green for a small respite from a hectic, busy, insane world. There is no overwhelming fast paced drama in Thrush Green. Other reviewers have called it “quaint” and “pleasant” and it is both of those things and more. I personally would call it sweet. Thrush Green is a countryside community in England looking forward to their traditional May Day celebrations, especially the annual fair. Every member has a reason for wanting to go to the fair.  Young lovers looking for a chance to court. Older generations insisting on tradition. Children having fun. Miss Read uses the fair to create a focal point around which her characters circulate.

Note for the audio: June Barrie does a wonderful job with all the different voices. She had me laughing at times when she was the voice of the small boy.

Reason read: Miss Read was born in April.

Author fact: Miss Read is a pen name. Her real name was Dora.

Book trivia: Thrush Green is the first book in a whole series about the country community. I’m only reading the one.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Barsetshire and Beyond” (p 16). There is another Miss Read book mentioned in the chapter but it does not belong to the Thrush Green series.

“Kubla Khan”

Coleridge, Samuel. “Kubla Khan.” The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Other Poems by Samuel T. Coleridge. The Peter Pauper Press, 1950.

I remember ripping this apart line by line in a high school English class and then again in a college poetry course. We studied this so much I developed a crush on young Coleridge’s face (but, not so much after he got a little jowly). Probably my favorite detail about Kubla Khan is that it was supposedly conceived after one of Coleridge’s drug induced dreams.
I don’t feel the need to get into the meaning behind the poem or to get didactic about the symbolism. Suffice it to say, Kubla Khan is the ruler of Xanadu and the land is described like a paradise of the imagination. Each element, the river, garden, ocean, forest, and cavern are symbols for man’s existence. Tyranny and war represent a reality in direct contrast to Xanadu. If you want anything more than that (about the maiden, etc), read the poem!

My favorite line, “And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething…” (p 54).

Reason read: April is National Poetry Month. But…I’m not sure I needed to read this (see twist below).

Author fact: Samuel Taylor Coleridge is thought to have been mentally ill with a drug problem.

Poetry fact: “Kubla Khan” is not as well known as “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Where in the World Do These Books Belong?” (p 259). Pearl mentions “Kubla Khan” when talking about Caroline Alexander’s book, The Way to Xanadu because it’s about the places that influenced Coleridge’s poem. Coleridge himself is not indexed in Book Lust To Go but “Kubla Khan” is. Here was my dilemma: I am not ready to read The Way to Xanadu so I’m not sure “Kubla Khan” is included…but since the poem is in the index of Book Lust To Go I have to read it. Does that make sense?

War Within and Without

Lindbergh, Anne Morrow. War Within and Without: Diaries and Letters of Anne Morrow Lindbergh 1939-1944. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980.

This is the last book in Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s series of diaries and letters. War Within and Without covers 1939 – 1944. In the beginning, the Lindberghs have just left France for America. The emphasis of War Within is World War II, of course, and the not so obvious private war the Lindberghs waged with public opinion concerning Charles’s views of Germany and the U.S involvement in the war. After spending nearly three years in Europe (England and France, mostly) the family returns to America where controversy over the political views of her husband continue to be criticized. All of this worries Anne very much as her husband is very vocal on these subjects. In view of the war, she has described this last book as coming full circle. World War I was raging when she was just seven years old. Underlying Anne’s very public life is the home life she struggled to keep private. Charles is “away” a great deal and Anne must entertain guests such as Antoine de Saint-Exupery on her own. She alludes to questioning what makes a good marriage. It leads one to believe there are hints of trouble with Charles. Anne does her best to convince the reader (herself, since it was her diary?) everything is fine. All the while she is crumbling under the pressure of being a good mother, writer, housekeeper, member of society, and of course, wife.

Telling quotes: “Both wars cracked open the worlds from which they erupted” (p xiii), “It is the striving after perfection that makes one an artist” (p 29), “Must get back to life after these days living in a world of the mind alone” (p 36), and “Then Monday he went off again and I have had a long week, tired from it, angry at myself, realizing I am doing too much and none of it well” (p 391).

Reason read: This is the last book I will read in honor of January being Journal Month. Finally!

Author fact: Lindbergh received six different honorary degrees from various institutions.

Book trivia: There is one grainy photo of Anne where credit is given to Charles. It makes me wonder who took the others. They seem “professional” compared to the intimacy of the one taken by Charles.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Journals and Letters: We Are All Voyeurs at Heart” (p 131).

Alice I Have Been

Benjamin, Melanie. Alice I Have Been. Read by Samantha Eggar. New York: Random House Audio, —-.

I fell in love with Alice I Have Been straight away. Alice Liddell is the famed little girl who took a tumble down the rabbit hole. Benjamin has taken her life story and presented it in a fictional yet spellbinding way. Starting with Alice as a precocious seven year old who befriends a subtly sinister gentleman by the name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. Everyone turns their heads to ignore the slightly inappropriate relationship Alice has with stuttering Mr. Dodgson. I found myself asking what was Benjamin’s motive for so much alluding to impropriety? There is a lot of trembling that goes on…It whispers of pedophilia and the strange this is, Alice, even at seven, is perceptive to know something is amiss. However by age ten, almost eleven she is the instigator, asking Mr. Dodgson to “wait” for her, a statement that is accompanied by the proverbial wink and nod. Years later, Alice is rumored to be involved with Prince Leopold and her childhood relationship with Mr. Dodgson is all but a faded memory…until the Prince needs to ask his mum for her approval to marry Alice. It is then all of the allusions to impropriety make sense. Everything begins to make sense.
I have only one complaint and it’s an odd one. I didn’t like Alice as child or an adult. I found her to be rude, snobbish and spoiled throughout her entire life. But. But! But, I loved Benjamin’s writing. Know how I can tell? I borrowed the audio AND print versions of the book because listening to and from work just wasn’t enough.

I don’t know what it is with audio books but lately every one that I listen to has been read by someone with an accent…usually British.

Author fact: Melanie used a pseudonym to write Alice I Have Been. She recently published a book about Anne Morrow Lindbergh. What a coincidence since I have been reading Lindbergh’s books since January.

Book trivia:Alice I Have Been is Benjamin’s first historical fiction.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called simply “Oxford: literary fiction” (p 171).

Leopard Hunts in Darkness

Smith, Wilbur. The Leopard Hunts in Darkness. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1984.

This is the penultimate book in the Ballantyne series. The book opens, as all the others do, with a snapshot of the landscape. This time we follow a bull elephant and his desperate escape from hunters. It’s a savage start to Leopard, but very typical of Smith and very telling of the rest of the story, for it’s all about poachers. The story then follows Craig Mellow out of Africa and into the urban jungle of New York City. At the end of Angels Weep Mellow has just found out his book, Flight of the Falcon has been accepted for publication. Unlike other Ballantyne books in the series, Leopard does not start with a date. The reader is not grounded in the era until later. Of course, in order to make the story go back to Africa, Mellow returns to his homeland to revitalize his country and start a nature preserve with photographer, Sally-Anne. Typical of all Smith/Ballantyne books there is savage violence, passionate love scenes and gorgeous landscapes to draw every kind of reader in.

Just a funny side note: the cover of The Leopard Hunts in Darkness depicts a man holding out a gun at arm’s length, a woman holding a Nikon up to her eye, and a man who looks suspiciously like Elvis reflected in the lens of the camera. The gun-toting gentleman looks a little like Treat Williams!

Reason read: This finishes the series I started in January in honor of Rhodesia’s Shangani Day. In a way I am a little disappointed to be leaving Wilbur Smith’s world.

Author fact: Smith looks a little like the guy on the cover of The Leopard Hunts in Darkness which is to say Wilbur Smith looks a little like Treat Williams!

Book trivia: The Leopard Hunts in Darkness is Smith’s 17th book. Interesting to note, this isn’t the last book in the series. It ends with The Triumph of the Sun, which I am not reading.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Zipping Through Zimbabwe/Roaming Rhodesia” (p 268).

House of Morgan

Chernow, Ron. The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1990.

You can tell straight away that Chernow is going to tell you a great story, especially when he uses words like “brouhaha” to describe an economic catastrophe. There is a sly humor about his writing. How can you not smirk just a little when he writes, “Gooch was being groomed for a career of permanent subordination and forelock tugging” (p 8)? Or says things like “incorrigible Wall Street rascals” (p30)? Yet, his story is vastly inclusive and extremely informative. He takes you back before a time when each state has its own banking system and debts could be settled any which way. We watch the growth of international finance and step into a “wealth” of biographical portraits, if you excuse the pun (since we are talking about banking). I loved the little details; for example, the Morgans were the first private residential household to have electrical lighting in New York and a woman named Belle Greene was Pierpont’s “saucy librarian.” My one complaint – the book is massive. That’s because the tale is massive. Chernow needs every page to tell the story.

As an aside: I love it when my reading converges. In House of Morgan Chernow mentions Dwight Morrow’s daughter, Elizabeth; how she couldn’t resist a comment about Pierpont Morgan’s legendary nose. Because I have been reading Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s diaries I know that Dwight is her brother and he named his daughter after a sister who passed away after a bout with pneumonia. If I hadn’t been reading Lindbergh the names Dwight and Elizabeth Morrow would have meant nothing to me.

Reason read: April is National Banking Month. And speaking of money, it’s also tax month…

Author fact: Chernow holds degrees from Yale and Cambridge.

Book trivia: Chernow won the National Book Award in 1990 for House of Morgan, his first book!

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Founding Fathers” (p 92). Yeah, yeah. I know. House of Morgan is not about a founding father, per se. Pearl mentions House of Morgan as a suggestion if you liked Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton.


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