Other Days in Greenwich, by Frederick A. Hubbard
Last month I wrote about the main book I use to research early Greenwich history: The History of the Town of Greenwich by Spencer Mead. There is another book that complements this one titled Other Days in Greenwich by Frederick A. Hubbard. It expands and overlaps Mead's book by providing lesser known information about the Town and prominent people. There is information on Town residents who served in the Civil War. Some industries are described. It devotes a lot of time on William "Boss" Tweed, who implemented some useful services in town. There are many interesting photos. This book will give you an idea about life in Greenwich during the 1800s.
Other Days in Greenwich, by Frederick A. Hubbard
The Signature of all Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert
After her previous, extremely successful autobiographical book Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert has changed genres and entered the world of fiction with her latest work, The Signature of All Things. Briefly, Gilbert's newest book is a sweeping, wonderfully written and absorbing tale set in the world of 19th century botany. It is so evident that Gilbert has done extensive research into the major developments made in the history of discovering and describing plants from all over the world during that time. Readers first meet Henry Whittaker in his Dickens-like life working on an English estate managing its vast gardens. After a series of calamities, he embarks on multi-year travels around the world studying plant life in various locales. Eventually, he settles in Philadelphia after establishing a successful business empire based on using plants for medicinal purposes. Henry's story studying plants around the world is quite interesting. His daughter Alma then becomes the main character and is a wonderfully complex and fascinating woman. In her younger years, she becomes the successor to her father as she runs his business. Her life eventually changes as she experiences a heart-breaking love affair and ends up, like her father, wandering the world studying plants. While writing a book set in the complex world of 19th century botany may strike some readers as an odd choice for fiction, Gilbert has made The Signature of all Things is a hugely enjoyable reading experience.
Several weeks ago, Librarian Wayne Campbell showed the movie Nebraska as part of the Friday Night Films program. I was unable to attend, but was able to get the DVD from our Music and Art department. So I took it home and viewed it on my Dell computer.
Bruce Dern, one of my favorite actors, plays an elderly Korean War veteran, who believes he has won 1-million dollars. (He got one of those letters that reads "You've won a million dollars...."). He decides to go to Lincoln, Nebraska, to pick up his winnings. His family thinks he is just an old drunk who is losing his mind. The eldest son finally agrees to take him to Nebraska after the elderly man takes off several times on his own. On their journey, they encounter old friends and relatives, who are greedy and plot to steal his money or ask for handouts. One old "friend" embarrasses him in front of his peers, and he is devastated. But old man gets the last laugh.
The movie is very touching. It portrays the culture of Midwest-America in a way I'd never considered before. The people use simple logic in complex situations. It addresses the generation gap, as well as unemployment in the farm belt. It's also a sad commentary on the decline of American farming. After I viewed the movie, I pondered the context on many levels.
Ye Historie Of Ye Town Of Greenwich, County Of Fairfield And State Of Connecticut, by Spencer Mead
People interested in early Greenwich history should take a look at Ye Historie Of Ye Town Of Greenwich, County Of Fairfield And State Of Connecticut (1913) by Spencer Mead. This book covers the founding of the Town of Greenwich, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and Reconstruction period. It provides valuable information on the many industries, companies and churches that sprung up in town. There are also several family trees of prominent families in Greenwich. I consider this book to be my "Bible" of local history. It contains a lot of useful information for local history and genealogical research.
The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd
Sue Monk Kidd has become an extremely popular writer, especially when her novel The Secret Life of Bees enjoyed a huge success in the past. Her latest book, The Invention of Wings, is a wonderfully moving, interesting and powerful historical novel centered around a slave-holding family, the Grimkes, in Charleston, South Carolina during the first decades of the 1800's. It is indeed routed in historical fact. Sarah and Angelina Grimke, each young girls as the story begins, led very unique lives as the Grimke family was a staunch defender of the rights of white Southerners to own slaves and benefit from the slave labor system. Sarah, with Angelina's support, eventually became one of the first female abolitionists in the United States after the two sisters fled Charleston and resettled in the North.
With Kidd's writing, both Sarah and Angelina come vividly alive as they develop into two women who grew to abhor slavery. The slaves held by the Grimkes are strikingly created, with Handful, a slave given to Sarah on her 11th birthday, becoming a key character. The horrors of slavery are essential to the story and the reader gets an insightful look at the evils of this southern labor system. After Sarah and Angelina flee to the North, they strive to promote the abolitionist cause. As Kidd details, this was not an easy task at times. Kidd continues her story of Handful and the other slaves owned by Grimke family who were trapped in their lives of bondage after the sisters moved north.
When Sue Monk Kidd was featured in the Library's Author Live Series, she spoke about her endless hours of research into the Grimke sisters lives and the historical detail she uncovered for her book. The Invention of Wings is a very moving story, based on historical fact, about the horrors of slavery and the bravery of two women who were determined to speak out the need to abolish the slavery system. This book would be a great choice for a book club.
The Paris Architect, by Charles Belfoure
The years the Nazis occupied Paris during World War II can be a great setting for historical fiction and Charles Belfoure has added an interesting book, The Paris Architect, to the genre. His main character, Lucien Bernard, is an architect who is approached by a fellow Frenchman to build a hiding place so a French Jew can hopefully live through the Nazi rule in Paris. Bernard is thrown into a moral crisis and he does come to a resolution of how he will handle the situation. Belfoure's writing of occupied Paris is often gripping with the evils of the Nazi rule evident in so many facets of Parisian life. The characters the authors has created are well drawn, especially the Coco Chanel-type fashion designer who collaborates with the Nazis. The Paris Architect might make good reading for book groups as it can raise good discussion points as Bernard tries to deal with the issues that arise in times of war.
The Cuckoo's Calling, by Robert Galbraith
Lovers of mystery writing, especially of authors who set their stories in Britain, can take note of a new (by name at least) author, Robert Galbraith, who is beginning a series of stories that will feature a memorable private detective. The Cuckoo's Calling introduces Cormoran Strike, a disabled veteran of fighting in the Middle East for Britain, who is struggling to organize a detective agency. The family of a super model engages him to determine if she did indeed commit suicide or was murdered. While the story might ramble at times, this is basically a fun read. Galbraith (a pen name, as has been widely discussed, for J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame) sets his story within the celebrity world of London models, actors and movie executives and the reader gets a good trip with those assorted characters as Strike solves the mystery. A humorous subplot is Strike's fumbling attempt to add a secretary/office assistant to his detective agency. Galbraith has published a second mystery featuring Strike and The Cuckoo's Calling is a good way to start this series.
I recently viewed the PBS American Experience DVD War Letters. It's a very touching, and sad, documentary. What struck me most was the common thread of bravery, fear and loneliness that every soldier faces when fighting in a war - from the Revolutionary War to more recent conflicts like the war in Iraq. It's also a testament to those willing to answer the call of their country. Young people have always risked their lives to protect the United States - regardless of their politics. I would like to think that someday there will be no war; but until then, I'm afraid young men will continue to exhibit the qualities that make the average person do heroic things.
Shack Out on 101
I recently viewed the DVD remake of the Shack Out on 101, and was pleasantly surprised! The cast includes such famous actors as Frank Lovejoy, Lee Marvin and Keenan Wynne. It's a suspense thriller about spies trying to steal secrets from the Los Alamos atomic testing grounds. All the action takes place at a "greasy spoon" restaurant, owned by a man named George. A mysterious man named Professor Sam is dating the only female waitress, Dotty. George tries to protect her from the lecherous cook "Slob", who is making unwanted advances. Dotty is horrified to find out that her boyfriend may be working with "Slob" to steal government secrets and may be a traitor. There is an interesting twist at the end. If it wasn't for the superb acting, the storyline would be a little "shaky"; but the acting makes this a movie you would enjoy seeing. It's a great tribute to the action films of the forties and fifties.
The Wrong Enemy, by Carlotta Gall
Suffice it to say, the United States is once again stuck in a quagmire that is the War on Terrorism. Author and New York Times reporter Carlotta Gall lays out the proof that we have been fighting The Wrong Enemy in attacking Afghanistan and Iraq. As evidenced by the location of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan just down the street from the Iraqi military academy, Pakistan has provided aid and comfort to the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Unlike other wars, there is no clear cut enemy. The coalition we are fighting is engaged in a "Jihad" of Islam, which embraces extreme religious zealots from many countries (Syria, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan). Gall has information about Pakistani ISI (intelligence operatives) attending high level briefings of Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders. Unfortunately, the collateral death of innocent civilians has turned some into mortal enemies. Furthermore, some have joined the Taliban for money to support families as their economies have been destroyed by war. This is indeed a story of shifting alliances. And she states we missed a golden opportunity to end the war when the Taliban was weakened by unrelenting American bombing. This book, which is available in print and electronically, will give the reader a new perspective on war in the Middle East.
Floors, by Patrick Carman
The Whippet Hotel is a strange place full of strange and mysterious people. Each floor has its own quirks and secrets. Leo should know most of them - he is the maintenance man's son, after all. But a whole lot more mystery gets thrown his way when a series of cryptic boxes are left for him . . . boxes that lead him to hidden floors, strange puzzles, and unexpected alliances. Leo had better be quick on his feet, because the fate of the building he loves is at stake . . . and so is Leo's own future!
The Show Must Go On, by Kate Klise
When Sir Sidney, a kindly old circus owner, becomes too tired to travel with his show, he places a Help Wanted ad in the newspaper. Enter Barnabas Brambles: "I have a degree in lion taming from the University of Piccadilly Circus." But does Leo the lion need taming? Will Elsa the elephant still get her gourmet peanuts? And what will Brambles say when he discovers Bert and Gert--two mice who travel with the circus on popcorn cleanup patrol? Brambles has big plans: More cities! More shows! No more free popcorn. Soon he's made a big mess of Sir Sidney's Circus, but Leo, Elsa, Bert, Gert, and the rest of the performers agree: The Show Must Go On! -