Sunday Salon: War and -- More War

The Sunday

This week as I mourned the beginning of the sixth year in the debacle known as the Iraq invasion/occupation and the 4,000th US soldier killed there, I found myself in the middle of two other wars - in Belgium patching up casualties from WWI in Life Class (Pat Barker) and in the midst of Napoleon's invasion of Russia in Tolstoy's War and Peace (I am past the halfway mark!).

I rarely read war stories, so it was a bit unsettling to find myself so occupied in the ugliness of battles and the aftermath of them. Barker’s novel of historical fiction snuck up on me; I started it several times and abandoned it for one reason or another, but this time I stuck with it, as she comes so highly recommended by several people. I did like the book quite a lot; it was an interesting comparison of one person who’s mired in the war while another is at home enjoying a social life and trying to ignore the war. And how utterly war changes one’s perspective and life and the effects it can have on art and relationships.

The book starts out quietly, at the Slade, an art college in London. There are hints of a pending war, but Paul, the protagonist, is mostly concerned about the direction his art is taking and wondering if he should stick with it. His art lacks passion. He will remedy that after working for the Red Cross patching up wounded soldiers at the front in Belgium.

There were some unresolved pieces in this novel and I think it could have gone a bit deeper. Barker’s writing is engaging and, when I feel ready to read more stories of war, I will give her Regeneration Trilogy a try. It’ll be awhile, though. (3.5/5) (Advanced Reader's Copy)

Reading War and Peace is sort of like life – when I get to the hard icky parts (the war) I want to put it down and avoid it. I haven’t picked it up for a couple of days now – just need to take a breather, so I’m reading another Elizabeth Taylor book, At Mrs. Lippencote’s.

Ex Libris' post, Short Story Sunday, gave me an idea. I plan to start doing a different genre each Sunday -- next Sunday, short stories; the following one, essays, then poetry, and drama (possibly a Shakespeare Sunday). I'll rotate each month, so on the last Sunday of each month I'll be reading short stories, etc.

Laura posted her top five books for the quarter and wondered if others have picked their favorites. I’ve read 24 books so far; I've read so much good fiction since the turn of the year, it's really hard to pick, but here goes, in no particular order:


The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
Chocolat by Joanne Harris
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Of course, if I finish War and Peace by the 31st, I'll have to amend this. That’s not looking very promising though, even though I have several reading days this next week.

Nonfiction - I didn't read a lot of it this quarter, but I did love:

The Translator: a tribesman's memoir of Darfur by Daoud Hari
In Defense of Food : an eater's manifesto by Michael Pollan
The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell

Happy Spring to everyone!

It's not too late to impeach Bush and Cheney.


Anonymous said...

Do read Barker's 'Regeneration Trilogy'. It is far better than 'Life Class', especially the first book in the series. I have 'Year of Wonder' very near the top of my TBR pile as I loved both 'March' and 'People of the Book'. I seriously need either 30 hour days or 10 day weeks!

Jill said...

I saw your anti-Bush comments and thought you might like this Web site, especially the countdown to when Bush leaves office that you can put on your blog:

Have a great day!

Andi said...

Great list of quarterly favorites! I LOVED Hugo Cabret, Year of Wonders, and The Road. The others are on my stacks to be read. :)

Love your blog! I'll be back.

Wendy said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Terri - I agree, this whole Iraq thing depresses me...November can't come soon enough! I haven't read anything by Barker've made me want to :) I still haven't started War and Peace...but I *will* read it in 2008 (I promise!)

Irish said...

Life Class sounds like an interesting book. I may have to add it to my wishlist.

Not sure what my top 5 of the quarter would be but I do have my top 3. Cursor's Fury by Jim Butcher (jan), The Translator (feb) and Kira, Kira by Cynthia Kadohata (mar)

Anonymous said...

Did you have any trouble getting into Life Class? I read the first 15 pages or so through an online book club, and I was really not impressed, although I've since heard good things about it on LibraryThing...

Terri said...

I did have a bit of trouble getting into it yes, I started it 3 or 4 times and kept getting drawn away by other things more interesting. It wasn't a compelling beginning to me.

Pour of Tor said...

I haven't read "Life Class," but I can't recommend the "Regeneration" Trilogy highly enough. I just taught the first in the trilogy to my students at the end of a semester of Homer, Virgil, Dante, Cervantes, and Joyce and the discussion it produced was just as rich and admiring as any of those other "greats".