Karen Resta asked this question a few days ago on Facebook, which reminded me that I did a blog a while back on the books that had been ‘gifted’ to me over the years by departing expats, and my intention to write about some of them.
So thanks to Karen, and here is what I’m currently reading (this is beginning to feel as if I’m back in highschool doing a book report 😦 :
For fun, two books – one finished and one in the process:
Herman Wouk, War and Remembrance. I have seen the video of his first book in this series, Winds of War, and have enjoyed reading the sequel. Both are historical novels. Wouk served in World War II in the Pacific, and his historical reconstructions are very well done and presented.
Events of the war are linked with life events of an ‘average’ military family who are caught in the years of unrest; the father is senior officer in the navy, one son is a pilot and the second son is in submarines. The daughter is a bit at loose ends from her parents’ points of view. What happens to them, their wives / boyfriends, and the wife of ‘Pug’, the father, are woven into the events of WWII.
This was an enjoyable read. It is a story told from the points of view of all family members, as well as from the perspective of the war itself. My major difficulty was with Wouk’s increasing preoccupation with the Jewish question, which he addressed through the Jewish woman who married one of his sons and who – together with her uncle – suffered terribly from Germany’s approach to Jews. Wouk clearly had this ‘axe to grind’, above all other subplots in the story.
I understand that when both of these books were written, several decades ago, there were still high levels of denial regarding the atrocities of WWII – and the need to present the facts to the general public in a way that is accessible. This Wouk does very well. At the same time, it causes the story to be somewhat lopsided; in that some of the other subplots of the novel suffer from less detailed plot development.
Tom Clancy, Executive Orders, is a book I’m now reading. It, too, is a complex story of a group of characters caught up in events much larger than themselves – in this case, the destruction of the President, and most elected officials who are in the Capitol, following the deliberate destruction of the building and all within it, by a plane. The book is published in 1996.
It is all very much a post-Cold War, ‘Us vs. Them’ and rather shallow plot: Islamists and their colleagues vs. the West. I am finding it a bit tedious to read – there is a great deal of reification and simplification – and it is replete with phrases such as the following that perhaps are guaranteed to warm to cockles of Red-Blooded hearts:
“I can retire whenever I want and get a good job. I figure I’m ahead of the game whatever happens. But America’s been pretty good to me, and I owe something back. Whit I owe, sir, is to tell the truth and do my best and screw the consequences.”
For me, Wouk’s is the better book – better researched, better plotted, and just better written. it is very long and you need a couple of weeks to get through it, unless you do nothing else.
Both of the books that I received are in their hard bound editions – weighing several kilos each and so difficult to hold up to read. They were purchased by a member of the U.S. Embassy staff here, and Embassy personnel have many kilos shipping allowance.
I might also add, that having just gone online and read a resume of Executive Orders, I now know what happens in the book and, quite frankly, am therefore disinclined to finish reading it. There’s not much I’ve learned from it – aside from the symptoms and horrible progression of Ebola – but for that I could read something far shorter. However, Wouk’s books I would certainly read again.