Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Holiday Reading and Viewing

For once I watched a movie I'd not seen before!! Alert the media!! Of course it helped (a whole lot in fact) that BOTH Helen Mirren AND Christopher Plummer were in it AND that it was historical AND that it was about Tolstoy! The Last Station, details the final year in the great writers life. His difficult marriage, his fawning admirers--some of whom see him as almost another God, and most of all his wife Sohphia. Marriages, throughout history, are often incomprehensible to those around them. Tolstoy and Sophia are seemingly at odds about everything. Yet in the most memorable scene of all we find out that they do still love each other. A sweet yet highly strung film.

Although I have about 1/2 hour left to finish tonight, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, wildly fullfilled my longing for a good Cranford-like wallow thru the past! The production is lush and the boy playing little Arthur is too adorable for words! Anyone who enjoys the Brontes or
Jane Austen will want to watch this lovely production!

No three-day weekend would be complete for me without a stack of interesting books. This weekend was no exception:

Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure. Truman, the last man to be President without a college degree, still managed to make the most difficult decision in human history--whether or not to use the atomic bomb. He was also the last President to leave office with no pension. An unsuccessful businessman, Truman had been in local politics for much of his life, therefore, having almost no "personal capital" to bankroll his post-White House life. He and wife Bess went home to Independence, Missouri to what had been her mother's house. They made due with his pension of just over $100 a month from his service in World War I. He was not even given a raise in his pension to reflect nearly 8 years service as Commander in Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces! Ever-honest Harry refused to profit off the presidency for fear of cheapening or degrading the office. However, he DID accept a great deal on a brand new Chrysler New Yorker and in this great car he and Bess set off to drive to a convention--the last time an ex-President would be able to travel in such a style. The Truman's headed east at the Bess-mandated top speed of 55 mph. They had about 50-50 luck in avoiding the public's attention--especially after Harry was stopped for going too slowly on the highway! A nice little memoir of a nice, old-fashioned road trip.

The Yokota Officers Club, reeks of the stale air of the often suffocating life on a military base.
Bernie (Bernadette) is the daughter of an Air Force officer, reduced to "ground pounding" and "desk jockeying" near the end of the Vietnam War at a base in Japan. Bernie, leaving the free-thinking, free-breathing life she'd begun at the University of New Mexico, struggles with the turn for the worse her family has taken in her absence. Rescued from emotional death on the base by winning a dance contest and traveling with a 3rd-rate comedian, she tells the family's story in alternating present and past tense with emotion that wrings the reader out. Sibling rivalry, a family mystery, the ups and downs of marriage and the fears unique to military families all add to the tension of the story.

Mistress of Nothing tells the story of a wealthy Englishwoman and her Ladies' Maid who leave the lady's comfortable life in 19th Century England for a new life in the hot, dry climate of Egypt to help the Lady breathe through her TB. The culture clashes and acclimatization process make for an interesting story. While the reader on this audio book could be better, the story shines thru. Sort of an "Upstairs, Downstairs" on the road, the interaction of mistress and servant, English with Egyptian, rich and poor make for a lot good contrast. I have not yet finished this, but know that I will--I want to hear what becomes of them all!

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