Thursday Book Feature: The Summer Before the War

The Summer Before the War

by Helen Simonson

Copyright 2016

In 1914, Beatrice, a spinster, arrives in an English country village to teach Latin at a grammar school. Although some citizens are skeptical about a female Latin teacher, she is able to make a few friends. Then World War I breaks out, and everyone, including Beatrice, is caught up in the effort to support the troops.

This book has several sub-plots that bring out the injustices of English society during that time. Soon after war breaks out, a group of refugees from Belgium arrives in the village. When one girl is found pregnant, the residents arrange to send her away. When Beatrice tries to help her, she is shunned. In the grammar school where she teaches, a gypsy boy who is bright with a serious interest in learning is not allowed to take a scholarship exam because of his family’s heritage. As a result of the war, lives and limbs are lost, and the book’s ending is happy and sad.

Despite the seriousness of the war and closed-mindedness of certain characters, parts of this book made me laugh. The sadness caused by loss of life as a result of the war moved me nearly to tears. The Summer Before the War made me thankful to be living in today’s world with modern medicine and more liberal views, even though some people still look down on minorities and those less fortunate than ourselves.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

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LIBRARY Days

Thanks to blogger Alice Massa for inspiring this. In her post, she shares fond memories of visiting a public library as a child. Reading it brought back reminiscences of my own.

In the fall of 1973 after we moved here to Sheridan, Wyoming, from Tucson, Arizona, my younger brother Andy took an interest in library science. He’d started kindergarten, and I was in the sixth grade. Since Mother had taken us to a public library in Tucson on a regular basis, it was only natural that we would continue to do this once we were settled here.

The Sheridan library was an old building with a children’s section in the basement. Once a week or so, we would descend a creaking stairway to a world of wonder. The aroma in the large room reminded me of the library at the school for the blind in Arizona, where I’d enjoyed browsing shelves of Braille books. I couldn’t do that here, but there were records and cassettes containing stories and sometimes just plain music. Mother encouraged me to check out such books as Understood Betsy and Ann of Green Gables, which she read to me. Eventually, a librarian came to our home once a week and brought books on records that were issued by a library in Utah that specialized in recorded books for those with visual and other impairments that made reading difficult or impossible.

The check-out process at the Sheridan library was what fascinated Andy. He watched, wide-eyed, as the librarian stamped each of our selections with that day’s date. One day after we got home, we discovered that Andy had walked away with the librarian’s stamp.

Nonchalant, Mother told Andy he could keep the stamp for now, but the next day after school, he would have to return it and apologize for taking it. The librarian must have had extra stamps on hand for when we showed up the next day, and Andy handed her the stamp and told her he was sorry for stealing it, she only smiled and said it wasn’t a problem. At Christmas that year, Santa Claus gave Andy his own stamp and ink pad. For the next few months, he enjoyed playing “library” until he took an interest in something else.

A couple of years ago, Andy, now living in Florida, sent me, for my birthday, a t-shirt emblazoned with library stampings. He’d forgotten about his petty theft until I brought it up after receiving the shirt. It was apparently a coincidence that he, knowing I appreciated books as a writer, thought I would like the shirt, and he was right.

Today, the Sheridan library is located in a modern building with books and other items for both children and adults on the ground floor and an art gallery and meeting rooms on the second floor. With an elevator, it’s no longer necessary to ascend or descend any stairs. Instead of a card catalog, there are computers, and records and cassettes have been replaced by CD’s and devices called playaways, which contain one recorded book each. However, I download books from other sources, so I only visit the library to attend monthly Range Writers meetings and other programs. As for Andy, with a P.H.D. in physics, a family, and a full-time teaching job at a private high school in Jupiter, I imagine he has little time to visit a library, but we can still remember.

What do you remember about visiting your public library as a child? What kinds of books did you like to check out? Did you ever bring food or drink into the library, as Alice and her cousin did?

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

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Music Monday: Siamese Cat Song

Even if it isn’t snowy and cold where you are, here’s a little something to warm your heart.

Sharon E. Cathcart

I’m in Southern California for meetings in my day job’s home office.  I had to fly in yesterday in order to be here in time for the start of one, so I hit Disneyland in the afternoon and early evening.

Unbeknownst to me, it was Dapper Day … and my phone battery was dead.  Therefore, I have no photos of the most clever costume:  two women dressed identically in tan skirts, white blouses, and grey cloaks with faux fur collars.  On their heads were little ivory-colored fascinators with brown plush ears, blue sequined eyes, and whiskers:  they were Si and Am.  In their honor, today’s song is Peggy Lee’s “Siamese Cat Song” from Lady and the Tramp.

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Saturday Song: I Like Beer by Tom T. Hall

This was popular in 1976 when I was in the eighth grade at Central Junior High, a public school here in Sheridan, Wyoming. One day during home economics class, a bunch of us girls started singing the chorus. Our teacher was a stern woman who eventually told my mother she couldn’t teach me with my visual disability. She merely rolled her eyes and said, “Grow up.” In case you’re wondering, I myself am more partial to Dr. Pepper than beer. Enjoy this live performance, and have a great Saturday.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

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Book Review: “The Road to Little Dribbling” by Bill Bryson

For today’s Thursday Book Feature, here’s a review by another blogger. This is the sequel to Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island, which I recently read and reviewed at https://abbiescorner.wordpress.com/2017/08/24/thursday-book-feature-notes-from-a-small-island/. I definitely plan to read it sometime. I’ll be back next week with a review of a charming book about life in the English countryside before World War I, so stay tuned.

Rachel Svendsen

All the preparations for Little Baby’s arrival have been putting me on edge, so I’m thankful for books that help me unwind and make me laugh.Bill Bryson’sThe Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American inBritainwas one of those books.

Bryson was born and raised in Iowa. He married an English woman, and has been living in England for years now, where they raised all their children. His love for England and understanding and appreciation of what it means to be an American, made this book all the more enjoyable for me, especially when he discussed differences in our cultures.

I didn’t know this was a sequel to his book,Notes from a Small Islanduntil I had already started reading. I kept going, figuring that, since it was a travel book, it wouldn’t make a difference. Now that I’m done, I wish I had stopped and…

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Giving Care with Love

This morning, I heard, on NPR, one of many reports about the sentencing hearing for the U.S. Army sergeant who went AWOL in the Middle East and was captured by the Taliban and held prisoner for five years before being released. During yesterday’s proceedings, Shannon, the wife of one of the soldiers injured while searching for the missing sergeant, said that her husband’s severe injuries impacted their interactions, and she felt more like a caregiver than a wife.

My heart goes out to Shannon and others in her situation. For six years, I cared for my late husband Bill, who suffered two strokes and became partially paralyzed. However, I showed him my love all the time, and he showed me his in return. After dressing him in the morning and transferring him to his wheelchair, I put my arms around his waist and held him for a moment, then kissed his cheek and positioned my cheek in front of his mouth so he could do the same, which he did. At mealtime after I put food in front of him or gave him his pills, I put my arm around his shoulder and kissed the top of his head. He often put his good arm around my waist, and we both held each other momentarily. Of course Shannon’s husband may not be able to return her affections, but he can surely feel hers, and at a time when he can do nothing else, it’s important for him to feel loved.

In My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, I explain other ways Bill and I showed love for each other during the years I cared for him at home. Through this book, I hope to reach out to Shannon and others who are caring for loved ones at home. If you’re in such a situation, you’re not alone. No doubt your community has a support group, and the Internet is full of blogs and other resources for caregivers. I hope Shannon and others can find a way to put love back in their relationships.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

Halloween Happy Dance: Thriller by Michael Jackson

I don’t think much of Michael Jackson now, but back in the 1980’s, when I was in college, this was one of my favorite songs, except on Halloween of course. Enjoy, and have a happy and safe one.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

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