Sunday, June 14, 2009

Gifts of War and you too Flower

Hello Flower!

First off I think that you and MB are tremendously brave for heading off to stay (not just visit, but s-t-a-y) with people you haven't seen in a couple decades. I know other, very dear Friends would be there too, but still... You're there and you're stuck. That's brave.

Now, do Roy and Laura have any plans to adopt an already potty trained, non-moody, all their vegetable eating 4th child because I am available.

Wow. Not to take away from the hard work that brought them their financial success, but I hope they know how lucky they are to be above money worries.

I have often wondered about the work that has to go into a lifestyle like what you've described of Roy and Laura's. True they aren't the ones mowing the grass or raising their kids (?) but making sure all that is done is work. Do you need to have all that to deal with? Obviously not so what makes you choose it?

Sure if I had a mountain of moola I'd have a beautiful home, someone to help keep it clean, a new car, lots of vacations and 100's more books and yarn, but I wouldn't have a house big enough for 2 families to live in and need a permanent staff to maintain it. That would only make my siblings visit more frequently. ~~shudder~~ I wouldn't want the effort of it or the people it requires. I don't want to be responsible for the livelihood of others unless there's a chance of taking the whole thing public at some point.

Seriously. I'd want that money to help my family and the charities I believe in.

Flower, I have been fortunate enough lately to read a bunch of books that I have liked very, very much. I think that you'll like "Gifts of War" as well. I'll hold onto it for you.

Gifts of War by Mackenzie Ford
I thought "Gifts of War" was a terrific read. It's a meditation on ethics cleverly disguised as a well written historical page turner! It's like the author figured out a way to hide the vegetables inside the cheesecake.

The opening section of "Gifts" is a powerful description of the supremely ghastly and the miraculous Christmas of 1914 at the front. Here we are introduced to British infantryman Hal Montgomery. Hal has the old school background and is the kind of traditional hero we can respect. So it comes a bit of a shock then that he is also a man who will justify commandeering someone elses attempt at a happy ending. When your future might only be the next 10 minutes do you have the right to beg, borrow or steal what happiness comes your way? Or should doing the right thing even though it has seemingly no chance to succeed be the rule of the day?

Once Hal decides to break his promise to a fellow soldier his life becomes the happiest it's ever been, but at what cost? Now despite his very real joy and the joy he is able to bring others Hal must guard every step to try and maintain his lie. As his life becomes more complicated and more populated his secret begins to rule his life more and more. When grief leads Hal to one careless moment his carefully incubated happiness is put in peril.

One of the best things about this novel is the sense of discovery that pervades it. Ford (the nom de plume of a well known British historian and first time novelist) is able to make all that is already know about life from 1914 to 1919 fresh and to bring that same freshness to his many characters. The twists and turns of their lives never feel contrived or soap opera-y. Their lives seem to naturally unfold from that one decision of Hal's.

While I was enjoying this novel I was struck by what an excellent reading group choice it will make. I can easily imagine both men and woman finding a lot to discuss here. The turbulent atmosphere, the lethal good intentions and a wealth of "what if" questions will make for great discussions.

"Gifts of War" goes on sale 7/7/09 at fabulous independent bookstores all across the universe and some other places as well.


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