Well, I had an unplanned sabbatical from writing starting in August 2020. I certainly didn’t plan on not writing because I was reading some great books. I think it was just “pandemic brain.” I had started teaching virtually, and the writing just ended. My friend Mary recently encouraged me to get back to it. And she’s right, it’s time. I’m exhausted from playing Martha Stewart inside my house and P. Allen Smith in my yard. I’ve spent this past year working through my to-do list- I’ve painted bedrooms and my dining room. You either love to paint or hate it. There’s a zen-like quality to it for me, the rhythmic motion of the paint brush. I worked out in my yard which still needs a lot of work after two hurricanes made such a mess last fall. I love to celebrate the soul-satisfying rebirth of spring with dirty hands and a sore back.
So as I mentioned I read a lot over these “safer at home” months and watched a lot of great shows on Netflix and Prime. So these next few blogs I plan on mentioning some of the books I really liked. It’s a wide variety but it seems like a good bit of historical fiction about the early to mid part of the 20th century. There is a lot of World War 2 stories out there. Being a former history teacher, I’m always drawn to historical fiction above other genres.
In fact, I’ll just start with a story by Alan Furst about the beginning of the French Resistance during World War 2. It’s called A HERO IN FRANCE. The hero is code-named Matthieu, but so many of the other characters are heroes as well. Furst fleshes out his characters in such a way, you know them, respect them, care about them- whether they are on the good side or not. Speaking of the good side- we are introduced to regular Parisians who, in spite of terrible fear of the Nazis become involved with the Resistance. Wonderful people who are fully aware of the consequences of being caught by the Nazis. Your heart pounds along with their’s!
Alan Furst writes incredible historical fiction spy novels. Last night I watched a 4 episode Netflix series called SPIES IN WARSAW based on one of Furst’s novels by the same name. Such a great story!
A book I recently finished is entitled NICK by Michael Farris Smith. Nick, the main character is Nick Carraway, the narrator of THE GREAT GATSBY. Think of it as a prequel, but it is also a good stand alone story. It is about Nick’s life before he arrives in West Egg to reconnect with cousin Daisy and before he falls under Gatsby’s spell. I always wondered why Nick puts up with the terrible shenanigans of Daisy and her social circle. Well, Nick suffers from PTSD from fighting in World War 1. He fought in the trenches and built the Allied battlefield tunnels. He refuses to return to the Midwest following the war and lands in New Orleans. He begins a life of heavy alcohol use and debauchery while running around with some bad/not so bad folks. So in a sense, West Egg is just the same old, same old but in a higher class neighborhood. That’s all I’m going to tell you.
If you want to read it as a stand-alone story, then jump right in. If you want to read it as a prequel to THE GREAT GATSBY, then it wouldn’t hurt to google some CliffNotes on Nick Carraway. A little refresher will help you really appreciate Smith’s story.