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Frequent Contributor
Sheltiemama
Posts: 107
Registered: ‎06-01-2009
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Re: War, Up Close and Far off

I'm not furious at the Americans with Frankie. They were trying to convince themselves that they wouldn't have to fight in this war. With the memory of WWI still so fresh at that time, who could blame them?

 

The deaths in the bombing and Maggie's death in childbirth both were random. Will had failed to see the warning signs of the strange odor and the fever in Maggie, and Americans failed to see the warning signs until it was too late, too.

 

I think Harriet is the only one with a clear sense of what's happening simply because she's in Europe and her job is to report on the war, but she's trying to make Americans understand.

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KCSullivan
Posts: 10
Registered: ‎09-02-2009
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Re: War, Up Close and Far off

 

The book's epigraph states that "War happens to people one by one." When does the impact of the war begin to feel real to us as readers? Are we listening to Frankie's broadcasts along with Emma and Will? Did one war story from these early chapters move you more than the others?

Well clearly the war has the greatest impact on Frankie. She is the thick of it when she tackles her first assignment to cover the Antiaircraft Gunnery placement. The description of the noise, fear and futility are riveting. As is Frankie’s commentary “…it’s all up to God and some men. Over here, you close your eyes, do your job, and fling yourself towards it – whatever it may be.” That evening culminates in the death of her friend and colleague, Harriet Mendelsohn and the mother of Billy, her young neighbor. The moving and poignant description of Billy’s realization of his loss is  “And then the boy crumpled in the doorway where he stood, the familiar voice cutting the string that had held him upright.” I was as riveted by this account as Emma in her kitchen in Franklin where “In the quiet after the voice stopped, Emma found herself stuck at the sink with a cigarette halfway to her lips…” For me the most moving description of the Blitz, by far, was in Sarah Blake’s inclusion of words attributed to an Ernie Pyle broadcast that vividly captures the desperation and fear that Londoners faced daily. “ – lying there far underground like rabbits, not fighting, not even mad, just helpless, scourged, weakly waiting –“

So far this book provides all of the elements that comprise my fascination with the Second World War. The breath and scope of the events. The clear choice of good vs evil. The sense that time was standing still and the moment needed to be preserved.

- Kathlene

 

Inspired Contributor
Choisya
Posts: 10,782
Registered: ‎10-26-2006

Re: War, Up Close and Far off

[ Edited ]

 

So far this book provides all of the elements that comprise my fascination with the Second World War. The breath and scope of the events. The clear choice of good vs evil. The sense that time was standing still and the moment needed to be preserved.

 

It is perhaps important to remember that at this time we were not fighting because of the evils of the Holocaust or other atrocities, as the work Harriet was engaged in shows.  At that time relatively few people knew (or cared:smileysad:) about the terrible problems the Jews of Europe were facing although the Press on both sides of the Atlantic had been trrying to bring the 'evil' to the attention of their governments since 1933.  We were fighting because Germany had invaded Poland, with whom Britain had a Treaty and Germany was therefore in breach of international law. They had already occupied Czechoslovakia and on 22 June 1940 the Germans invaded France and the French government surrendered which meant that German troops were only 22 miles away across the English Channel. On 30 June they occupied the Channel Island of Guernsey, which was British territory and even nearer to our shores. (Someone here has connections with Guernsey and may like to look at this website about the occupation.)

 

I have related elsewhere that when Neville's Chamberlain gave his speech to the nation, declaring war on 3rd September 1939,I was queueing, aged 6, with my cat for a halfpenny ice-cream when a lady shouted out from her window 'War is declared War is declared' and people ran home, leaving me, happy, at the front of the queue!



KCSullivan wrote:

 

The book's epigraph states that "War happens to people one by one." When does the impact of the war begin to feel real to us as readers? Are we listening to Frankie's broadcasts along with Emma and Will? Did one war story from these early chapters move you more than the others?

Well clearly the war has the greatest impact on Frankie. She is the thick of it when she tackles her first assignment to cover the Antiaircraft Gunnery placement. The description of the noise, fear and futility are riveting. As is Frankie’s commentary “…it’s all up to God and some men. Over here, you close your eyes, do your job, and fling yourself towards it – whatever it may be.” That evening culminates in the death of her friend and colleague, Harriet Mendelsohn and the mother of Billy, her young neighbor. The moving and poignant description of Billy’s realization of his loss is  “And then the boy crumpled in the doorway where he stood, the familiar voice cutting the string that had held him upright.” I was as riveted by this account as Emma in her kitchen in Franklin where “In the quiet after the voice stopped, Emma found herself stuck at the sink with a cigarette halfway to her lips…” For me the most moving description of the Blitz, by far, was in Sarah Blake’s inclusion of words attributed to an Ernie Pyle broadcast that vividly captures the desperation and fear that Londoners faced daily. “ – lying there far underground like rabbits, not fighting, not even mad, just helpless, scourged, weakly waiting –“

So far this book provides all of the elements that comprise my fascination with the Second World War. The breath and scope of the events. The clear choice of good vs evil. The sense that time was standing still and the moment needed to be preserved.

- Kathlene

 


 

 

Wordsmith
babzilla41
Posts: 252
Registered: ‎05-04-2009
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Re: War, Up Close and Far off

"Does Maggie's death or Frankie's story of the bombings and deaths in London influence Will's decision to go to Europe?"

 

I believe that both Maggie's death and Frankie's story influenced Will's decision to go to Europe, but it wasn't until after Maggie's death that Will acknowledged Emma's concern about "doing something" after listening to Frankie's story.  It seems as though he decides to go to Europe to prove something to himself - that he can be helpful - that he is a good doctor - that he can save lives.  Losing Maggie because of his failure to "see the signs" and act upon them must've been a huge blow to his confidence in doctoring.  But I wonder if he realizes that in the war setting he will be making on the spot decisions as to how to treat the injured and dying and just as he didn't have the facilities available to him when helping Maggie deliver her daughter, he is going to be working in harsh conditions with the severely injured/dying.

"I love books. If I could eat them, I would. I love their scent and often put my nose in to inhale their aroma." - Kathleen Grissom
Correspondent
MsReaderCP
Posts: 52
Registered: ‎07-10-2009
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Re: War, Up Close and Far off


Rachel-K wrote:

 

 

 

 

Does Maggie's death or Frankie's story of the bombings and deaths in London influence Will's decision to go to Europe?

 

 Does Harriet seem to be the only character who has some sense of what might be happening?

 

 

 

 


I think Will's decision to go to Europe was primarily influenced by his inability to get over his his childhood.  He stated that he should have moved from the town, but I think he thought that his marriage to Emma would change everyone's view of him -  there was no evidence in the book that anyone viewed him as his "father's son" that I recall.  However, when he did not act quickly upon Maggie's symptoms he believed himself responsible for her death (I'm not a doctor so I don't know, but it does seem as though he should have sent for the other doctor in these conditions).  Again no one blames him but himself and he seems to believe he should atone for her death.  and for all the things his father has ever done.  One wonders if he ever would feel as if he ever would have done enough.  One his 6 months was up, he admitted that he was not planning on returning home.  I think the boy was a way to explain to his wife, as this was what had clearly affected her. 

 

Iris and Harvey seem to have more insight into the War than  the other inhabitants of Franklin.  Iris puts the map up over the insistence of another saying that our boys will eventually be going over there.  perhaps refusing to relive the false hope that she did that her brother would not go to the first War.

Harvey spends his spare time looking for Germans to attack over the water and even requests that the flag be lowered 3 feet to give him better viewing.  I'm not sure where his obsession comes  from yet.

Inspired Wordsmith
Sunltcloud
Posts: 933
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: War, Up Close and Far off

 

MsReaderCP,
Harry didn't want the flag lowered to give him better viewing; he wanted it lowered because it provided a target.

MsReaderCP wrote:

Iris and Harvey seem to have more insight into the War than  the other inhabitants of Franklin.  Iris puts the map up over the insistence of another saying that our boys will eventually be going over there.  perhaps refusing to relive the false hope that she did that her brother would not go to the first War.

Harvey spends his spare time looking for Germans to attack over the water and even requests that the flag be lowered 3 feet to give him better viewing.  I'm not sure where his obsession comes  from yet.


 

 

Inspired Contributor
Sherry_Young
Posts: 48
Registered: ‎09-02-2009

Re: War, Up Close and Far off

 

Frankie thinks proudly of how Londoners "can't help" but go about their lives as they usually do, and at the same time is furious at how American's go about their own ordinary lives without any impact from the war abroad. What makes ordinary life bravery on one coast and complacency on the other? Are you furious at the Americans with Frankie? How does Frankie bridge the distance between the two countries full of people going through their daily lives during war?

The Londoners continued going about their daily routines of life, but it is not ordinary life. How is it ordinary to spend your nights huddled in a bomb shelter or an Underground station trying to sleep only to leave the shelter hoping to find your home intact? Is it ordinary to go to work or school through a city ravaged by bombs and fire? This is what makes the Londoners daily routines filled with bravery. As for complacency on the American coast may be compared to our lives as we know it today. How many of us remember a day when the skies over our own country were a source of fear as planes were used as bombs? Most of us remember. Yet how many of us know how much of what is going on this week in Iraq or Afghanistan? Do we know of the soldiers who have been wounded or killed by a bomb? Do we know of the innocent lives shed by a suicide bombing? We have much more media access and yet we tend to ignore these stories if the media hasn't already ignored them for us. Why have we become so complacent when our homeland was attacked just a few years ago? Time passes and the literal distance allows us to distance ourselves from this war. In the same way, the characters in the book have not experienced anything to make them feel they should take a stand. They are complacent because the do not feel the danger. Time passes and the distance makes the war in Europe seem like light years away. Only Frankie's voice gives them a sense that something is happening, but almost like it is a fairy tale in a land far, far away. Frankie does bridge the gap a bit when her reporting becomes more personal to her. The story of Billy's mother and Harriet carries more emotion across the ocean and she does strike a chord with Americans.

 

 

We get two descriptions of death close upon each other: One, of the bombing in London that Frankie lives through, but that kills Harriet and little Billy's mother, among many others, and the second, of Will's struggle with Maggie during her dire labor. What is the effect of hearing of death in these two contexts? How do the emotions--shock, outrage at injustice, shame, guilt, fear--take hold of the characters (and the readers!) in each of these stories? Why would an author give us these two difficult stories one after another--are we being invited to make comparisons or draw conclusions?

I think the author brings death to the forefront with the two separate deaths to show us that death comes about regardless of war. Every human being must face death throughout life and yet life continues on in spite of death. We compare Maggie's death to Billy's mother & Harriet's death and see the struggle for those who survive to cope with death. Both Will and Frankie take drastic action after the deaths that are close to them. Maggie's husband must care for the life of his newborn daughter after Maggie's death. Life continues for the survivors. How do we choose to continue on as a survivor and make the most of life after we have been affected by death? 

 

Does Maggie's death or Frankie's story of the bombings and deaths in London influence Will's decision to go to Europe?

Will's decision to go to Europe is definitely a result of Maggie's death. Will feels that he is a failure and is desperate not to follow in his father's footstep. Frankie's story gives him an excuse to run away from that life instead of turning to the bottle to face Maggie's death.

 

How are the stories of the Jews being kept at bay by Europeans and Americans during this early section? Does Harriet seem to be the only character who has some sense of what might be happening?

We see later on in the book just how hard the Germans worked to keep a tight lid on the Holocaust. If the Jews are unable to escape from the occupied territories they cannot share the stories of the plight of the Jews. We feel that most may not make it as Frankie travels alone on the train while the Jews stand on the platform and wait for a train the will probably never come. Again we see the control of the Nazi censor as Frankie broadcasts from her travels. Harriet seems to understand the predicament because she has relatives who are writing to her and they seem to sense the danger to come.

 

Do you or your family have "close up" or "far off" stories around the holocaust and WW2

I don't have any family stories to share, but as I was reading this book there is an experience I want to share. While reading the chapter where Frankie sits with the men who man the anti-aircraft guns during the air raids, I was taken back to my trip to London in 2005. That particular week was the 65th anniversary of VE day. The celebration included a living museum in St. James Park just outside of Buckingham Palace. One area of the museum performed a re-enactment of an air raid during the blitz. They sounded the air raid sirens and had recordings of bombs and anti-aircraft artillery playing through the loudspeakers while we watched several people act out their roles in manning the guns and planes. I could hear this re-enactment while reading this section of the book. Just a couple of days later, I witnessed the resilience of Londoners as they faced another attack on their home soil - this time bombs on the Underground and a double-decker bus. I'm sure this attitude of they won't win/we will survive is very much how Londoners continued with daily life during the Blitz.

 

Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won't have as much censorship because we won't have as much fear.
— Judy Blume
Wordsmith
literature
Posts: 499
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: War, Up Close and Far off

Hi SunItCloud,

Thanks for the link for E.R. Murrow.  Listening to his voice again brought back many memories of listening to him on the radio and then watching his TV show, with the cigarette hanging out of his mouth and also buring away in his hand.  I was born right at the end of WWII so I didn't hear the actual recordings as they were happening but do remember hearing replays later on.

Inspired Wordsmith
Sunltcloud
Posts: 933
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: War, Up Close and Far off

War stories aren't always about bombs either. They include "liberation" Our town was liberated by the French; my grandmother, my mother, and I were allowed one small room, while an officer took over our house. My mother became an interpreter at the French hospital, my grandmother became the officer's maid. I spent most of my time in our room until school opened again. Sometimes I joined my grandmother in the kitchen, but was banned from there after I took a piece of stale bread. I wrote this poem many years ago. "And no, Grandma, I still don't understand."

French Occupation

 

 "C'est la guerre,"

The French lieutenant said

And laughed

A boisterous

Commanding

Laugh.

 

"It is the war"

My grandma said

And frowned

A meak

Defeated

Frown.

 

I looked from him to her

And back to him again

And held on to the piece of bread

In stubborn indignation.

 

"I didn't steal"

I said

"I found it in the garbage"

And stuffed the rind

In fearless anger

Into my mouth

And chewed with satisfaction.

 

"She must be punished"

"Now"

He growled.

 

"Oui, Monsieur"

My grandma bowed

And bruised my hand.

We slumped along the silent corridor

And then she closed the door

Behind us.

 

"It is the war"

My grandma said

And smiled

Her gentlest

Loving smile.

She held me tight

And stroked my hand.

"When you grow up

You'll understand."

 


Rachel-K wrote in part:

 

Do you or your family have "close up" or "far off" stories around the holocaust and WW2?

 

 


 

 

Distinguished Bibliophile
Paul_Hochman
Posts: 2,801
Registered: ‎03-23-2007
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Re: War, Up Close and Far off

Speaking of interpreters, my great uncle jumped with the 82nd airborne into France on D-Day. He was shot through both legs on his descent and was quickly captured. Luckily he was raised by a German nanny and he spoke fluent German, so he was used as an interpreter until he was recaptured by allied forces later in the campaign.

Inspired Wordsmith
Sunltcloud
Posts: 933
Registered: ‎10-19-2006

Re: War, Up Close and Far off

 

Silly me; I'm replying to my own post. But I just realized the connection between my reaction to watching the child in the documentary about Nazi concentration camps and my own "satisfaction" as child, after I had been able to secure the piece of stale bread. The little boy's calm concentration on the soup reminded me of my own determination not to allow anybody to take the bread away from me.
On another note, I was 40 years old when I began to sew stuffed rabbits and gave them away to a family homeless shelter. When I mused about my preoccupation with stuffed animals and children in need, my mother told me that I had had a stuffed white rabbit when I was almost three. We lived in a hotel in the Ruhrgebiet, a Northern German area that was bombed all the time. One night a group of refugees was brought in; they had to sleep in the hallway because all the rooms were already filled with other bombing victims. A baby cried for hours; my mother put my rabbit in its arms and it quieted down. In the morning the refugees were taken somewhere else and with them my stuffed rabbit.
For the last two years I have been knitting teddy bears for children in Africa(just finished bear 140) something I have not had the time to analyze yet. :smileyhappy: :smileyhappy: The Mother Bear Project provides knitted and crocheted bears to HIV/AIDS infected children. A wonderful way to keep my fingers busy while I am watching television or read.

Sunltcloud wrote:

War stories aren't always about bombs either. They include "liberation" Our town was liberated by the French; my grandmother, my mother, and I were allowed one small room, while an officer took over our house. My mother became an interpreter at the French hospital, my grandmother became the officer's maid. I spent most of my time in our room until school opened again. Sometimes I joined my grandmother in the kitchen, but was banned from there after I took a piece of stale bread. I wrote this poem many years ago. "And no, Grandma, I still don't understand."

French Occupation

 

 "C'est la guerre,"

The French lieutenant said

And laughed

A boisterous

Commanding

Laugh.

 

"It is the war"

My grandma said

And frowned

A meak

Defeated

Frown.

 

I looked from him to her

And back to him again

And held on to the piece of bread

In stubborn indignation.

 

"I didn't steal"

I said

"I found it in the garbage"

And stuffed the rind

In fearless anger

Into my mouth

And chewed with satisfaction.

 

"She must be punished"

"Now"

He growled.

 

"Oui, Monsieur"

My grandma bowed

And bruised my hand.

We slumped along the silent corridor

And then she closed the door

Behind us.

 

"It is the war"

My grandma said

And smiled

Her gentlest

Loving smile.

She held me tight

And stroked my hand.

"When you grow up

You'll understand."

 


Rachel-K wrote in part:

 

Do you or your family have "close up" or "far off" stories around the holocaust and WW2?

 

 


 

 


 

 

Distinguished Bibliophile
Peppermill
Posts: 6,768
Registered: ‎04-04-2007
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Re: War, Up Close and Far off

[ Edited ]

I'm not so certain even hindsight is 20/20.  (In fact, I personally rather dislike the expression.  I do believe that we can learn from history, but I think there are still insights from many directions that are often paradoxical.)

 

Not exactly the same, at least in part because an attempt is being made to apply them to a different war, but consider the two books currently being bantered about Washington:  Lessons in Disaster  and 

A Better War .


DSaff wrote:

It's so true that hindsight is 20/20 and that it is so easy to be an armchair quarterback.


lmpmn wrote:

I find as I'm reading other's posts about war in other countries and media information, how much this book really does relate to what's going on today.

 

As far as being furious with the Americans not joining the war sooner, it's easy to look at it now and say, "Yes, we should have."  It's always easier to look back at history and judge because one has the bigger picture to look at and all the necessary information and time to make the decision.  That's something that people discuss every day here in America.  Should we have gone to war?  Why are we still there?  It will be so much easier 50 years from now to look back and say what should have been done with clarity.

 

As far as the media is concerned, someone on a different thread brought up the idea about being a reporter and being able to have balance between telling the truth, staying objective, and staying compassionate.  Our society is saturated with information from all kinds of different people: some have hidden agendas, some are open about their agendas, some who tell objective stories with no agendas at all, etc.  If you want to know what's going on in the world, it's your job to find who's out there and what their story is in an intelligent, informed manner.  Back then it was so different.  Radio was king and whoever owned the airwaves had a say in what was said and how it was said.



"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
Correspondent
T-Mo
Posts: 51
Registered: ‎08-31-2009

Re: War, Up Close and Far off

[ Edited ]

Frankie tries to bridge the distance between the two countries with her broadcasts, which tell the stories of the ordinary people in London. This allows her to bring real stories of their struggles home to the families in America. I think Frankie is hoping that through her stories the people in America will begin to feel the impact of the war, and realize that it is devastating people’s lives. I think she is hoping that they will be become outraged enough to want to help.

  

It seems Maggie’s death has more of a profound effect on Will than the bombings in London. Actually, I didn’t think that Will seemed at all concerned with what had happened in London. When Emma was prodding him about doing something he causally commented that he was sure the boy was safe and fixed himself more on her. He was clearly more distraught over Maggie’s death than about what happened to the boy. It seems as if the boy was an after thought once Maggie died. I think when Emma found him listening to the radio after she heard the ladies talking about him in the supermarket, Will had finally taken it all in and realized that he should do something, and that was when he thought again about the boy. Initially, however, the boy wasn’t a real concern of his. And I think his decision to go to London was self-serving. After Maggie’s death Will had to go to London to prove his worth as a doctor as well as to prove to himself that he was worth his own life. Like Emma said, he was running away. He had to escape his father fate, the fate that he felt he was destined to take over. I think he’s making a good decision to go, however, I think he’s making the decision based on the wrong reasons. In any event, I thought it was rather sad that nobody in town bothered see him off. “The street remained empty all the way into town. There was no one to say good-bye” (108). It seems like up until this point there is always someone out somewhere in town. So where are all those nosey, gossipy housewives and their families? Did they intentionally stay away?

 

~Tara

 

Reader 2
newsally
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎07-02-2009
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Re: War, Up Close and Far off

Talk about giving one goosebumps. This really makes it real. Radio really was a great media...just sit back close your eyes and listen and you are there.

Scribe
DSaff
Posts: 2,048
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: War, Up Close and Far off

Powerful story - thanks for sharing.

 


Sunltcloud wrote:

 

When I was in highschool in the early '50s anything that had to do with WWII was totally ignored. I remember that the history teacher who was supposed to address the subject told us that not enough time remained in the semester. And during the next semester we were advised that it should have been covered in the previous one. It wasn't until I came to the United States in 1964 that I began to read books about the war and the holocaust. It took me another 35 years to find out some of the "omissions in my education" I had lived with.For instance:
A favorite ten-volume series of books in my childhood was about "Nesthaekchen," a spunky blond, blue-eyed girl, a doctor's daughter, whose life I followed from the time she played with dolls until she became a grandmother. She was supposed to have been the "typical" German child. We all loved the stories. The author, Else Ury, (1877 - 1943) wrote 39 novels which describe the ideal woman, "close to hearth and home." The Nesthaekchen series was written between 1918 and 1932 and all but book number four are still available in Germany. Book four is about WWI.
When I googled Else Ury in 2002 I read, for the first time, about her life. She came from a well-to-do Jewish family who, like many "assimilated" Jews did not put an emphasis on politics and religion. In 1935 she was excluded from the "Reichschrifttumskammer" (national writers' association) and was no longer allowed to write. Most of her family emigrated to England. Her brother Hans committed suicide. Else Ury remained in Berlin to take care of her 90-year old mother. In 1939 they had to move into a "House for Jews." The mother died in 1940. On January 6, 1943 Else Ury had to fill out a form, listing her possessions - they were considered enemy possessions and taken away from her - then she had to proceed to a transfer point in Berlin. On January 12, 1943 she was deported to Auschwitz along with 1,190 others and murdered in the gas chamber the next day. Else Ury was 65 years old at the time of her death. She was number 638.
I still get tears in my eyes when I think about Else Ury. My childhood had been built on lies.

thewanderingjew wrote:

 

Thank you for that link. As a college student, I would sit for hours, in what was called the listening room, with a pair of rather large headphones covering my ears, as I listened to Churchill speak.

Choisya wrote:

Churchill's speech before that battle spurred on the British people and impressed many Americans. 


 


 

 


 

 


 

 

DonnaS =) " Reading is a means of thinking with another person's mind; it forces you to stretch your own." Charles Scribner
"A book is like a garden carried in the pocket." Chinese Proverb
My blog: http://bookworm56.blogspot.com
New User
Jrc3168
Posts: 4
Registered: ‎09-03-2009
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Re: War, Up Close and Far off

Does Maggie's death or Frankie's story of the bombings and deaths in London influence Will's decision to go to Europe?  Will is running away from the failure of Maggie's death, and Frankie's stories and Emma's interest in them give him somewhere to go, a reason to go without looking like a coward, someone who can't live with his own consequences.

 

How are the stories of the Jews being kept at bay by Europeans and Americans during this early section? Does Harriet seem to be the only character who has some sense of what might be happening?  The media was so different then than it is nw.  news was censored, and certain things were kept quiet or just not emphasized.  The news was coming through European outlets, and we were not getting the full story. 

 

Distinguished Correspondent
Bonnie_C
Posts: 168
Registered: ‎08-07-2009
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Re: War, Up Close and Far off

At this stage of the story, it's hard to say how Frankie is able to bridge the gap between London and America as a whole.  She obviously is able to reach out to Emma and Iris in Franklin, Mass.  I can only surmise that she has the same effect on other individuals nation wide.

 

I feel that Will is not so much running away as he is seizing an opportunity to right a perceived wrong.  He blames himself for the death of Maggie. He is looking to save a life in order to make up for the one he lost.  This makes things hard for his new bride Emma.  But this just may be something he has to do to feel whole again.

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PiperMurphy
Posts: 174
Registered: ‎09-19-2008
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Re: War, Up Close and Far off


Rachel-K wrote:

 

We get two descriptions of death close upon each other: One, of the bombing in London that Frankie lives through, but that kills Harriet and little Billy's mother, among many others, and the second, of Will's struggle with Maggie during her dire labor. What is the effect of hearing of death in these two contexts? How do the emotions--shock, outrage at injustice, shame, guilt, fear--take hold of the characters (and the readers!) in each of these stories? Why would an author give us these two difficult stories one after another--are we being invited to make comparisons or draw conclusions?

 

Does Maggie's death or Frankie's story of the bombings and deaths in London influence Will's decision to go to Europe?

 

For me, Maggie's death was tragic, but not unusual. It was a situation that people were used to dealing with. The death's from the bombings really shocked me. The abruptness of losing family, friends, and home is jolting. I have a feeling that even though bombs were falling, people thought that home would still be there.

 

Just before Will was called to Maggie's house, he and Emma were listening to Frankie on the radio. Emma asked him if there wasn't something they could do. I think that was his reason for going. He couldn't do anything for Maggie, but he might make a difference in Europe. He may have eventually been drafted to go anyway, but this way it was his choice.

 


 

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Zia01
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Re: War, Up Close and Far off

Does Maggie's death or Frankie's story of the bombings and deaths in London influence Will's decision to go to Europe?

I think it has to do with his guilt over losing Maggie more than anything. He thinks if he helps over London where the bombing is going on it will ease his guilt over losing Maggie.

 

How are the stories of the Jews being kept at bay by Europeans and Americans during this early section? Does Harriet seem to be the only character who has some sense of what might be happening?

We don't hear much about what is happening to Jewish people in the early section. We just get hints of what is happening. I think Harriet was the only one willing to voice her opinion of what she thought was going on. I'm sure Frankie, along with others, suspected but hadn't gotten to the point to where they'd voice it yet.

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Choisya
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Re: War, Up Close and Far off

[ Edited ]

 

As for complacency on the American coast may be compared to our lives as we know it today. How many of us remember a day when the skies over our own country were a source of fear as planes were used as bombs? Most of us remember.
There is a vast difference between being at war with a declared enemy whose bomber pilots are overhead every night and whose armies are only 22 miles away and being under attack by the odd suicide bomber. I narrowly missed being in Russell Square, where I had a meeting, on the day of the London tube bombings but the threat I felt then was nothing like the threat I felt every day and night during the war.  At the age of 7 I watched a nearby town where relatives lived being bombed, at 8 I was in another town when that was bombed, at 10 I canoed down a river with my father when bombs were dropping behind us and at 11 a bomb dropped in the next door neighbour's garden. Meanwhile hundreds, sometimes thousands, were being killed by bombing all over Europe, which bears no comparison with Iraq or Afghanistan.  I also worked in London during the 20 years of the IRA bombings and was very close to many incidents, including a Member of Parliament (Airey Neave) being blown up in his car at the House of Commons but they were random incidents and not comparable with my wartime experiences, which were ongoing for six years.  In wartime you do not become complacent because horrid events are frequent, daily even; after terrorist attacks you become more complacent because they are few and far between.  In wartime you face a daily struggle to survive, after terrorist attacks life soon returns to normal. 
I would also like to say at this point how humbled I am by Sunltcloud's experiences of the war. My own fade into insignificance compared with her tales of being bombed, turned out of her home and being hungry enough to steal bread from a trash can:smileysad:.  Although people in London (and elsewhere, like Coventry) suffered severe bombing and displacement, they were quickly found homes by the authorities and there was no real hunger during the war, just rationing.  Indeed, the generations who grew up on wartime rations are now the healthiest we have ever had and are living to great old age!  Nor were the British occupied by a brutal foreign force, which can be the biggest and most long lasting trauma of war.  Our 'bravery' was therefore nothing compared with those on mainland Europe who suffered much more than we did.  (And nothing at all compared to the suffering of the Jews....)

 

Sherry_Young wrote:

 

Frankie thinks proudly of how Londoners "can't help" but go about their lives as they usually do, and at the same time is furious at how American's go about their own ordinary lives without any impact from the war abroad. What makes ordinary life bravery on one coast and complacency on the other? Are you furious at the Americans with Frankie? How does Frankie bridge the distance between the two countries full of people going through their daily lives during war?

The Londoners continued going about their daily routines of life, but it is not ordinary life. How is it ordinary to spend your nights huddled in a bomb shelter or an Underground station trying to sleep only to leave the shelter hoping to find your home intact? Is it ordinary to go to work or school through a city ravaged by bombs and fire? This is what makes the Londoners daily routines filled with bravery. As for complacency on the American coast may be compared to our lives as we know it today. How many of us remember a day when the skies over our own country were a source of fear as planes were used as bombs? Most of us remember. Yet how many of us know how much of what is going on this week in Iraq or Afghanistan? Do we know of the soldiers who have been wounded or killed by a bomb? Do we know of the innocent lives shed by a suicide bombing? We have much more media access and yet we tend to ignore these stories if the media hasn't already ignored them for us. Why have we become so complacent when our homeland was attacked just a few years ago? Time passes and the literal distance allows us to distance ourselves from this war. In the same way, the characters in the book have not experienced anything to make them feel they should take a stand. They are complacent because the do not feel the danger. Time passes and the distance makes the war in Europe seem like light years away. Only Frankie's voice gives them a sense that something is happening, but almost like it is a fairy tale in a land far, far away. Frankie does bridge the gap a bit when her reporting becomes more personal to her. The story of Billy's mother and Harriet carries more emotion across the ocean and she does strike a chord with Americans.