Korean War Linky

The 2014 War Through the Generations Reading Challenge With a Twist has begun. For May and June, reviews for the Korean War should be linked here.

To be clear, you don’t have to read just Korean War books now, but any of the books that fit the war categories.  We’ll just be posting the linkies for the reviews in the months we designated here.

Welcome to the Korean War Reviews linky for May/June:

Looking for the Linky for the Gulf Wars, go here.

Looking for the Linky for the French and Indian War, go here.

August Read-a-Long of Stella Bain by Anita Shreve

 

As part of the War Through The Generations 2014 Reading Challenge with a Twist, we’ll be hosting a read-a-long for WWI.

In August, we’ll be reading Stella Bain by Anita Shreve.

Discussion questions will be posted on Friday for the designated chapters.  Here’s the reading schedule and discussion dates:

  • Friday, Aug. 8: Pages 1-70
  • Friday, Aug. 15: Pages 71-138
  • Friday, Aug. 22: Pages 139-207
  • Friday, Aug. 29: Pages 208-end

We hope you’ll be joining us next month for our WWI read-a-long.

Week 2: War Babies Read-a-Long

Welcome to the last week of the 2014 War Through the Generations With a Twist Read-a-Long of War Babies by Frederick Busch for June.

A short but powerful tale weaving together moral complexity and romantic intrigue, Frederick Busch’s War Babies is the story of an American lawyer in his mid-thirties (Peter Santore) who travels to England in an attempt to tie up the loose ends of his own dark past.  Peter’s father, a prisoner who turned traitor in a Korean War POW camp, might have had something to do with a fellow captive’s death, the father of one Hilary Pennels — now a woman Peter’s age who lives in Salisbury.  When Peter and Hilary meet, they both want information from the other, and more, and find themselves engaged in a wary dance of attraction laced with mistrust.  But it may be a third person, the sole remaining survivor of the camp — a Mr. Fox — who holds the key to the mystery of betrayal that haunts Peter and Hilary alike.  (publisher’s summary)

Because the novel is so short, we’re only hosting 2 discussions for it.  For week one’s discussion, go here.

For this week’s discussion, we’ve read pages 51 through the end of the novel.

Serena: At one point, Hilary tells Peter that Fox likes to talk about the war and that he’s brutal about it. Given that war is brutal in itself, did you find anything else brutal about the way he talked about the war?

Anna: Maybe I’ve read too many war novels, but I found the way Fox talked about the war to be the way an old soldier with bitterness talks about the war. It was brutal, but that was to be expected, I think, when one talks about the war.

Serena: I agree; I didn’t find anything unusual about the way Fox talked about the war because he’s clearly bitter — and understandably so. I think maybe she finds it brutal because of her relationship with him, which I found very twisted. He’s supposed to come back and look after her for her father, but then he’s having a sexual relationship with her that gets twisted up in some kind of revenge scenario he’s cooked up to get back at Peter’s father and even Peter himself.

Anna: I thought this book was many shades of messed up, but I was more disturbed by Fox attacking Peter in the duty free store. He had some weird fascination for Peter’s father that went far beyond hatred for his role in Hilary’s father’s death. I understood the characters in that they were in pain, each feeling some deep loss, but they were portrayed so oddly.

I didn’t like the characters or their stories. I didn’t connect with them at all, and I didn’t care how they fared in the end. The only thing I like about this book was how it shows the scars of war among those who fought and those who didn’t, those who survived and those who were abandoned.

Serena: I have to agree with you; this was a book with a great deal of potential, but it was poorly executed. I think the most interesting character was Fox, but you don’t really get to know him.

I wonder if the third-person POV had something to do with the narration disconnecting us from the characters?

There’s another part in which Hilary talks about the nation of cripples and how we have a duty to recover from the past and the move forward, what do you think she meant by that? A duty to whom? And is she even taking her own advice?

Anna: I was confused by how it was mostly first-person but switched to third person at times and even used second person at one point.

Fox was interesting and creepy. Mostly creepy, though. But it was hard to like because the characters were all over the place. I’m not sure we even really got to know them. Peter’s short trip to England barely scratched the surface. And honestly, I’m surprised he found out as much of the story of their fathers as he did, given that they seemed to spend the entire book in bed.

Honestly, I don’t remember that part about the “nation of cripples,” but I don’t think she’s following her own advice. She seemed to be at first, falling in love or at least in lust with the son of the man who may or may not have killed her father, but that whole scene with her mocking Peter makes me think twice about that.

Do you think Hilary and Peter were in love? What was all that about if it wasn’t love? It seemed so melodramatic and so impossible.

Serena: I don’t think she follows her own advice either, but I think she’s manipulative — case in point, her mocking of Peter, and her jabs at him even before that.

I think Peter was trying to be in love, seeing that there might be something else out there for him beyond thinking about his father’s betrayal. I wonder how manipulative Hilary and Fox were from the very beginning since they seem to be in on some kind of torture scheme where Peter is concerned. Did Fox know that Peter was coming beforehand because of who Peter asked about Hilary’s father? Did she agree to be in on it?

I don’t think she’s in love or even knows how to be in love honestly. It is overly dramatic and ridiculous. And at one point I was thinking that maybe it was that way on purpose to demonstrate how traumatized people can have such heightened emotions and be out of control.

Anna: I agree that she was manipulative, and I actually did feel bad for Peter after he caught her with Fox because he thought they had something in common. I do wonder how much she knew, since I’m still not convinced their meeting up was a coincidence.

I think ridiculous is a good way to describe this story. The characterizations and their relationship were just over the top.

What did you think about Hilary’s anger at her father for not leaving the cave and how it meant that he chose to abandon her? The way she called her father “the hero” throughout the book was really put into perspective after that. We read so many stories of children being proud of their hero fathers, and she really turns that on its head.

Serena: I’m not convinced their meeting was a coincidence either.

I do find it interesting that Peter wants to believe there was some good in his father — and its almost like he would have preferred his father had not come home to be put in jail but remained out there somewhere — and Hilary sees nothing good about her father’s actions.

I think they are both feeling abandoned and maybe for a brief moment they find solace with one another, but that is short-lived.

There’s a point in the latter part that Hilary really turns her own notions about her father upside down — it’s like she’s questioning her own convictions about the matter. It’s after Peter asks why they don’t hate each other, and she says something to the effect of they chose how they wanted to live and die, and “you mean they owe us from the grave?” It’s like she’s trying to convince him that they can choose to not hate each other, but she doesn’t even believe it herself.

Anna: That is probably the most clever thing about the novel, that Peter’s father was a traitor and he wanted to believe he was good, and Hilary’s father saved many of his men and she thought he was anything but a hero. I wonder how much Fox and his weird hold over her affected her feelings about her father?

Serena: I wonder that too, but doesn’t look like we’ll ever find out.

What do you think? Feel free to respond to our discussion and/or post any questions you might have in the comments.

Come back in August for our read-a-long of Stella Bain by Anita Shreve.

Week 1: War Babies Read-a-Long

Welcome to the first week of the 2014 War Through the Generations With a Twist Read-a-Long of War Babies by Frederick Busch for June.

A short but powerful tale weaving together moral complexity and romantic intrigue, Frederick Busch’s War Babies is the story of an American lawyer in his mid-thirties (Peter Santore) who travels to England in an attempt to tie up the loose ends of his own dark past.  Peter’s father, a prisoner who turned traitor in a Korean War POW camp, might have had something to do with a fellow captive’s death, the father of one Hilary Pennels — now a woman Peter’s age who lives in Salisbury.  When Peter and Hilary meet, they both want information from the other, and more, and find themselves engaged in a wary dance of attraction laced with mistrust.  But it may be a third person, the sole remaining survivor of the camp — a Mr. Fox — who holds the key to the mystery of betrayal that haunts Peter and Hilary alike.  (publisher’s summary)

Because the novel is so short, we’re only hosting 2 discussions for it.

For this week’s discussion, we’ve read pages 1-50, ending with “mine and squeezed.”

Please be aware that there could be spoilers.

Anna: What are your first impressions?

I’m finding it hard to get into the story, mainly because the dialogue seems awkward to me, the characters are odd and unlikeable, and mainly because Pete and Hilary’s meeting seems contrived. Does this author seriously want me to believe that Pete travels from the U.S. to England in search of answers from Hilary and he just happens to have an encounter with this woman at the hotel and later in the market and it just happens to be the one woman he’s looking for? And then Pete expects Hilary to believe that he didn’t know it was her?

Serena: I’m having similar issues the the dialogue, which seems disjointed and choppy at times. And the meeting between Hilary and Peter is contrived and their “relationship” is contrived. I’m having issues with this whole thing.

I do think that if this has preoccupied Peter for as long as it seems to that maybe through research he’s found that Hilary could have some answers for him. And crazier things have happened where people have sought complete strangers out for information. That is believable to me, but the way that it comes about here, is so unbelievable.

What do you make of Fox?

I find him to be a traumatized soldier, but I also think that he embellishes. At least that’s what it seems like to me that he embellishes the goodness of his soldiers and those that died. He’s at least believable to me, though his relationship with Hilary is strange.

Anna: I just can’t get past the improbability of their meeting, and then immediately having sex. I just don’t “get” their relationship; it’s like a lot of what would have made it believable was left out. The author seems to give so little details about everything at this point. What was the extent of Pete’s research? What prompted him to seek out Hilary? Maybe Busch wants to reveals these details over the course of the book, but he’s not giving me much to keep me interested in the story.

The whole thing with Fox is just odd. Hilary can’t seem to decide if he’s an overprotective father figure or a pervert, and her change in behavior around him seems without reason and just weird. Again, I think it’s the lack of details.

Fox does seem to go on and on with his war stories, even though he seems to understand that Hilary doesn’t want to hear them. His stories are given all the details, down to the exposed muscle on the Lieutenant’s injury. He seems all over the place, from saying that he doesn’t hold what Pete’s father did against him, then getting very hostile toward Pete at the end of his tirade, but that could be the booze talking.

It’s just a very odd narrative, and I have no idea where it’s going. The weirdness of the characters and the contrived meeting/relationship seems to detract from what should be the focus of the novel: the war and why it compelled Peter to go to England for answers. He seems to believe his father had something to do with her father’s death, and I hope they can stop having sex long enough for the real story to start.

Serena: I found Fox to be the most interesting character, seems like a war vet with the drinking problem, the constant story telling, the overwhelming emotions and roller coaster of them. But he’s there and gone so quickly and then the relationship with him and Hilary is so ill-explained.

I do like that Fox provides the details about the camps and the life there, but it seems like there’s no explanation about the war and what started it or who was involved except the “Chinks,” “Yanks,” and the English.

I really am at a loss in this one. At least it’s short. Maybe this author assumes the reader knows a lot about the war?

Anna: Maybe, because I’m finding it hard to follow all that, and the disjointedness of the narrative doesn’t help when there are few details about the war. I especially am confused about the different camps they mention; if Pete’s father was at a different camp than Hilary’s father and Fox, I’m wondering how the three men are connected. But the way this story is told, being all over the place and not very coherent, It makes me wonder whether the characters and their odd connections will overshadow the war story.

I agree that Fox is the most interesting character, and I think my judgment of him may be clouded by the fact that Hilary talks about him before readers meet him, so I was expecting this odd, perverted man with a weird obsession with Hilary. I’m also glad that it’s short because I am slightly curious about where the story is heading but don’t want to have wasted too much of my time on it.

Serena: I hear you on that. I guess we’ll have to wait to see what comes next. Right now, all I want to know is what happened to the fathers, not Hilary and Peter. That’s an awful thing to say since they are the main characters.

And yes, Hilary’s comments about Fox have clouded my impression of him. But I’m waiting for the second half.

Anna: Of course, the most interesting things to us are the things not being discussed! I guess we’ll have to wait and see and hope it gets better!

What do you think?  Feel free to respond to our discussion and/or post any questions you might have in the comments.

**Please join us for the final discussion of War Babies by Frederick Busch on Friday, June 27: Pgs. 51-the end (begins with “We didn’t speak again”)

Day of Remembrance — Memorial Day 2014

June Read-a-Long of War Babies by Frederick Busch

As part of the War Through The Generations 2014 Reading Challenge with a Twist, we’ll be hosting a read-a-long for the Korean War.

In June, we’ll be reading War Babies by Frederick Busch.

Discussion questions will be posted on Friday for the designated chapters. As there are no chapter numbers, we’ll have to use approximate page numbers.

Given the small size of the book, we’ll only hold 2 discussions, instead of the usual 4.

Here’s the reading schedule and discussion dates:

  • Friday, June 13: Pgs. 1-50 (ends with “mine and squeezed.”
  • Friday, June 27: Pgs. 51-the end (begins with “We didn’t speak again”)

We hope you’ll be joining us next month for our Korean War read-a-long.

Week 2: I Am Regina Read-a-Long

Welcome to the final week of the 2014 War Through the Generations With a Twist Read-a-Long of I Am Regina by Sally M. Keehn for April.

Because this young adult novel is so short, we’re only hosting 2 discussions for it.

For this week’s discussion, we’ve read chapters 14-end, including the afterword.

Please be aware that there could be spoilers in this final discussion:

Serena: Looks like my concerns about Tiger Claw’s covetous nature toward Regina were on target.  What do you think about the author including a disturbing event in a younger reader’s book? Did you think it was well handled?

Anna: I was surprised to find that scene in what appears to be a middle-grade novel.  However, I think the author handled it well; she didn’t get too descriptive, but she also didn’t sugar-coat it.  I think it seemed very realistic and true to the characters she created.  I think that’s what I liked best about this book — it doesn’t stay away from the difficult issues, but tackles them head on.  What did you think?

Serena: I think she handled the scene really well, but didn’t “sugar coat it” as you said. I do like that she made it seem immediate and threatening, but at the same time, it didn’t get into too much detail. I wonder how teachers would approach that in the classroom, especially since those types of things surely happened.

Anna: It reminded me of the discussion we had about Laurie Halse Anderson’s Chains, and how she avoids the subject altogether.

Did you feel that the story was rushed toward the end? The pace was definitely quick in the latter half, but I think her reunion with her mother was quickly tied up and then the story ended. I think it would’ve been interesting to see how Regina fared after that (even if only a chapter or two), especially since the author emphasizes how much she lost, from her language to her own identity, and how she didn’t want to leave Wolefin behind.

Serena: I do think the book’s ending was a bit rushed, but I wonder if that has to do with the lack of source material about the real Regina. I do think there should have been a bit more about her transition back into a white man’s society. It would have been interesting to see how she acclimated herself or didn’t. I did read the afterword about it, but I think it would have been more interesting to read as part of the narrative, especially as she and her mother reunited.

I do think its an interesting paradox that she would feel so connected to her old family and the Indian family, and how she’s torn about how to choose, even though Wolefin wasn’t exactly nice to her and wanted her to marry Tiger Claw. I think it would make for a good discussion about what identity is and how you hold onto in a time of crisis.

Anna: If there wasn’t much source material about the real Regina and the author had to invent all the previous scenes, I think she could have done the same after the reunion between Regina and her mother. I think the ending is what made this a 4-star book instead of a 5-star for me.

The book definitely does make you think about identity and all the gray areas when it comes to war. It’s interesting how the war is so central to the story, especially in how it sends the warriors away and leaves the women to fend for themselves in the harsh winter, yet it also manages to stay in the background. So I definitely think the issues of identity and faith are more prevalent.

Serena: I agree that the issues most prevalent are faith and identity here, and I think that Regina’s strong religious upbringing helped her tackle the challenges ahead of her as an Indian captive.

I do like that this one included most about the French and Indian War than the previous book I read, Indian Captive (which is also based on a true story). This made the dangers of war more immediate and their actual impact on the village more immediate for me, with the warriors heading off to battle and leaving the women alone to find whatever rats and nuts they could in winter to get sustenance.

Regina seems to endure quite a bit more loss when her “sister” Nonschetto is killed and she’s forced to leave the village with the white men and lose her “mother” and her dog. Why do you think she’s not as despondent at Quetit?

Anna: I think it’s because that’s the only home Quetit has known, so she’s bound to feel the loss more keenly. When they are forced to leave the village, Quetit is the same age as when Regina was taken captive. That scene really brings the book full circle; at the beginning, we see the Indians killing and stealing from the white men, and at the end, we see the white men burning the Indian village — and with all the kindness we witnessed in between, it really drives home the point that there is good and evil on both sides.

This book really took me on a roller-coaster ride. I was so upset at Regina’s happy family life being torn apart and her being thrust into this new world against her will. And then I was sad that she lost her old self, but I was glad she was able to cope and even find moments of happiness in her new life. And then I felt so bad when she was torn away from that into another situation full of chaos and uncertainty. This really was a downer of a book, and I think that’s why I had a problem with the ending because reuniting with her mother was supposed to be a happy time — she was getting a piece of her old life back, after all — but all I could do was feel bad about how confused she was about who she was and worry about how she would cope.

Serena: I agree the end could have been fleshed out more. I could have even been ok with just a bit more solace from Regina when she’s in her mother’s arms, rather than the bit about the song. I wanted a bit more emotion there. While I get that the song is important to her, I just wanted her to articulate some form of comfort or emotional connection with her mother.

I did enjoy the book more than the other book I read on this time period for all of these reasons and for the inclusion of war. I do think this would be a great discussion for a book club or in a classroom.

Any final thoughts?

Anna: I’ll be honest — I didn’t have high expectations for this book, but I ended up really liking it. The story itself was interesting, more so knowing that it was based on a true story. I think the author did a great job with Regina’s evolution to Tskinnak, and I like how it was a balanced story.

Please feel free to share your thoughts about I am Regina in the comments.

We hope that you’ll join us in June for a read-a-long of the Korean War novel, War Babies by Frederick Busch. SCHEDULE to be released in May.

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