*Spoiler alert*
Hannah Kohler has written a universal story about the insanity of war and what better backdrop than the Sixties, California and Vietnam War? Jeannie and Kip loose their mother in a tragic accident. This loss defines the teenage siblings’ lives for years to come. Kip gets into trouble, fights with his dad and on a whim decides to enlist and go to Vietnam. Jeannie gets into trouble with the first eligible man that comes along (a medical doctor no less) and settles for a quiet but unhappy life as a housewife. However, fate has other plans. For Kip the true nature of war uncovers gradually. There are no heroes, no honor. Just regular guys trying to survive day to day the best they can. And when Kip has finally had enough, he resorts to an act that will change his life forever. Back home Jeannie finds the lust for life with a young and beautiful but reckless anti-war activist Lee. Together they try to help drafted young men to avoid active duty by falsifying medical certificates. This side of the story I have no problem with. Kohler has done her research. The thing that is missing is the ever so important atmosphere. Kohler doesn’t describe enough the surroundings, clothing, decor, music etc. This story could have taken place anywhere, anytime. And for a 1960s enthusiast this is a bit disappointing. The lesbian relationship between Jeannie and Lee seems pointless. I don’t think that plot twist brings anything new to the story.

This novel inspires me to search for other novels or short stories about the Vietnam War and the home front. Preferably something that was written and/or published in the 1960s or 1970s. I have to research this topic further…
kohler

 

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This is my first post for the Classic Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge 2016.

Christa Wolf, one of East Germany’s most recognized authors, made her breakthrough with Divided Heaven (Der geteilte Himmel; Jaettu taivas) in 1963. It was filmed the next year by Konrad Wolf. It’s a love story with social criticism. Rita is a young and innocent girl living in the countryside, Manfred is a highly educated chemist. They fall in love at a dance and everything seems to be just perfect when Manfred takes Rita to the city and they set up house (sort of) at Manfred’s parents’ house. For a while it seems that the couple could live happily ever after in the privacy of their loft room. Before Rita starts her studies to be a teacher, she takes a summer job at a rail car factory. There she befriends some co-workers and gets a glimpse of the system. The system here meaning of course the socialist society and machinery.

Manfred also confronts the system and is disappointed when he’s efforts in chemistry are not recognized. So he decides to defect to West Berlin. Rita follows Manfred and is surprised how easy it is to cross the border. (The story takes place just before the Berlin Wall is built). But Rita will not stay, she describes it like “being worse than a foreign land because everybody speaks a language you understand”. For Manfred, West Berlin is a dream come true: “Don’t you agree the West is at our feet right now?”

So it is not the Berlin Wall that separates these two. It’s their ideals. Manfred finds East Germany stifling and still very much haunted by the trauma of war. In West Berlin he has a chance to work and pursue a career.For Rita, East Germany is all she knows. She sees the problems with socialist society but also sees the good things in her life and home. She has friends who are incorruptible (like her co-worker Mr. Meternagel), who really believe in doing the right thing and serving his country.

wolf

Divided Heaven was probably the first East German novel I’ve ever read. Even though, I’ve had Christa Wolf on my TBR list for ages. I don’t know if I’m that impressed. Wolf’s style is a bit plain. I do still think that it was worth reading just to get some insight into the life of East Germany in the sixties. The film was more to my liking, more stylized and still relevant.

Hollywood Cats – Photographs from the John Kobal Foundation combines two of my favourite things: old films and cats. There’s a short introduction by Gareth Abbott but it is a photo-book (coffee table book) filled with black and white photographs of film stars and cats. There are photos of stars and their pets as well as movie stills with cat actors, mostly domestic cats but also some bigger cats. My all-time favourite cat on the big screen is DC from That Darn Cat! (1965). Naturally, a photo of Hayley Mills, Dean Jones and one of the cats who played DC is included in the book. James Mason, Kim Novak, Elizabeth Taylor and Vivien Leigh are just some of the famous cat lovers whose photos are also included. This book is a perfect gift to someone with an interest in films and cats. Actually, I got it as a Christmas gift and I loved it.

cats

The Garner Files

19.01.2014

I’ve been reading James Garner’s memoars The Garner Files. A fascinating read! Garner tells in very straightforward style about his childhood, teenage years and troubled relationship with his stepmother. And about the Korean War. And Jack Warner who apparently wasn’t the easiest man to get along with. All that Hollywood history is intriguing, I can’t read enough… The only thing that the book lacks is photos. A few well selected pictures from family photo albums and behind the scenes pictures from movie sets would have improved this book. I am a bit hesitant to continue reading, I’ll finish it in no time and then what? Maybe a Rockford Files -marathon? It’s all about James Garner these days.

The Garner Files - large print edition

The Garner Files – large print edition

Gavin Baddeley: Vampire Lovers – Screen’s Seductive Creatures of the Night (2010) Plexus Publishing.

I don’t know if this book offers any new information to those interested in vampires as popular culture characters. But I had to buy it anyway,  there is an article on Mitchell! The book is a compilation of short articles covering every major bloodsucker from television and film, from  Bela Lugosi’s Dracula to Ian Somerhalder’s Damon Salvatore. Naturally there is one chapter about Twilight and Robert Pattinson *yuck* but you can always skip that part. The book is illustrated with lavish photos (nothing you’d never seen before though). Makes you want to watch all those classic vampire flicks all over again.