woundedThe number of soldiers wounded in World War I is, in itself, devastating: over 21 million military wounded, and nearly 10 million killed. On the battlefield, the injuries were shocking, unlike anything those in the medical field had ever witnessed. The bullets hit fast and hard, went deep and took bits of dirty uniform and airborne soil particles in with them. Soldier after soldier came in with the most dreaded kinds of casualty: awful, deep, ragged wounds to their heads, faces and abdomens. And yet the medical personnel faced with these unimaginable injuries adapted with amazing aptitude, thinking and reacting on their feet to save millions of lives.

In Wounded, Emily Mayhew tells the history of the Western Front from a new perspective: the medical network that arose seemingly overnight to help sick and injured soldiers. These men and women pulled injured troops from the hellscape of trench, shell crater, and no man’s land, transported them to the rear, and treated them for everything from foot rot to poison gas, venereal disease to traumatic amputation from exploding shells.

Drawing on hundreds of letters and diary entries, Mayhew allows readers to peer over the shoulder of the stretcher bearer who jumped into a trench and tried unsuccessfully to get a tightly packed line of soldiers out of the way, only to find that they were all dead. She takes us into dugouts where rescue teams awoke to dirt thrown on their faces by scores of terrified moles, digging frantically to escape the earth-shaking shellfire. Mayhew moves her account along the route followed by wounded men, from stretcher to aid station, from jolting ambulance to crowded operating tent, from railway station to the ship home, exploring actual cases of casualties who recorded their experiences. Both comprehensive and intimate, this groundbreaking book captures an often neglected aspect of the soldier’s world and a transformative moment in military and medical history. (description from publisher)

homelandShowtime’s critically acclaimed series Homeland stars Claire Danes as CIA counterterrorism agent Carrie Mathison, who has just received startling information from one of her contacts: an American POW has been turned.  Months later, US Marine Nicholas Brody (played expertly by Damian Lewis) is found alive in Afghanistan after being presumed dead for eight years.  Though his return is heralded as a great victory and he is touted as a war hero, Carrie is certain that he is working for al-Qaeda.  She goes behind the back of her superiors, setting up illegal surveillance equipment in Brody’s house and monitoring him at all times, doggedly pursuing the truth at any cost.

I could give you a list a mile long of adjectives describing how great this show is (compelling, thrilling, captivating, mind-blowing, etc.), but nothing I can think of really does it justice.  The acting, particularly Danes in her portrayal of a very zealous woman suffering from bipolar disorder, is absolutely superb.  The story will grab ahold of you and not let you go, with twists and turns that constantly keep you guessing where Brody’s allegiance lies.  I finished the entire first season of this show in about two days because I couldn’t stand to not be watching it.  I highly recommend picking up a copy of this series, but make sure you plot out several hours of free time to watch it.  Once you start, you won’t want to stop.

April 3

We Bought a Zoo – Matt Damon, Thomas Hadden Church

When his teenage son gets into trouble, Benjamin Mee gives up a lucrative newspaper job to move his family to the most unlikely of places: a zoo! With help from an eclectic staff, and with many misadventures along the way, Benjamin embarks on a fresh beginning to restore the dilapidated zoo to its former glory, while uniting his family. PG

War Horse – Emily Watson, David Thewlis

Set against a sweeping canvas of rural England and Europe during the First World War, this movie begins with the remarkable friendship between a horse named Joey and a young man called Albert, who tames and trains him. When they are forcefully parted, the film follows the extraordinary journey of the horse as he moves through the war, changing and inspiring the lives of all those he meets; British cavalry, German soldiers, and a French farmer and his granddaughter. PG 13

April 10

Happy Feet Two – Eljah Wood, Robin Williams

Mumble, the Master of Tap, has a problem because his tiny son, Erik, is choreo-phobic. Reluctant to dance, Erik runs away and encounters the Mighty Sven, a penguin who can fly! Mumble has no hope of competing with this charismatic new role model. But things get worse when the world is shaken by powerful forces. Erik learns of his father’s ‘guts and grit’ as Mumble brings together the penguin nations and all manner of fabulous creatures. PG

Iron Lady – Meryl Streep

A surprising and intimate portrait of Margaret Thatcher, the first and only female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. One of the 20th century’s most famous and influential women, Thatcher came from nowhere to smash through barriers of gender and class to be heard in a male-dominated world. PG 13

April 17

Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol – Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner

Blamed for the terrorist bombing of the Kremlin, IMF operative Ethan Hunt is disavowed along with the rest of the agency when the president initiates ‘Ghost Protocol.’ Left without any resources or backup, Ethan must find a way to clear his agency’s name and prevent another attack. To complicate matters further, Ethan is forced to embark on his mission with a team of fellow IMF fugitives whose personal motives he does not fully know. PG 13

April 24

Contraband – Mark Wahlberg, Lukas Haas

Chris Farraday long ago abandoned his life of crime, but after his brother-in-law, Andy, botches a drug deal for his ruthless boss, Tim Briggs, Chris is forced back into doing what he does best, running contraband, to settle Andy’s debt. Chris is a legendary smuggler and quickly assembles a crew with the help of his best friend, Sebastian, to head to Panama and return with millions in counterfeit bills. Things quickly fall apart with only hours to reach the cash. R

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Tom Hanks, Thomas Horn

Oskar is convinced that his father, who died in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, has left a message for him hidden in the city. Feeling disconnected from his grieving mother and driven by an active mind that refuses to believe in things that can’t be observed, Oskar begins searching New York City for the lock that fits a mysterious key he found in his father’s closet. His journey through the five boroughs takes him beyond his loss to a greater understanding of the world around him. PG 13

 

 

submitted by Georgann

I was stunned by this movie, Pray the Devil Back to Hell. It is a documentary, telling the story of the 20-year-long civil war in Liberia, and how a group of women brought in peace. The women were sick and tired of the atrocities and human rights abuses caused by both sides of the war. Their villages, their families and their children suffered horribly. The civilians were constantly on the run, hungry, jobless and in constant danger from death and worse.

Finally, one woman could take it no longer. She tells of her breaking point and how she began the woman’s peace movement in Liberia. Christian and Muslim women banded together to bring peace to their devastated nation. They did not use arms or politics, but by non-aggressive measures gave their all to demanding peace from both sides.

Although I knew how the movie would end, it was still a suspenseful story. I just watched, still in disbelief that this movement could possibly work, knowing that somehow, it did. This is an amazing sotyr and well worth your time to watch!

Author Chang-Rae Lee admits that the first chapter of his book is based upon a tragic event in his father’s life — something so traumatic that his father had never disclosed it — until questioned by his then college-aged son.  The chapter features June Han, an 11-year-old orphaned refugee during the Korean War, desperately struggling to flee the approaching military with her younger siblings in tow.

The chapters often leave the reader hanging, wondering what happened, only to open the next one to discover a new character in a totally different time period. We are later introduced to Hector, a handsome American who enlists to fight in Korea, but then decides to remain after the war to work in an orphanage.  There, his life becomes entwined with June’s and also with Sylvie Tanner, the beautiful wife of the minister who runs the place.  But Sylvie’s story reveals her own scarred and tragic past.

We primarily see June thirty years later, now a successful New York antiques dealer who is dying of cancer, as she reunites with a reluctant Hector in a search for her long-lost son.  As the book spans three decades and several continents, The Surrendered is an epic saga, masterfully written with complex characterization, but also, according to Publisher’s Weekly, “a harrowing tale, bleak, haunting, often heartbreaking — and not to be missed.”

The setting for David Benioff’s City of Thieves is grim and brutal – the siege of Leningrad during World War II – yet there is also light and optimism, even laughter in this book. Lev Benioff, is a naive, 17-year-old is picked up for looting, a sentence punishable by death. Instead of the firing squad, he is thrown together with brash, confident, Red Army soldier Koyla Vaslav (arrested for deserting). They are given a task: find 12 eggs for the general’s daughter’s wedding in five days. If they succeed, they’re free; if not, they’ll be shot.

What follows is the nearly impossible search for fresh eggs in a city that has virtually no food (conservative estimates place the number of Soviet deaths during the siege at 1.7 million, most of whom starved to death) The unlikely pairing develops from forced to begrudging to a true partnership. What these two see, both the cruelty and kindness, is almost unfathomable now in our comfortable, well-fed lives, from the desperate couple resorting to cannibalism (who they barely escape from), to the former call girl that shelters artists and surgeons made homeless by the relentless bombing, to the Nazi commander they must outwit, the book is full of unforgettable characters and heart-stopping tension.

At first, you will want to hate Koyla. He is arrogant and brash and a bit of a braggart. He is also charming and charismatic and at heart, a kind and generous man who does the right thing for others time and again. Lev, who narrates the story, is full of self-doubt and (he believes) weakness, but finds unimaginged courage and strength when he needs it, partly because of Koyla.

Based on Benioff’s grandfather’s memories, this is storytelling at it’s best, the kind of book that stays with you – a story of cruelty, desperation and hardship, but also of kindness, strength, loyalty, love and friendship.

battlescapesThe scars on the landscape have faded, the roar of battle has been forgotten, and the machinations of generals and commanders and sacrifices of soldiers have slipped into the history books, but the places remain. Alfred Bullesbach set out to photograph the locations of 34 famous battles and the result is the stunning and thought-provoking Battlescapes.

Bullesbach is not a historian; he is a photographer and he approached each battlefield with a landscape photographers eye. In some cases, there are elaborate memorials or large formal cemataries; at other sites there is no evidence whatsoever that a battle took place there. Sheep graze on the grass covered trenches of the Somme where 1.5 million men lost their lives. A lush and peaceful forest stands were the Americans and Germans fought the bloody Battle of the Bulge.

Perhaps most poignant are the numerous sites from the Great War (World War I); men were buried where they fell, many of their names unknown. Small cemeteries, containing several dozen to just a few graves, have become part of the landscape, surrounded by farm fields and pastures. Each grave is still meticulously tended, with flowers and carefully mown grass.

All of the battlesites pictured are located in Europe, so Americans were only involved in the later wars (World Wars I and II), but you will have encountered many of the names in your history books – Alesia, Hastings, Agincourt, Blenheim, Waterloo. The photography is stunning with large panoramics and as well as more intimate studies for each location. A guide to visiting the battlefields concludes the book.

dday1D-Day was June 6th, 1944.  This year marks its 65th anniversary.  For those who served so long ago, let us take a moment to remember them.  As members of that generation die out, we lose those incredibly precious first-hand accounts.  For those of us born later, we can always rely on the history that has been faithfully recorded  in books and videos.

Check out D-Day:Reflections of Courage, a DVD put out by BBC Video. Shot on location and told from the various point-of-views of American, British, French and German participants, it is an excellent overview of this historic day.

ten-days-to-d-day1If you prefer a written version, try Ten Days to D-Day by David Stafford. The Normandy invasion was the largest single-day amphibious invasion of all time, landing 160,000 troops on that fateful day in June. An operation that large, involving several different governments and armies required unprecedented planning. Told from several points-of-view, from the Generals and Presidents to the soldiers and civilians, this is a gripping story of courage and sacrifice.

the-longest-dayYou might also want to take a look at The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan, the acknowledged classic of the invasion. Ryan interviewed participants shortly after the war while memories were still fresh and skillfully weaves their personal stories into the overall history. A must-read for history buffs.

And watch for the ongoing Honor Flights, now being conducted throughout the country (Davenport just sent a group in April; another is scheduled for October) Volunteers fly veterans of World War II to Washington D.C. to visit the recently built World War II Memorial. All expenses for the veterans are paid by contributions – a small return to these everyday heroes from a grateful nation.

Today is Veterans Day, a day set aside to honor military veterans. Originally called Armistice Day, it was first observed in remembrance of soldiers of the Great War (World War I) and is set on November 11, the anniversary of the armistice with Germany in 1918 (major hostilities were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month) The name of the holiday was changed in the United States to Veterans Day in 1954, and was dedicated to all veterans.

Most government offices and many businesses are closed today including the city of Davenport. However, both Davenport Library locations will be open their regular hours – Main will be open 9:30am-5:30pm and Fairmount will be open 12 noon to 8:00pm.

If you are interested in learning more about World War I than numbers and dates, I recommend that you search out Testament of Youth, Vera Brittain’s harrowing story of what happened to her, her brother, her fiance and their close friends. All of the men were thrown into the “meat grinder” of trench warfare and Vera became an Army nurse in France and Malta. Filmed as multi-part series for Masterpiece Theater, Alistair Cooke stated in his introduction that if this had been a “Hollywood movie” it would have been dismissed as unbelievable but it is in fact, all true. It is a sobering and heart wrenching look at the cost of warfare.

Today marks the anniversary of the official beginning of World War I on July 28, 1914. Now often overshadowed by the popularity of fiction and non-fiction of World War II, the First World War saw the introduction of many aspects of modern warfare including the first use of armored tanks and airplanes as fighters as well as the horrors of trench warfare and mustard gas. And although it was known as the “war to end all wars”, in many ways it contributed to the causes of the Second World War.

Poignant, horrific yet ultimately hopeful, the French language film A Very Long Engagement starring Audrey Tautou is set against the backdrop of the end of the war and it’s aftermath. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Mathilde refuses to believe that her fiance has died in the war. She launches an investigation, a search that introduces a multitude of interlocking stories and incidents. The movie shifts from the couple’s courtship before the war to the horrors of the trenches to Mathilde’s determined search after the war and back again. Throughout, Mathilde’s charm, intelligence and most of all faith remain unshakable and will make you believe too.