Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘“A Star for Mrs. Blake” by April Smith’

 

As we commemorate the 100th anniversary of the armistice ending World War I, I am reminded of a book of fiction I read over a year ago and wrote briefly about here.  “A Star for Mrs. Blake” by April Smith, is a fictional account of a real act of Congress in the aftermath of the Great War.

In 1929, the United States government passed legislation that paid for Gold Star Mothers to travel to France to visit the graves of their sons who were killed in battle in WWI and were buried there. More than 6,000 Gold Star Mothers made this journey over a  three year period following the enactment of this legislation. They traveled, at the expense of the United States government, from all over the country to New York. The women had some time to rest after their journeys, then boarded ships and made the long crossing to France where they again rested and explored Paris before they continued their pilgrimage to their sons’ graves at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Verdun.

In this fictional account, Cora Blake, the main character, travels with other mothers from all walks of life. Cora is from a small fishing village in Maine. Other mothers are from the midwest, the Pacific Coast, big cities and farms. They are rich, poor, of color, and immigrants who came to America only to lose sons who left to fight the war. As dissimilar as they are, they are all joined in their loss. The mothers are referred to as “pilgrims” journeying to see their loved ones’ graves. Secrets, prejudices, fear, intrigue, murder and deception are all part and parcel of the story, as well as understanding, closure and both the good and the not-so of the military.

In France, Mrs. Blake (Cora) befriends a disfigured American journalist, Griffin Reed. Griffin was wounded in the trenches. He has a “tin nose” and hides behind a metal mask. An expatriate, Griffin was exposed to gas attacks while covering the war. So many soldiers were wounded by these horrific attacks  during WWI.I found Griffin’s story hard to read as I learned more precisely of the aftereffects of gas attacks. He survived his injuries only to battle the demons of drug addiction for his pain, both physical and emotional, as he is slowly dies of lead poisoning contracted from the metal mask he wears to hide his facial deformities.

“A Star for Mrs. Blake” was, for the most part, an engaging read about an actual program instituted by Herbert Hoover following WWI as the Great Depression consumed the country. It deals with the tragedies of war, prejudices, injustices, death as well as illustrating historical events of the era, travel during the 30’s, social classes and so many other issues. Mostly, it deals with the loss of loved ones. The book had me heading to Google to read about this particular legislation, ocean journeys, gas poisoning, lead poisoning – and more. Have you read this or similar books?

In closing, as this posts on Veterans Day, thank you to all veterans who have served, who have given the greatest of sacrifices, who still do. My hope, especially today, is that we extend the best of medical care to our veterans; for their injuries that are visible and that we can see, and for injuries that we can’t. 

The book cover is from Amazon

 

 

Read Full Post »

About half past life’s more trying moments, as the minute hand ticks round and round and the hour hand stands still, we hold our breath in worry over what comes next then something fine sometimes happens. In these in between moments,  we can feel lonely, sad, perhaps defeated, then,  an invitation arrives, a date is set, a gathering is planned and those trying moments are held in blissful abeyance. We plan ahead and mark the days for when new memories are made.

So it is during this rather stormy summer season that some bits and pieces of joy have been tied together into a lovely bouquet of life which has filled me up with gratitude.

As I attempted to put two special happenings together into one post, I realized that I simply could not. Each deserves its own space – and you, dear reader, do not need a thousand words to read.

So . . . this is a mere preface to two blog posts I am fussing with and hope to have written soon.

In-the-meantime, a brief book review.

I recently read “A Star for Mrs. Blake” by April Smith. This is a historical novel about the Gold Star mothers from across America who were transported by ship in 1929 by the US government. By boat and rail and other conveyances, these pilgrims, as they were referred to, travelled to France to see the graves and battle sites of their sons; mostly young men who died in battle or from wounds during WWI.  This is a touching story of the mothers’ journey and it is enlightening about the circumstances of that war. Among the many issues explored, one that was new to me, was the unintended consequences caused by the material used in face masks that were made for men who were disfigured after being attacked by gas. These men survived their injuries but later lost their lives to lead poisoning from the masks.

“A Star for Mrs. Blake” is an interesting read with several characters, Mrs. Blake being the primary one, and it is a glimpse into a lesser known chapter in the years after WWI.  It deserves a more comprehensive post, but. . . there are those two other l posts percolating right now.

Thank you, Dee Ready, for this recommendation.

Have you read anything interesting lately?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Dining with Donald

Donald on Dining in and Out.

definearth

writing about the environmental issues nobody is writing about.

Poesy plus Polemics

Words of Wonder, Worry and Whimsy

Jill Weatherholt

Writing Stories of Love, Faith and Happy Endings While Enjoying the Journey

Barnstorming

Barnstorming: Seeking Sanctuary in the Seasons of a Rural Life

Mike McCurry's Daily Blog

Creative information about Real Estate and Life in the Western Suburbs of Chicago

ChicagoNatureNOW!

Chicago's Weekly Wildflower Report, News, Best Nature Hikes & Outdoor Getaways

Interrupting the Silence

An Episcopal Priest's Sermons, Prayers, and Reflections on Life, Becoming Human, and Discovering Our Divinity

The Pioneer Girl Project

Laura Ingalls Wilder's Pioneer Girl

I didn't have my glasses on....

A trip through life with fingers crossed and eternal optimism.

El Space--The Blog of L. Marie

Thoughts about writing and life

Leaf And Twig

Where observation and imagination meet nature in poetry.

Apple Pie and Napalm

music lover, truth teller, homey philosophy

Petals. Paper. Simple Thymes

"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." William Wordsworth

My Chicago Botanic Garden

A blog for visitors to the Garden.

Living Designs

Circles of Life: My professional background in Foods and Nutrition (MS, Registered and Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist, RDN, LDN) provides the background for my personal interests in nutrition, foods and cooking; health and wellness; environment and sustainability.

Women Making Strides

Be a Leader in Your Own Life

Middlemay Farm

Katahdin Sheep, Chickens, Ducks, Dogs and Novelist Adrienne Morris live here (with humans).

Book Snob

FOR DISCERNING READERS

teacups & buttercups

An old fashioned heart

Andra Watkins

Acclaimed Speaker ~ New York Times Bestselling Author

Louisa May Alcott is My Passion

Begun in 2010, this blog offers analysis and reflection by Susan Bailey on the life, works and legacy of Louisa May Alcott and her family. Susan is an active member and supporter of the Louisa May Alcott Society, the Fruitlands Museum and Louisa May Alcott's Orchard House.

breathelighter

Reducing stress one exhale at a time

Kate Shrewsday

A thousand thousand stories

Blogging from the Bog

musings from and about our cottage in the West of Ireland