Thought I'd share in case interests anyone whose library offers.
I wasn't really sure about this book because while Bryson's story about his trek around the continental United States was very entertaining, and quite informative, the idea about reading about somebody's childhood didn't really appeal to me – I've never been a big fan of autobiographies (or biographies in general). However I never really thought much of travelogues either before I read [book:The Lost Continent], but then I guess it had a lot to do with Bryson's rather casual, and somewhat humorous, style of writing. Anyway, this book had been sitting on myself for a while so I decided it might be worth giving it a shot.
While the book is technically an autobiography, it is more of an exploration of America in the 50s, and the way that Bryson paints the era leaves one shaking their heads at times. For instance, before Vegas was Vegas apparently people went there to watch nuclear bombs be detonated. As for television, well, the interesting thing that I noted that was in the fifties product placement wasn't just a vending machine in the background, it was somebody walking onto the set and actually plugging the product – it's something that I simply cannot imagine happening these days – even product placement, as blatant as it is at times, is nowhere as bad as what Bryson was describing.
In a way it seems that the fifties, especially as a child, was a much more innocent age, but then again I wouldn't consider driving a truck around the suburbs spraying DDT everywhere, or cigarette advertising using doctors to actually plug their product, as innocent – ignorant maybe, but not innocent. Yet in another sense there does seem to be something a lot more innocent about that time, but then again it is a filter that tends to fall over our eyes when we look back on our younger years. For instance it seems as if children were a lot less delicate then than they are now – play equipment had rough edges and we seemed to be able to get away with a lot more then than kids are able to do today. Mind you, some of reasons that the rough edges have been taken off the play equipment is because people are always looking to blame somebody for their misfortunes, and lawyers seem to have no problems encouraging people to look for that someone. I still remember when I took a couch home from work because they no longer needed it, or food was given to the homeless – not anymore, because the legal team have identified that as being too risky and exposes the company to unnecessary litigation.
In a way the fifties was certainly a special time, even though it covered are a lot of dark (or not so dark) secrets. The United States had come out on top during World War II and had almost an endless period of peace and prosperity before them. Sure, the Iron Curtain pretty quickly descended across Europe, but that was a minor issue that needed to be solved – particularly since it was a European problem as there were two massive moats separating the United States from any potential threat (and Canada is technicality an eternal friend, while Mexico ...). As such it seemed that the citizens of the United States could live a life of blissful freedom and enjoy the wealth and prosperity that had fallen upon its citizens.
Mind you, as I mentioned, there was a dark underside of all of this, particularly in relation to the idea of free speech – there really wasn't any. Okay, there was, as long as you didn't identify with certain groups, such as communists, socialists, or pretty much anybody left of Joseph McCarthy (though he did end up getting himself in a lot of trouble when he started suggesting that the Army was full of communist sympathisers). Actually the whole McCarthy era, and the idea of the reds under the beds, seems to be quite similar to another time period that we are quite familiar with, though the difference is that during the McCarthy period one couldn't necessarily blame immigrants (or people of a particular religious grouping) because the concern was entirely political, and in reality anybody could actually be a communist.
The Cold War did create a rather different environment though – as was suggested that the United States actually spent more on the military during a time of peace than they actually did throughout World War II. Mind you, while it may have been technically a time of peace, the spectre of war was always hanging over their heads, especially with the development of long range bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles. Actually, what is interesting is that despite all of the military spending it was the Russians that made the advances – such as with space flight and with the development of the ICBM, and it was the Americans that were, at least until the 60s, playing catchup.
Yet interestingly when we come to the 1960s everything seems to change – I guess it was then that America technically lost its innocence (or at least the innocence of the 50s). Not only were they confronted with a Russia that was technologically ahead of them (namely because the business of the United States was business, so if it didn't make money then there was no point in investing in it), but we also had the Vietnam War, which turned out to be pretty disastrous. Actually, the whole kafuffle with Cuba was pretty disastrous as well (and it is interesting that there is a suggestion that the whole missile crisis, which came about when the CIA believed that the Russians were trying to install missile sites in Cuba, completely missed the fact that there were quite a lot of missiles in Cuba anyway, and when the Russians agreed to remove the missiles, the United States reneged on their agreement to dismantle in missiles in Turkey – and my Dad said that the Russians couldn't be trusted).
So, what we have here is the life of your typical Baby Boomer (well, probably not your typical one because Bryson has written a number of books), the generation who actually probably had it the best. Okay, I got away with a lot more in my childhood and teenage years than what kids of today would get away with, but it seems as if this particular generation, when they grew up, literally walked into a job, and if they didn't get the first one they applied for, they would certainly get the second. In many ways they are also the ones that seem to own all of the properties, thanks to financial advisors who informed them that the value of property never falls (and they also were able to pay of their houses in much shorter times, as well has had a great environment in which to save, and to invest – which is certainly not the case at the moment). Sure, they may not have had video arcades, or Nintendoes, and when it came to special effects the movies were pretty shocking, but the impression that I got was that they had fun, and they had fun outside.
The thing that struck me the most with this book though was how Bryson describes the city of Des Moines. Sure, it is a small city (probably not much different to the city I grew up in, though I do get the impression that maybe Adelaide was a little bigger), but what he loved about it was all the different stores that lined main street. It is something that I actually quite like a well – variety. Sure, the idea that it doesn't matter what McDonalds you walk into you know what you are going to get does have its appeal, but there is something enchanting about the little coffee shop, or the independent bookshop, or even the hole in the wall bar. These little businesses gives us some character, and some life, to a city, or even a town, something that chain stores don't. They are what makes every city and town unique, because if all you end up having are chain stores, and big box department stores, then in end it simply becomes some plastic carbon copy of the place just down the road.
|Mirabelle worked for the OSS during the War. When the war was over she took a job as a debt collector's assistant. Her boss disappears and she uses her knowledge to try to find him. As she searches for him she learns of other misdeeds and murders occurring that may be related to his disappearance.
I enjoyed this book. I liked how history was pulled into the story with those attempting to escape their war crimes. Ms. Sheridan had a good sense of the time and place. I felt I was back in 1950's England. The world building is excellent.
I liked Mirabelle and Vesta. Vesta was there for comic relief but she will have a bigger role in future books, I think. I like how Mirabelle's past is woven through the story. I also liked how racism and its effect on Vesta is shown through the story. The mystery is interesting and realistic. Detective Superintendent McGregor I am unsure about. He seems to have an attraction towards Mirabelle but by the end I'm not sure about him. It will be interesting to watch the relationship develop.
I look forward to more books in this series.
Anton DiSclafani returns following The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls with her latest, THE AFTER PARTY - a world of glitz, power, glamour, privilege, and wealth in 20th century Houston—from past to present, a story of shifting identity, secrets, obsession, and at the heart –a timeless female friendship.
Set in the 1950s, in Houston’s River Oaks neighborhood (one of the wealthiest in the country), The After Party is centered around Texas socialites, frequenting the Shamrock Hotel’s Cork Club, Houston, Texas.
We meet two leading women, best friends as very young girls and growing into a complex relationship: CeCe Buchanan and Joan Fortier. Both with names “Joan”, until CeCe began using her middle name. Each taking a different path.
CeCe grew up wanting nothing more than a family, a stable marriage, a nice home and attend parties at the Shamrock Hotel (Cork Club), where the elite gathered in their finest (Think Gatsby). Nice touch with the "green" on the cover, to coincide with many shades of green for the famous hotel décor, and ongoing theme of money throughout the book. River Oaks was the place to be. Joan thought otherwise.
From past to present we flash to 1957 CeCe as an adult, married to Ray, with three-year-old son, Tommy. To the single, wild, rebellious, and free self-destructive, Joan. Told from CeCe’s point of view.
From 1937, a young girl, CeCe has always been in awe of Joan, starting as early as kindergarten. Joan had the looks, charm, and wealth. Boys flocked to her. Enigmatic.
After CeCe’s critical mom dies, while she is in high school, CeCe moves in with the Fortiers for a few years. Cece only wants to remain in the town, marry, and be a mother. She is looking for stability; something, she never had growing up, and craves it. She cannot imagine anyone desiring anything different. CeCe, a loyal subservient friend.
Joan is the complete opposite. “Houston’s most famous socialite.” Tall, blonde, bold, wild, and gorgeous. She is out for herself. She uses her looks and money to be as daring and provocative—she seeks independence; however, always relying on others to pay her way. Joan always wants something different. Rebellious. Visions of Hollywood? What would take her away from her controlling parents? She wants New York or a larger city. To spread her wings.
In Joan’s senior year of high school something changed. She left and moved away without any warning. CeCe was heartbroken, and never stopped worrying about her best friend. CeCe was always there to clean up Joan’s messes (there were plenty)! She was never envious or jealous, she liked Joan getting the attention.
However, CeCe's obsession, carried over through her married life. Joan was always at the top of her mind. She was determined to help her reckless friend find her way back.Why did she disappear without a word?
Mysteriously, Joan returns a year later. She is different. She is wilder than before. Sleeping around with multiple partners, drugs, alcohol, making scenes at social functions—Self-destruction. She did not care or give a thought to what others thought. CeCe does not understand Joan’s behavior.
What lurks behind this no care attitude and tough façade? What is she hiding? CeCe is determined to find answers to her friend’s secret. Joan continues to spiral downward with her scandalous behavior.
In the meantime, CeCe is trying to hold on to her marriage and family, with husband who wants more children, and torn with worry over her friend. Her obsession with Joan’s happiness clouds her own world. DiSclafani, slowly unravels the mystery of Joan, the secret ---a complex woman in the eyes of CeCe, and how the news will affect her.
From burdens we carry, and burdens we place on others, the power and perils of female sexuality. In a time when women had little identity. They were to marry, be the wife and mother. Joan wanted to break free; however, she relied on her parent’s money or a man to break away, versus making her own way. However, she was met with obstacles which changed the course of her life. Joan has her own secret. A part CeCe is kept in the dark.
CeCe also had her own regrets and Joan was always a part of it. There was an act between them in high school, and this is something which will always bond them. A dark secret. CeCe feels an overwhelming need to protect Joan, no matter the consequences. An eighteen-year-old girl; when a girl stops being a child.
Choices, heartbreak, chances, regrets, secrets, failing to live up, or be enough. From motherhood, strong bonds of friendship, and self, which carries you through the most turbulent times. Does your life experiences define you? Guarding your heart, putting up walls. A perfect example of how people can judge, when they do not know the individual person’s road traveled. Not all people want the same things.
I listened to the audio version and Dorothy Dillingham Bluedelivered an outstanding performance. Some of her sex scenes were hilarious, and found myself laughing out loud while running errands.
Entertaining and absorbing, a look at sexuality and struggles of women in this era; nice research. An exploration into the intricacies and emotions of friendship, society, and family pressures. From two extremes: Motherhood the traditional way, and the bold society rebellious roaring 50’s.
Looking forward to reading more from the author! I enjoyed reading about the inspiration (River Oaks) behind After the Party. I am always intrigued, further enhancing the overall reader experience. I must be on a kick, reading historic fiction of the glamour years- My third in a row!
I've just read Stitches by David Small in one sitting. I'm not saying this to brag about my reading speed but more to express how engrossing I found his art and writing. Stitches is a memoir which focuses on an event which no one should ever have had to experience. First, there's the disturbing picture of his home life and the interaction of his parents with him and with one another (and his brother). One might argue that the silence endured in his home was a result of culture at that time (it was the 1950s). However, life is hardly ever so simply explained. (If you are looking to diversify your reading experience to encompass mental illness then you should check out this book.) The entire book is without color. To me, this was a powerful choice that illustrates quite aptly how David saw his life as monochromatic and without vibrancy. Some of the pages have no dialogue whatsoever and I think some of those are the most compelling. A feeling of helplessness and fear is evoked. And to think that David Small didn't see anything particularly interesting in his life story and this book almost didn't get written... Born with poor sinuses to a scientist father it made perfect sense that David would be subjected to the 'latest' innovations in science: the x-ray. This was before it was known that repeated exposure to radiation to that degree on a child that young...you can probably guess what happened. However, communication was so poor in their household that David was ignorant of what was really going on. The name of the book denotes some of the consequences of the actions made by his parents but until you have truly read the book from cover to cover and looked at the emotive images...it's powerful stuff. This is a well-written, beautifully illustrated book that is definitely worth a shot.