“I wept because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.”
These simple words lie at the heart of Ruta Sepetys’ World War II masterpiece, Salt to the Sea. In it, she tells the story of the greatest maritime disaster in history: the wreck of the Wilhelm Gustloff. A Soviet submarine sank this German ocean liner on January 30, 1945. A staggering nine thousand people perished. (By comparison, the Titanic’s death toll was one thousand five hundred.) Because the Gustloff’s passengers were refugees from Nazi-occupied lands, their deaths went largely unreported and unmourned in the English-speaking world. I have a bachelor’s and a master’s in history, yet Sepetys’ fictional account was the first I ever heard of this tragedy.
talk a lot about the glamour of the 1940s.
Of course, we all know what they mean. The classy outfits. The perfectly curled hair. Epic Hollywood blockbusters and dazzling Hollywood stars, from Casablanca to Citizen Kane, from Bergman to Bogart. Swing bands and soda fountains and “going steady” … and over it all, the distant rumble of foreign war. Just foreign enough to be thrilling, rather than terrifying.
This month’s theme is “Sleuths & Spies,” so I’m writing about a man who’s a bit of both.
I’ll be honest. I took way too long to settle on a topic for this issue, “Love Triangles.”
I sat and stared at my blank computer screen, racking my brains for something—anything!—yet coming up empty. Finally, I complained to a dear friend (and fellow Femnista writer). “Where have all the good love triangles gone? Why, oh why, can’t I think of one?”
Her response was immediate: “Sense and Sensibility! Your favorite Austen story!”
And lo, out of darkness, there appeared a great light… in my brain, that is. “Oh.” Continue reading
Few authors capture the magic of childhood as well as Rumer Godden.
Until a year ago, I’d have argued the finest example is Godden’s Christmastime classic, The Story of Holly and Ivy, dual-narrated by a lonely orphan girl and a lonely doll without an owner. Now, though, I have to admit another Godden story, The Kitchen Madonna, might just give Holly and Ivy a run for their money. Continue reading
What’s your favorite Sherlock Holmes story?
Every Holmes fan has a different answer to that question. My own has always been “The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane.” Published in 1926, “Lion’s Mane” is the final installment in the collection entitled The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes. Because the Case-Book was the last Holmes anthology Conan Doyle published, “The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane” was the last story Sherlock Holmes (in his original incarnation, at any rate) would ever appear in. Continue reading
Chaim Potok (1929-2002): New York native. Orthodox Jew. Rabbi. Bestselling author. Clearly a fascinating literary figure, by anyone’s standards. Continue reading
“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.”
When Arthur O’Shaughnessy wrote his famous ode to the power of the poet’s imagination in 1873, he had no inkling how prophetic those words would prove. A poet’s imagination and dreams molded and fired the Easter Rising of 1916—the final catalyst of Irish independence, after four centuries of British oppression. That poet was Joseph Mary Plunkett, and 1916 was his last year on earth. Continue reading
I was raised to believe in legends.
When I say that, I don’t just mean any legends. I mean the legends of the saints.
The word “legends” is not to imply that I’ve stopped believing in Catholic saints as an adult. I know they were (in most cases) real historical figures, and I have a reverence for the holy lives they led. But I now realize certain stories told about these men and women aren’t necessarily true… or, at least, aren’t verifiable. Maybe St. Patrick didn’t really turn the evil ruler into a fox and maybe St. Anthony didn’t really preach to the fishes in the sea when the townspeople cast him out. I won’t go on record saying it’s false, but I won’t go on record saying it’s true, either. Continue reading
You know it, and I know it. Superhero films are fun. They’re fast. Action-packed. Colorful. They feature inspiring journeys, by relatable protagonists—many of whom I love. Yet, even given my fondness for the genre there’s one superhero film which rests deeper in my heart than any other. And that would be… well, what else? The Winter Soldier. Continue reading