Saturday, July 30, 2011

New Reads:


For about a week now, I've been reading "Gone to Soldiers" by Marge Piercy. I was originally drawn to the novel by the plot summary but I won't lie, the fact that I am know in certain circles (the Order) as Marge did factor into my decision to pick up this book. I figured anything written by any Marge has to be decent. She is my homonym, if you will. I owed her this much.

I'm only about a third of the way through but it's actually very good -- as if I would expect anything less from anyone named Marge.

From the inside cover:

"With this magnificent epic of World War II, Marge Piercy moves into territory that has long been the exclusive province of such writers as Norman Mailer, James Jones, and Herman Wouk. Never before has a leading woman writer written with such authority about the cataclysmic events and passions of war. Sweeping across the globe from the United States to Europe, from the North African campaign to New Zealand, from Japan to Palestine, Gone to Soldiers brilliantly re-creates the atmosphere of the war-time capitals: the sexual abandon, the luxury and deprivation, the terror and excitement. 
Gone to Soldiers interweaves the stories of ten remarkable characters: Louise Kahan, a New York divorcee and writer of romance novels turned war correspondent... her ex-husband Oscar, a man who cannot let go of women, involved in intelligence for the OSS... Daniel Balaban, late of Shanghai and the Bronx, whose mission is to crack the Japanese codes... Bernice Coates, who escapes life as a servant to her father to fly fighters as a Women's Airforce Service Pilot... her brother Jeff, a painter who parachutes into Nazi-occupied France to fight with the Resistance... Zachary Barrington Taylor, for whom war is the most exciting game, and seduction a close second... Jacqueline Levy-Monot, who leads Jewish children over the Pyrenees to safety and fights valiantly with the marquis... her sister Naomi, a troubled adolescent discovering her identity in a tangle of sex and racial violence... their cousin Ruthie Siegal, a touching young woman who tries to keep her love for Murray, a Marine in the Pacific war, while working on an assembly line in Detroit... These are just some of the characters who wage memorable and passionate public and private battles, as war casts them into their ultimate dreams and nightmares, daring them to act out their brightest and darkest fantasies. 
Evoking the brutalities endured by those struggling to survive, in foxholes, in the camps, on the home front, or with partisans, Gone to Soldiers is a shattering and unforgettable reading experience."

The stories are good. But as expected, sometimes sad. And very hard to read. I like to breeze through the books I read but am finding it extremely difficult to do with this novel. It's slow going. And with 700 pages, it's not an easy task. I don't like to start another book until I've finished with the one I've already committed to, but I have a feeling that is what's going to happen with this one. I'll polish off a few lighter reads at the same time, but I'll keep coming back until it's done. I owe that much to my dear friend Marge.

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