Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Book review plus last minute travel stuff

Do you ever feel like the book you are reading is having an effect on your mood? I just finished Herman Wouk's massive series about World War II: Winds of War and War and Remembrance. I learned my lesson. Don't judge the book by the cheesetastic miniseries it was made into. I thought I didn't like Herman Wouk because Marjorie Morningstar is so bad, but these books are really good. There is no way a movie could do justice to them.

Brief plot sketch: Victor Henry is a highly placed naval officer who is assigned to be an attache in Berlin in 1939, where he meets Hitler and Goring and rents a house whose Jewish owner has been evicted. His job sends him all over the world as the war progresses. Meanwhile, his two sons are in the navy, one of whom marries a Jewish woman, Natalie, who he meets in Italy. It's the Natalie story that makes these books so good. She's American, but ends up trapped in Europe, trying to help her uncle get out of Italy. The character development is really well done. Wouk also sometimes writes from the perspective of the SS officers. You wonder if the horror of what they were doing was so monumental that they were able to block it from their consciousness, and talk of a day's work at Auschwitz in the same tone as if of a day's work at a sewing machine factory.

There is some analysis of the German character in the books, and this was uncomfortable reading for me, as I am part German and have many of these character traits: hyper-organized, systematic, thorough, detail-oriented. Those aren't bad traits in general, but when applied to the annihilation of an entire race of people, the consequences are devastating, as we know. It felt odd to me, to read about the grotesque "beautification" of Thierenstadt, a concentration camp, for the benefit of visiting Red Cross officials, while I simultaneously micromanaged every detail of our trip.

What's funny is that I was so engrossed in these books and getting ready for our trip that I completely forgot to pay the bills. I have never done that before in my entire life. I paid them today, but my credit card payment will be late, for the first time ever. The utilities are all late too, although that's not as big a deal as the credit card.

So we are going. I printed our flight itinerary and realized we are flying two hours earlier than I had thought. At least I found out today, and not the morning of the trip. We have a long drive to the airport, since flying out of Charlottesville is not practical. We did packing practice on Monday, and that was such a huge headache, that we decided to leave the bags packed and just stay packed. Not that we're completely packed, oh no. There are still about 10,000 last-minute things to pack and see to.

* I had to get Drama Queen's inhaler refilled, and I stocked up on essential medicines:
* ibuprofen, which is my cure-all for everything.
* Benadryl, for airsickness and in case one of us has an allergic reaction to something.
* Lots of bandaids for our feet, which are sure to be sore and blistered.
* Antibiotic cream for the blisters.
* Aspirin, in case Jon or I has a heart attack or stroke from the stress of all this.
* Sunscreen.
* Nice new sketchbooks for Drama Queen and Mr. McP, the two artists in the family.
* ebony pencils for the sketchbooks, since those are the best kind, Drama Queen tells me.
* a journal for each child that they must write in each day.
* I contacted the apartment agency to confirm the details of our stay and was assured that everything is in order.
* I'm still waiting for our rented Italian cell phones, but they should come today.

Wish us luck and a safe trip!


  1. I agree, the Wouk books are much better than the movies. But isnt' that always the case?

    Have a great time in Italy!!!

  2. You think of everything!
    Thanks--I've never read a review of his books and now I am intrigued.

  3. Good luck and a safe trip!

  4. This is going to be the best vacation ever! Good luck! Have a safe trip!

  5. Have a great time, take lots of pics. Your kids are going to have the best "what I did on my summer vacation" stories.