Author web site
Two years ago, I read the first two books in Follett's Century Trilogy (see post) which began a love for historical fiction and initiated a reading spree of World War II that continues to this day; also spawning interest in the subsequent Korean and Vietnam Wars.
I pre-ordered the book and began reading upon receipt. Follett begins the narrative in 1961 and continues to follow the same families (American, British, German and Russian) introduced in the first two books.
In this lengthy book (1,098 pages), I was disappointed that the Korean War was completely skipped, but that is just par for the course - another example of how it is truly the "Forgotten War." That said, Follett did not focus on the Vietnam War either, rather turning his attention to the Civil Rights movement in American and the Cold War with Russia, specifically the Cuban Missile Crisis. Very gripping reading - I did not realize how close we were to a nuclear war which could've wiped us out.
The book ends with the events that led to the demise of communism in Eastern Europe, culminating in the dramatic fall of the Berlin Wall.
I found this particular quote of a semi-retired CIA officer as he watched the fall of the Berlin Wall on television - very telling of our foreign policy decisions:
Everything we did was completely ineffective. Despite all our efforts Vietnam, Cuba, and Nicaragua became Communist countries. Look at other places where we tried to prevent Communism: Iran, Guatemala, Chile, Cambodia, Laos….None of them does us much credit. And now Eastern Europe is abandoning Communism with no help from us.To say the twentieth century was tumultuous is an understatement, Follett has done a great job bringing it to life and making this reader, formally uninterested in history, a convert.
I loved it - evidenced by the numerous dog-eared pages and marks (underline, circles, exclamation marks, asterisks and comments) within the margins.
How he found poetry and what it has meant in his life reminds me of Anne Sexton - both say that poetry had literally saved them.
When he was twelve, Orr was responsible for a hunting accident that killed his younger brother. While his parents did not blame him, they were unable to talk about it due to their profound grief. He was left unconsolable. Then two years later, his mother died after a common medical procedure. Trauma upon trauma inflicted on this young adolescent's soul.
Lucky for him, a high school English teacher exposed him to poetry and he has not looked back.
I wrote a poem one day, and it changed my life. I had a sudden sense that the language in poetry was "magical," unlike language in fiction: that it could create or transform reality rather than simply describe it. That first poem I wrote was a simple, escapist fantasy, but it liberated the enormous energy of my despair and oppression as nothing before had ever done. I felt simultaneously revealed to myself and freed of my self by the images and actions of the poem.and
When someone, in the throes of a powerful and disturbing experience, turns instinctively to the writing or reading of a poem, it is because they sense the personal lyric can be a powerful aid in helping them survive and make sense of their experience.Orr is a professor of English at the University of Virginia. Reading this book gave me a sense of being in a seminar class on how poetry, specifically the personal lyric, has saved him. It reads like a memoir, peppered with the poems and lines of poetry that he knows and loves. I have transposed a number of these poems into my own personal poetry journal.
- Back by Jane Kenyon
- Hallowe'en by Lisa Spar
- Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen
- It struck me - every Day and I felt a Funeral, in my Brain by Emily Dickinson
There is much more to say about this life changing (strong words but true!) book which I hope to do on Josh's blog.
Would highly recommend!!!
Other books by Orr:
- The Blessing: A Memoir (2002)
- The Caged Owl: New and Selected Poems (2002)
- Concerning the Book That is the Body of the Beloved (2005)
- How Beautiful the Beloved (2009)
- River Inside the River: Poems (2013)