Letters to a Sister : 39


Have you read any good books lately? I have just finished’ All Quiet on the Western Front’ by Erich Maria Remarque. Have you read it? It’s brilliant, some bits made me cry. I wont tell you the ending because you should read it if you haven’t already.

It’s about a group of boys, aged 18 or 19, all from the same class at school, who are called up during the first world war. It’s fictional, though Remarque was at the front during the war, so I’m guessing it’s fairly realistic. The thing that makes it even more interesting is that they are German, so you glimpse how they saw us, the enemy. It is very well written. I read a translation by Brian Murdoch and it was very easy to read, didn’t feel like a translation at all.

I think the aspect that touched me most was that the soldiers all knew each other so well. I think of young men being killed and it affecting their parents, sisters, wives. I had never really appreciated how they had sometimes grown up together, they were watching their friends die. There’s one part, when one of the characters dies and Remarque writes:
“After a few minutes he sinks down like a rubber tyre when the air escapes. What use is it to him now that he was so good at mathematics at school?”

You cannot read this book and escape how awful war is and how pointless it can seem to the young soldiers who are actually fighting it. They often discuss why they are there, what they are achieving and they never really solve it. It’s interesting because they have no hatred for the enemy, they are just doing their duty, what is expected of them. They are angry but the anger is directed at the governments, the powers that caused the war. They see it as pointless.

I read a version I bought from Amazon which is part of ‘The Collector’s Library’. They are tiny hard backed books – perfect for having in your bag when forced on shopping trips with your family. I have a few of them. Have started reading ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ now. I have too many books really but I might want to re read them so am loathe to take them to the charity shop. Perhaps I will start loaning them to people, just to get them out of the house for a while. Everyone I meet I will take a book and tell them I thought they would like to read it. That should clear a few. Husband is keen to do the same with the cats….

I discovered that Husband has been sending son ‘how to be a good boyfriend’ advice. So much I could say here. Apparently he recommended he should start the relationship with a questionnaire, find out what she was expecting/willing to offer. Said he wishes he had thought of that thirty years ago. Ha!

At church yesterday, our Pastor started to introduce a new initiative for Lent. I find that Pastors like new initiatives. If you scratch the surface, they are exactly the same things that our mother and grandmother did, just in a different wrapping. But maybe we need to be reminded to keep doing the old stuff. Anyway, his idea is that instead of giving up something for Lent (no chocolate for forty days and so on) we should do something – specifically one act of random kindness for someone each day. I felt there might be potential in this, instantly thought people might find it helpful if I let them know in the weekly bulletin that I like Fruitgums. Husband said I was missing the point.

The examples given were things like giving a stranger loose change in the carpark, or buying a coffee for the next person in the queue. To be honest, if a stranger bought me coffee next time I’m in Costa, I would find it a little freaky. Do hope the whole church isn’t added to a police ‘watch’ list. However, I can see that being kind for no reason is a good aim, one we should probably do even when it isn’t Lent. Pastor then said we would share how we were getting on during Sunday services. Might be going to St Nicks during Lent.

I like your article about Parliament (http://ruthdalyauthor.blogspot.ca/2016/01/the-palace-of-westminster-tour.html) You managed to find out lots of facts about the building – unless you made them up? Hey Ruth, we should do that. Let’s do a tour of somewhere and then just make up our own facts, both put them on our blogs and wait to see if they ever get copied. Would be so funny. Aren’t you tempted to do that when you’re writing your educational books? I know I would be – maybe I should stick to writing fiction.

I had better go. I wanted to tell you about the book so am writing this in my pyjamas.

Take care,
Anne x



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