where the writers are
SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY--the poignancy and power of the WWII era--I'll be seeing you!

SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY--the poignancy and power of the WWII era--I'll be seeing you!

by Virginia Campbell

When you think of “historical romance”, images from the 19th century and further back through the ages are what usually come to mind. However, since we are now in the year 2012, the 20th century is indeed “historical”. These last few years, I have found a renewed appreciation for the poignancy and realism of wartime historical romance–particularly the WWII era. I have always loved the films from that era with their superb black & white cinematography, the skill of the writers and directors, and the powerful and still mesmerizing talent of the actors and actresses. As Bogey said so memorably in the classic film, “Casablanca”: “We’ll always have Paris.”

 

I have tremendous empathy for all of our armed services members and their families. I greatly appreciate that sacrifices made so that I may enjoy a free way of life here in the United States. Seeing our service members standing so proud in their uniforms makes me want to stand up taller and straighter, shoulders back! Most of my family members who were in the military served in the U.S. NAVY. I was raised by mother and her parents, and I was given the life values of an older generation. I have always gotten along very well with older people and appreciate them as friends. One older gentleman, who was a customer where I worked at one time, became a very dear and close friend. He was a WWII Vet, a skilled carpenter, and a teller of corny jokes. He was also a very handsome man, tall and broad-shouldered with high cheekbones and brilliant blue eyes. He bore a strong resemblance to actor Charlton Heston. Our friendship lasted twenty years, until his death. My friend told me many stories of his service in the NAVY during WWII. He was a gunnery sighter on the USS Mustin in the Pacific Battle Theatre. The keen eyesight which enabled him to be a great outdoorsman in the VA mountains of his youth earned him the nick name “Eagle Eye” from his superior officers. He really made me see the horror of war. He was a very honorable and patriotic man. I miss him every day!

 

Actor Leslie Howard, who portrayed “The Scarlet Pimpernel” to perfection in the 1934 film version, was himself also a man of unseen bravery. While Leslie was immortalized by his portrayal of Ashley Wilkes in the film version of “Gone With the Wind”, he was more than just an actor: “Gone With the Wind” actor Leslie Howard will be honored as a war hero with a monument in Spain near where his plane was shot down by Nazi fighter pilots during World War II, a historical association said Saturday. The propeller-shaped sculpture will be unveiled in July near Cedeira bearing the names of those who died aboard the commercial flight from Portugal to Britain in 1943, said the Royal Green Jackets association and author Jose Rey Ximena. Association President Manuel Santiago Arenas Roca said the London-born Howard joined the Allies and campaigned hard against the Axis powers. Ximena said Germany’s government at the time apparently was worried about the negative impact the high-profile actor-director’s anti-Nazi publicity was having on its cause. Many books have been written about KLM flight 777 which was downed by a squadron of Junkers 88 fighter planes, said Ximena, who believes the star of the 1939 Academy-Award-winning “Gone with the Wind” and the 1934 movie “The Scarlet Pimpernel” had been on “a secret mission” to stop Spain joining Germany and Italy in combat. Spain, under the power of fascist dictator Gen. Francisco Franco, had formed an alliance with Adolf Hitler’s Nazi government, which based German Luftwaffe warplanes on its soil. The author said Howard’s contribution to winning the war is in danger of being forgotten. Most of the books relating to his untimely death were published in the 1950s, and the association wants to pay tribute to a man who put his fame and communication skills to work combatting Nazi propaganda. The monument will be simple: a partially damaged Douglas DC-3 propeller similar to those that were on the plane on which Howard died. It will contain the names of all the crash victims. Ximena said there was considerable evidence that Howard was targeted specifically, thus becoming a war hero. AP.

 

With the onset of WWII, numerous challenges confronted the American people. The government found it necessary to ration food, gas, and even clothing during that time. Americans were asked to conserve on everything. With not a single person unaffected by the war, rationing meant sacrifices for all. The WWII era dramatically changed the way of life for many women in the United States. “Rosie the Riveter” became an iconic symbol of the strength and adaptability of American women. The “girls they left behind” went to work in factories, businesses, USO, Red Cross, and other similar patriotic agencies. Approximately 800,000 women served in the Armed Forces in a variety of capacities. The women became self-reliant and independent of mind. When the war ended, many people found that “getting back to normal” was very difficult. Sadly, a great number of couples who had married during whirlwind courtships in the days before the service members were deployed discovered that their spouses were strangers; the person they remembered had changed. The result of all these changes was that marriage, birth and divorce rates all rose dramatically in the postwar years.

Life magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt’s photograph of an anonymous young sailor in a dark-blue uniform dipping a white-uniformed nurse backward while giving her a long kiss in the middle of Times Square on Aug. 14, 1945, became a universal symbol of the elation surrounding the news that the Japanese had surrendered and the war was finally over. The end of the war was indeed a time for celebration for the millions of American men and women service members and their families and friends.

 

The greatest way to honor all of those who served and sacrificed is to hold your loved ones close to your heart, and live your life in celebration of precious freedom. Make a new memory each day. Whether you gather together with others to observe ceremonial traditions, or you take a moment for quiet reflection, live each day to the fullest and savor the flavors of life. Today I am offering a selection of recommended reads and recipes to savor and to share. I’d love to hear your memories, special stories, and recipes from the WWII era.

 

Sarah Sundin is the author of the “Wings of Glory” series–”A Distant Melody”, “A Memory Between Us”, and “Blue Skies Tomorrow”–which follows the three Novak brothers, B-17 bomber pilots with the US Eighth Air Force stationed in England during World War II. Sarah Sundin followed an unusual career path for a novelist, receiving a bachelor’s in chemistry from UCLA and a doctorate in pharmacy from UC San Francisco. She now lives in northern California with her husband, three children, an antisocial cat, and a yellow lab determined to eat her manuscripts. When not driving kids to soccer and tennis, she works on-call as a hospital pharmacist and teaches women’s Bible studies and fourth- and fifth-grade Sunday school. She has been writing since 2000 and belongs to American Christian Fiction Writers and Christian Authors Network. She is the author of the Wings of Glory series – A Distant Melody (Revell 2010), A Memory Between Us (2010), and Blue Skies Tomorrow (August 2011). In 2011 she received the Writer of the Year Award from the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. A Memory Between Us was featured on Booklist’s Top Ten Inspirational Fiction List for 2010.

 

Tricia Goyer’s “The Liberator Series”, includes “From Dust and Ashes”, “Night Song”, “Dawn of a Thousand Nights”, and “Arms of Deliverance”. Four different tales, rich in authentic historical detail, connected by the WWII setting. Tricia Goyer is the author of twenty-six books including Beside Still Waters, The Swiss Courier, and the mommy memoir, Blue Like Play Dough. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer’s Conference in 2003. Tricia’s book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like MomSense and Thriving Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in Little Rock, Arkansas where they are part of the ministry of FamilyLife. Visit www.triciagoyer.com for more about Tricia and her books.

 

It has been a while since I have read a book where the overall story was the star, and the characters were necessary components to reach the final page. I enjoyed “Restoration”, by Olaf Olafsson, very much. The human failings and strengths of each character add shaded complexities to the horrific World War II story line. The contrast of the settings of glorious Tuscany and the destruction from bombing, killing and marauding invaders is piercing. Full review: It has been a while since I have read a book where the overall story was the star, and the characters were necessary components to reach the final page. I enjoyed “Restoration”, by Olaf Olafsson, very much. The human failings and strengths of each character add shaded complexities to the horrific World War II story line. The contrast of the settings of glorious Tuscany and the destruction from bombing, killing and marauding invaders is piercing. There is no hero or heroine in this story, but a collection of people and lives that you hope will somehow be set to rights. There are secrets, betrayals, devastating loss, and mysteries which propel the characters toward resolutions and new beginnings. Alice is the wealthy daughter of a class-conscious British family. She shocks everyone by marrying Claudio, an entitled minor-landowner, and moving with him to Tuscany. They begin their life together in a once-beautiful villa in need of much repair. As they work side by side to build a dream life, they try to ignore their underlying differences. A much-loved son, Giovanni, is born, and they find a measure of contentment. However, as the villa and its lands begin to flourish, more and more demands are made upon both Claudio and Alice. He is very much a man of the land and his dependents, and she begins to long for tastes of the life she left behind. She recklessly reaches out for greater fulfillment, and yet she is not without guilt and self-recrimination. The illness and eventual death of young Giovanni pushes Claudio and Alice further apart. Her intended reparation to their marriage is halted by Claudio’s strange disappearance. Alice is left to manage the villa and its lands with the help of a devoted family friend, Pritchett. As the war progresses, more and more seekers of sanctuary descend upon Alice and her home. One of them, a young woman named Kristin, comes bearing a serious wound and deep secrets which could gravely affect many in their wake. The effects of our actions and missteps are very much evident here, and those with survivor guilt must find a way to move forward. Chose to live, and live the life you are given. This is a book which will make you want to read it all in one setting. You will want to know how the final pieces of the puzzle fall into place. A very good read.

 

Just as the garden of “Winter Bloom” is lovingly and skillfully brought back to life, so are the lives of the characters revived and renewed. Tara Heavey tells the story of five people who work together toward a common goal and discover much about themselves and each other along the way. When young widowed mother Eva Madigan spies the sadly neglected walled garden of the elderly Mrs. Prendergast, she is struck by the desire to restore the wasted space to its former glory. Full review: Just as the garden of “Winter Bloom” is lovingly and skillfully brought back to life, so are the lives of the characters revived and renewed. Tara Heavey tells the story of five people who work together toward a common goal and discover much about themselves and each other along the way. When young widowed mother Eva Madigan spies the sadly neglected walled garden of the elderly Mrs. Prendergast, she is struck by the desire to restore the wasted space to its former glory. It takes some convincing, and Mrs. Prendergast warns her that the garden is meant to be sold, but Eva is given permission for her project. She places an ad at the grocer for help with a community garden, and only two people respond to the ad: Uri, a distinguished older gentleman, and Emily, the clerk from the grocer. Soon they are joined by Uri’s son Seth, and after a time, even Mrs. Prendergast begins to help with the work. Each of the gardeners has been touched by tragedy, and their individual stories are woven throughout the telling of the restoration. Uri, a tailor by trade, was taught much by his own father, who was a master gardener. Seth, who inherited his love of cultivating the soil from his father and grandfather, has his own landscaping business. Emily, stuck in her clerk’s job, longs to further her education and move on with her life. Mrs. Prendergast, a lady of impeccable social grace, is nonetheless rumored to have killed her husband and buried him somewhere in the garden. It is her greedy, needy son, Lance, who is pressuring her to sell the land. Eva’s husband took their baby daughter for a drive to settle her crying, and they were both killed in a terrible accident. Eva was left to care for their young son, Liam, and to manage her survivor guilt. These are remarkable people, trying their best to live “ordinary” lives. I was touched by their heartaches, and I celebrated with them their joys. Their shared experience was an affirmation of life, not only for the characters, but also for the reader. I will definitely read more work by the wonderful storyteller, Tara Heavey!

 

Prepare to have your eyes opened, your heart broken, and your view of the amazing endurance of the human spirit revised and revived. You will experience all of these things when you read Rosie Alison’s “The Very Thought of You”. A shattering, yet spirit-sustaining, glimpse into loss and survivorship, this is a story which will resonate with many. Few will be unaffected. Full review: Prepare to have your eyes opened, your heart broken, and your view of the amazing endurance of the human spirit revised and revived. You will experience all of these things when you read Rosie Alison’s “The Very Thought of You”. A shattering, yet spirit-sustaining, glimpse into loss and survivorship, this is a story which will resonate with many. Few will be unaffected. In the summer of 1939, with the impending threats of WWII devastation looming large, thousands of children were evacuated from London, sent to safer locations in the surrounding countryside. These children were torn from their homes and separated from their parents, and no one could be certain what the future would hold. “The Very Thought of You” focuses on one such child, Anna Sands, relocated to the wealthy manor home of Thomas and Elizabeth Ashton. Childless themselves, the Ashtons welcome the children and provide them with care and an education. It is the gallant and gentle Thomas who becomes a touchstone in Anna’s life. He is a man who suffers great loss and unspeakable tragedy, yet he lives his life with appreciation for the beauty he sees among the devastation. True love comes to Thomas in midlife, but it is not a love with whom he will be allowed to share life on earth. However, even death cannot dim the luminescence of this love. Your heart will ache for Thomas, but his soul remains undaunted through it all. As with many who have experienced the shock of wartime desolation, Anna searches throughout her life for real peace of mind. As a married adult, with children of her own, Anna finds some measure of comfort in reconnecting with Thomas. They form a somewhat tentative, but still caring relationship, keeping touch in letters and Christmas cards. Ultimately, Anna’s search for fulfillment will come full circle and bring her once again to Ashton Manor. As the song says: “The very thought of you, and I forget to do those little ordinary things that everyone ought to do….”. This story and these characters are neither little nor ordinary. They will stay in the reader’s consciousness for a very long time.

 

“The Soldier’s Wife” by Margaret Leroy is a thoughtful, well-told tale based on the true German occupation of the small Channel Island of Guernsey during World War II. After I read the novel, I researched the facts of the occupation, and the real story is just as compelling as the fictional account. Full review: I have just read a wonderful book which brought home to me how precious freedom really is, and how high the cost is of preserving that freedom. “The Soldier’s Wife” by Margaret Leroy is a thoughtful, well-told tale based on the true German occupation of the small Channel Island of Guernsey during World War II. After I read the novel, I researched the facts of the occupation, and the real story is just as compelling as the fictional account. Reading them both enhances the collective story content. Vivienne de la Mare is the wife of an English soldier, and she and her two daughters live with her mother-in-law at the family home in Guernsey. Vivienne’s husband was absent from her life long before he went off to war. His affair with an actress alienated him from Vivienne’s heart. Left to care for her mother-in-law, who is rapidly succumbing to dementia, Vivienne makes life as pleasant as possible for her two young daughters. When the German occupation arrives in an intense and violent manner, many rapid changes occur in the life of the islanders. German soldiers take over the empty house next to Vivienne’s, and she becomes involved with one the officers. Theirs is a poignant, passionate, and ultimately improbable affair. During the time of the occupation, Vivienne is faced with many difficult decisions, some of which may have dangerous consequences for those she loves. “The Soldier’s Wife” is written in a beautifully descriptive style, and it offers glimpses into both sides of the horror of the Second World War. The shades of survivorship are well represented.

 

My mother and grandparents often talked about food shortages and rationing during the Great Depression and also later during World War II. My grandparents were very resourceful, skilled in gardening and preserving food, and they were practical in making the most of what was available. As a matter of survival, the characters in “The Soldier’s Wife” had to learn to do the same thing. Used to the bountiful produce from the land and the sea, and the superior dairy products from the famous Guernsey cows, the islanders suddenly were faced with scrambling to find substitutions for everyday foods. They learned to use vegetables in many different ways including making flour from dried ground beans and coffee from roasted and ground parsnips. I am not sure that I would be that resourceful, but we never know what we are capable of until we are faced with great challenges. One of my favorite scenes in “The Soldier’s Wife” involves the rapture of Vivienne’s struggling family’s enjoyment of an unexpected gift of overripe peaches. The fruit was sweet and succulent, and it seemed like a taste of Heaven. The juice from the peaches ran freely down their chins as they gratefully devoured their fruity treasure.

 

SAUSAGE STOVIES

2 lb Potatoes
1 lb Onions
1 lb Link Sausages (remove casing)
1/2 tsp dried Sage
1/2 tsp dried Thyme
2 Beef Stock Cubes
Salt and Pepper

Peel and slice the potatoes and peel and chop the onions. Dice the sausages. In a baking dish put a layer of potatoes, a layer of onions and a layer of sausage. Season to taste and sprinkle over half the herbs. Continue the layers until you have used up all the ingredients, ending with a layer of potatoes. Sprinkle on the rest of the herbs. Dissolve the stock cubes in 1 pint of hot water and pour into the baking dish. Bake in a medium oven 350F, for 40 Minutes. Serve with crisp green cabbage.

 

CREAMED CHIPPED BEEF ON TOAST

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1 4-ounce package of chipped beef, broken in pieces
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour until smooth and heat until bubbly. Gradually stir in milk and continue stirring to keep from getting lumpy. The mixture – which is white sauce – will gradually thicken. Add the chipped beef, separating the pieces, and keep over low heat about five minutes. Add salt and pepper as desired. Serve over toast. Recipe makes four servings.

 

BEEF STEW WITH DUMPLINGS

1 lb. cubed stewing beef
2 tablespoons fat
3/4 cup diced carrots
3/4 cup diced turnips
8-10 small white onions

Brown 1 pound cubed stewing beef in 2 tablespoons fat. Add 5 cups water and season with salt, pepper bay leaf, thyme and Worcestershire Sauce. Simmer, covered, until meat is nearly tender. Add 3/4 cup each diced carrots and turnips and 8 to 10 small white onions. (Any desired combinations of vegetables and seasonings may be used.) Cook until vegetables are done. Thicken stew slightly with flour and water paste. Drop feather dumplings on simmering stew, cover tightly, and simmer 14 minutes. Makes 6 servings.

Dumplings

1 cup sifted flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons melted fat

Sift flour once, measure, add baking powder and salt, and sift again. Add milk and fat. Then stir quickly and lightly until a very soft dough is formed. Drip by small spoonfuls on simmering stew, making sure each dumpling rests on meat or vegetables. (Dumplings should not settle in liquid. If necessary, pour off excess gravy, returning it to stew after the dumplings are cooked.) Cover kettle tightly and cook gently 14 minutes. Do not remove cover while dumplings cook. Makes 6 to 8 servings. Note: For the fat, use a little fat skimmed from stew in making these dumplings. It gives extra desired taste.

 

CABBAGE & APPLE SPAM SUPPER

1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup honey
2 cooking apples, sliced 1/4″ inch
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3 cups shredded cabbage
1/4 tsp ground cloves
12-oz can SPAM, cubed 1/2″ inch

In skillet melt butter over medium heat. Add remaining ingredients; toss to combine. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until apples and cabbage are tender and SPAM is heated through (10 to 12 minutes).

 

HEARTY BEAN SOUP

2 cups dried pinto beans, wash and soak overnight
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 20 oz can SPAM, cubed 1/2″
2 tbsp chili powder
1 quart water
3 bay leaves
2 (13-oz) cans tomato juice
1 tsp oregano
1 (14-oz) cans chicken stock
1 tsp cumin
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp thyme

In 4-quart saucepan add all ingredients; stir to blend. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low; continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until soup is thickened (3 to 4 hours). Remove bay leaves.

 

MUD HENS

2 sticks butter
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 large eggs, well beaten
2 c. self-rising flour
1 c. chopped pecans or walnuts
2 tsp. pure vanilla

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Melt butter and add sugars. Blend well by hand. Add beaten eggs, stir well. Add self-rising flour and stir until all lumps are gone, just until blended. Add pecans and vanilla. Turn out
into a greased and floured 9×13-inch baking dish. Spread with fingers or a spatula dipped in water to cover dish. Bake approximately 35 to 40 minutes, being cautious not to over cook. When cool, cut into squares and enjoy!

 

SALMON PATTIES WITH CREAMED PEAS

15 1/2 oz. can salmon, drained, flaked
1 c. mashed potato flakes
1/4 c. chopped onion
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 10. pkg. frozen peas
1 tsp. prepared mustard 2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 c. mashed potato flakes
2 tbsp. butter

SAUCE:

1/2 c. mayonnaise
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. dill weed
Cook peas as directed on package; set aside. In large bowl, combine salmon, 1 cup potato flakes, onion, lemon juice, mustard and 2 eggs; form into 4 patties. Coat patties with 1/4 cup potato flakes. In large skillet over medium heat, melt butter. Fry patties 3 to 4 minutes or until browned, turning once. Meanwhile, in small saucepan combine all sauce ingredients; blend well. Cook over low heat until thoroughly heated. DO NOT BOIL. Stir in peas. Serve over patties. 4 servings.

 

APPLE FRITTERS

1 c. flour
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 c milk
1 1/2 c baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
3 or 4 tart apples

Sift flour, add baking powder, sugar and salt – then sift again. Add milk and well beaten egg. Mix well. Pare and core apples. Cut in slices crossways, 1/4 inch thick. Dip each slice of apple in the batter and fry in deep, hot fat until brown. Drain on absorbent paper. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Makes 12-14 fritters.

 

WAR CAKE

“War Cake uses ingredients that were available to the average household during World War II. Great served with whipped topping! ”

1 lb. raisins
2 c. boiling water
1 tbsp. baking soda
1/2 c. shortening
1 c. cold water
4 c. flour
2 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cloves
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 c. walnuts, chopped

Simmer the raisins and the boiling water for 15 minutes. Allow to cool. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add cooked raisins along with cooking liquid. Bake in a tube pan, at 325 degrees, for about 1 hour, or until well browned. Cool before slicing. This cake is called “War Cake” because there are no eggs, butter, or milk among the ingredients, items often in short supply during wartime.