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Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

email: margalitc at yahoo dot com

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Monday, July 25, 2011

The Very Thought of You

Love feels differently at different times of your life. Love for a spouse may be different than love for a teacher that has shown you how valuable you are. Love for a parent can be mixed with fear or misunderstanding. But regardless of how love comes into our lives, it is a rare person that cannot feel love. Even rarer is a person that feels love, but the love is mixed with emotions that make it impossible to melt into the love. When a story about love is so tinged with sadness that it makes you question your own lives and loves, it is a valuable tool as well as an escape.

The Very Thought of You” by Rosie Alison is such a book. This is the author’s first novel and it glimmers with such incredible emotion, such pathos, such tragedy, and such un-abiding love that I found myself sobbing through the last quarter of the novel. This is a book with not one, but a plethora of loves gone awry in the backdrop of WWII England. Like you, I thought that I had read plenty on this topic and didn’t really have high hopes for loving this book as much as I did. War, Blitz, London, evacuees…. It’s been done and done again. But it has never been done quite as gloriously as Ms Alison’s tale of young Anna Sands, a bright, talented and smart young girl evacuated to the very north of England to spend her war years in a stately manor called Ashton Park. In the summer of 1939, Anna’s mother decides to send Anna away from London as an evacuee. Along with many other children from London, Anna bids her mother goodbye at St Pancras station, leaving her mother alone in London. Meanwhile, Anna’s father is in North Africa during the war, fighting against the Nazi’s.

Anna arrives in York and is bussed with a few children she knew from her school in London, and many more children she did not, to a huge manor house owned by the very wealthy Thomas and Elizabeth Ashton. Thomas had survived a bout of polio that kept him confined to a wheel chair, and Elizabeth was less than dutiful in helping him to assuage his guilt that he could not father a child with her. The couple decided to open their home to 86 evacuee children, and to school them for the entirety of the war. They also took on teachers, and Thomas, a classical scholar himself, taught Latin, and later poetry alongside Ruth Weir, the literature teacher. The Ashton marriage is not a happy one, sullied by infertility that was always assumed to be the fault of Thomas’s illness, but in truth was Elizabeth’s problem, which she figured out from her affairs with men outside of her marriage.

As time went on, Elizabeth took to private drinking at night, and was bitter and mean during the day.  She also fell in love with a Polish artist that had escaped Poland with the help of Thomas’s friend Col. Norton, and came to live in Ashton Park, where he was employed as the art teacher. It was their affair that led Elizabeth to realize that she would never have a full womb, something she absolutely could not reconcile, even amongst a gaggle of happy children running through her home.

Anna, a sensitive and astute young girl, twice finds herself witnessing the unraveling of the Ashton’s marriage. Once night through an open bedroom door she saw a drunken,  naked Elizabeth screaming obscenities at her disabled husband, and then she witnessed the love of Thomas and the literature teacher in an abandoned maids bedroom. When Anna’s mother is killed during the blitz, Anna turns to Thomas for comfort and unwittingly falls in love with him, easy due to the lack of love she’s felt since her evacuation. However, that filial love grew asunder inside her and twists into something that affects her entire adult life. As Thomas’s love affair with Ruth grows ever deeper, Thomas asks Elizabeth to end their loveless marriage so they can both be free. Elizabeth guesses that Ruth is pregnant with Thomas’s child, something that would never happen to her, and she becomes enraged, seeking revenge that ends both her life, and the lives of Ruth and the unborn child.

When she was 12, Anna’s father comes to collect her and take her back to London as the war ends. She goes sadly, realizing that her years in Ashton Park were her childhood, and it was happy and filled with the love of learning, her teachers, and especially Thomas, her mentor and secret friend.

Although Anna was home, and went on to Oxford to complete her education, then finding a job as an editor at a small publishing house, her marriage felt incomplete and wrong. She had two children that she loved, but was living a life almost parallel to Elizabeth Ashton so many years ago. For Anna to understand what was happening to her, she needed to go back in time to confront the past. In order to heal herself and her relationships, she needed to learn about her love, and the love that has confounded her all these years.

This isn’t an easy book to read. The  beautifully written and researched story is profoundly tragic and the happy ending you wish for just isn’t there. But there is a clear and satisfying conclusion that will leave you almost stunned, trying to catch your breath.

It is rare that I love a novel so much that I believe every single page is perfection. The old editor in me tends to find places where I would have cut a paragraph or even a scene. Not so with this book. It is golden, just as it is. A first novel this good needs to be spread far and wide. It is indeed one of those books you want to remember the rest of your life. It is that good.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Klout

When I put the lout badge on this site, I wasn't really sure it would add any value to this blog. I've got a modest readership and I like it that way. Being popular or controversial just makes people want to be mean to you, and I get enough of that at home, thank you very much.

However, last night I started seeing people on twitter talking about a European music service that was never before available in the USA. American accounts were opening up for people that used Klout, so I went to the Klout web site, signed up for Spotify, and TaDa! I got an account. Only 7000 people had an account when I got mine, but I'm betting they will be in the millions by Monday night.

This is the second cutting edge application I've gotten an account on this week. First it was Google +, now Spotify. I'm feeling very internet progressive. Go ahead and call me old, but I'm right up there with the spring chickens when it comes to the 'net.

I spent about an hour setting up a new playlist that will keep me alert. At one point Graham came in and let me know I was listening to Kanye West,. Um yeah, I was aware! Next I am going to put a sing along playlist for when I need to be belting out tunes. Now that I don't drive I don't listen to the radio, and I hate all that GAGA/Beyonce pap. I like my music with a message, with a tune, a good beat and easy to dance to. OK, who gets that reference?

So what are you listening to these days?

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Thursday, July 07, 2011

To accompany yesterday's post

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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Astounded, but not surprised

Facebook can be a real cesspool of commentary, especially if you have gotten political sites linked to you. I love politics. I love pretty much everything about it, from the bad behavior and inane commentary to the heroic and sincere attempts to make government work for everyone. I'm opinionated, I get pissed, I can be more passionate than is healthy, and occasionally I can get rabid.

What I don't like about politics is the dumbasses that never even attempt to research a stance, they just blindly follow a party or a candidate without knowing anything. That drives me nuts.

But what really grinds my goat is when certain idiots blame the ills of the world on a cultural, ethnic, or religious group.  That goes beyond the pale for me, especially when the jerks posting these comments use derogatory names to make their sick little remarks.

You'll never guess who is being blamed for the fall of civilization this time. I'll give you a hint. They killed Jesus, they control the media, they bombed the world trade center, they kill Christian children for the blood that they use to make matzohs, and they totally faked the holocaust. Yup, those damn Joos. The ones that are starving the Palestinians, that started the wars in Iran and Iraq, all the while controlling what you see on TV and read in the papers.

The thing is, that behavior is against the Terms of Service on Facebook, and it is extremely easy to report them and block them. If they have no place to post this crap, it will make the internet a nicer place.

People are always going to blame the Joos. We're a tint minority, but we are a white minority. We are successful based on our high levels of education. We are insular, close knit, and paranoid about living amongst so many Christians that hate us. Never mind the Muslims. Jews make up between 6 and 6.5 million people according to the US census 2009. There are as many Jews here in the USA as there were killed by the Nazis. According to the Jewish Federations, there are far fewer Jews in the US. Wikipedia says that 1.7% of the population identifies as Jewish. In other words there ain't a lot of us out there but we still scare the bejezus out of the TEA party adherents. Kinda funny in a sicko weird way.

Thing is, I'm really tired of being the defender of my faith on the Internet. I've been doing it for 20 years and it is getting really old and stale. Oh, for a millisecond the Muslims were our worst enemies, but now we defend them and apologize for the morons that act out against them. Who does that for the Jews? In this country antisemitism is festering right under the skin. It is everywhere and it is growing.

Do you do anything to stop it? Do you report anti-semetic posts and comments on Facebook and Twitter. Do you laugh at jokes about Jews? Or tell them yourselves? Have you ever researched the contributions Jews have made for the world?  Um, yeah.

What such a small number of people have contributed to the world at large is remarkable and something to be respected. Tikkun Olam, to repair the world, is one of the basic tenets of Judaism. We do good for the world because it is part of who we are.

If there is only one thing you know about Judaism, let it be Tikkun Olam. OK?

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Monday, July 04, 2011

Meet Sulky Sue

I've been a sulky Sue the last couple of days. It isn't anything in particular, rather a series of communication misunderstandings, some careless thinking on the part of my kids, and a dirty kitchen I'm sick to dealt of looking at, but don't have the gumption to get off my fat ass and clean it. Boy, do I miss having a home health care aide that cleaned on a weekly basis. That was such luxury and so badly needed. Now? Half-assed cleaning at it's most mediocre.

I'm pissed that no matter how many times I brought up the fireworks this weekend, my kids didn't seem the least bit enthusiastic about being with me. Last night they basically snuck out of the house to go to the fireworks in Needham. No, they didn't ask me to go, even though the driver is a friend of  Grahams that is staying with us because his parents won't let him stay alone at their house whilst they are in NJ.

This morning I brought it up again and Gemma made some lame excuse and then took off for the afternoon. Then Graham and friend left to go have a BBQ at friends back yard with the fancy outdoor kitchen, taking all of our condiments with them. Graham is home minus the condiments but still with friend, Gemma is in Newton at boyfriends house and they both swear they are not going to the fireworks.

I'm just annoyed because this should be a family day, but we don't seem to have those anymore. They live with me, but want nothing to do with me. I hate this. I know it will change, that it is the age, etc. But I have all the misery of empty nest syndrome complicated with the pig sty that is living with teens. 

It is like I'm being punished. I just want to spend a little time with them doing family-type stuff. Is that too much to ask?

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