Tag Archives: World War I

The Monday Book: THE SINGING TREE by Kate Seredy

This YA novel is actually the sequel to a famous children’s classic called The Good Master. Kate and Jansci are cousins introduced in that book, when Kate is sent to live with her father’s brother’s family because she’s a spoiled city girl who has been ill.

The Singing Tree is a much deeper book, detailing the experiences of the Hungarian farmers during World War I. The book deals in childlike innocence with topics such as anti-Jewish sentiment in Hungary, the power grab of Austria, the terrible opening of the war, and how Hungarians and Germans set themselves up for future enmity.

The farm where Marton Nagy (the good master) keeps his family safe, and later shelters neighbors who lose their farms, and then houses Russian prisoners of war who work the farm while he is in the army, and finally takes in a passel of German refugee children, is a big happy place. Part of why I like this book is its sappy “Sound of Music” plot twists. (For one example, a stray cat having kittens makes Kate detour the farm wagon to an army field hospital, where missing Uncle Marton is discovered as an amnesia patient. I know, right? Eye rolling.)

And yet throughout the book are these amazing moments of writing, where true horror is simply spoken out by the beloved characters in heartbreaking poetic ways. Marton tells his family the story of Christmas 2015, when soldiers on each side of the trench separating them from killing each other the next day began lighting candles.

Light a candle for Christmas Eve, men whispered and their very words seemed to turn into tiny stars as dozens and dozens, then hundreds of candles came forth from the knapsacks to be lighted and stuck in the snow…..

Kate sighed, a long, tremulous sigh: Oh that was beautiful! What happened after?

The candles burned down, Kate, and the–darkness closed in again. Let those who made war heard the story of what happened after. Let them see.” He lifted his arm and covered his eyes.

Lots of characters fill out the pages and the plot in lovely ways, like Uncle Moses the shopkeeper and Sergei the head of the Russian prisoners, and Mother, who is described in the title. She is the tree that shelters what turns out to be more than twenty people from five nationalities on their farm. Unbelievable, except, in Seredy’s masterful style, it is.

I loved this book as a child and found additional meaning to it as an adult. Give it a read.

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The Monday Book: THE ANGEL MAKERS by Jessica Gregson

So you’re in a rural village during World War I and the guys are off fighting and you realize you’re better off without them. A few of you are, anyway. And then this prison camp of Italians gets put in nearby, and they need people to wash and cook…..

Yeah, you can kinda write the script from there. When the husbands come home, they leave again. Feet first. Through the door.

But let’s say some mothers-in-law and maybe an elderly parent or two need help across to the other side as well. How long will it take before the authorities come to investigate? And how quickly will they figure out what’s happening?

This book is all about the plot. Normally I like character-driven books, but this one had me rooting for the bad girls to the end. That plot just keeps rolling forward. It doesn’t even twist and turn. And the whole thing is the fictional retelling of a true story.

Heh heh heh.

There aren’t any particularly wonderful quotes. The writing is solid. The characters are pretty straight-forward. This is all about whodunit, and why, and whether they get caught or not.

Two syringes of poison up for this very interesting novel based on real events.

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