The Love-charm of Bombs

The Love-charm of Bombs

Restless Lives in the Second World War

Book - 2013
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'The nightly routine of sirens, barrage, the probing raider, the unmistakable engine ... the bomb-bursts moving nearer and then moving away, hold one like a love-charm' -- Graham Greene

When the first bombs fell on London in August 1940, the city was transformed overnight into a strange kind of battlefield. For most Londoners, the sirens, guns, planes, and bombs brought sleepless nights, fear and loss. But for a group of writers, the war became an incomparably vivid source of inspiration, the blazing streets scenes of exhilaration in which fear could transmute into love. In this powerful chronicle of literary life under the Blitz, Lara Feigel vividly conjures the lives of five prominent writers: Elizabeth Bowen, Graham Greene, Rose Macaulay, Hilde Spiel and the novelist Henry Green. Starting with a sparklingly detailed recreation of a single night of September 1940, the narrative traces the tempestuous experiences of these five figures through five years in London and Ireland, followed by postwar Vienna and Berlin.

Volunteering to drive ambulances, patrol the streets and fight fires, the protagonists all exhibited a unified spirit of a nation under siege, but as individuals their emotions were more volatile. As the sky whistled and the ground shook, nerves were tested, loyalties examined and torrid affairs undertaken. Literary historian and journalist Feigel brilliantly and beautifully interweaves the letters, diaries, journalism and fiction of her writers with official records to chart the history ofa burning world, experienced through the eyes of extraordinary individuals.

Publisher: London : Bloomsbury, 2013
ISBN: 9781608199846
Branch Call Number: 940.53421 FEI 2013 23
Characteristics: 519 pages : illustrations, map


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Jan 12, 2019

This book will interest anyone familiar with several Second War-time writers residing in London, including Graham Greene, Elizabeth Bowen and Canadian diplomat and noted diarist Charles Ritchie. I happen to have met this last (and his wife), and saw them almost daily over several years while they lived at The Duncannon, a small, beautiful Ottawa mid-rise where my mother lived.
Ritchie had apparently once been a wit everyone wanted at their diplomatic parties, and is now better known as a top diarist and has been called Canada's own Pepys. One of his compilations of his diaries, The Siren Years, is apparently one of the best books about life in London during that War.
Going on his speech, Ritchie was a stiff old Brit, rather than a Canuck envoy to London (Berlin, Washington and elsewhere), who happened to be oddly unfazed by my beautiful children. Most others, young and old, would ooh and aah, but he'd never had children and hardly noticed them. We got along well, even so, meeting often in the rickety elevator. He gave me copies of his diaries as they were published.
I leafed through them, but had no idea what a bon viveur he'd been during the war. I only learned that from the present book, including that set's often strange mentality regarding amorous matters.
This book is recommended to glean their wartime desperation, when everybody thought tomorrow they may be dead to hell with, well, so much. Some interesting chapters on Graham Greene and others (Rose Macaulay, Henry Green, and Hilde Spiel--once-famous authors whose diaries & fiction the author, Lara Feigl, mined profitably to write this book--despite her singular lack of flair for a good title. And especially fascinating about Bowen's husband, a kind of man I had no inkling ever existed.
Most of these characters were going at it with others' spouses--and later became the people who made for that awful 'generation gap' many of us had to knock heads against in the '60s.
An eye-opening read for anyone interested in that war, for the desperate ways of wartime living, and quite a bit more.

Oct 23, 2017

This is a very well written biography of 5 British / Austrian writers and their literary circle. They were truly at their best during the war, especially during the WWII "blitz" - the bombing of London and other areas of England. Most are not particularly "nice" individuals - hurting partners and children is a part of each life. After the war, their narcissism comes more to the center, even to the point of indifference toward people with former Nazi membership. I found the information about Ireland's neutrality during the war amazing. They went as far as mourning the death of Hitler in order to be "impartial". I know that Sweden was neutral during the war, but that country did a great deal to help refugees and the Allies & Norwegian underground while maintaining official neutrality. Highly recommend the book if you are interested in WWII and literary biographies. The one of the 5 everyone is most likely to know is Graham Green. Kristi & Abby Tabby

Jun 04, 2014

I originally chose this book because of an interest in Graham Greene, however found the responses of the different personalities to the bombing and destruction of the war fascinating.

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