There’s such an overwhelming sense of patriotism hitting the UK these days. And not the good kind. The very unhelpful kind. It feels like every time something happens, people on the right are bringing up the blitz spirit. When we were in the midst of the pandemic, Tory MPs and their supporters proudly announced that people didn’t hide away in WW2. What they failed to mention is that that’s exactly what they did during air raids. There’s nothing like the overconfidence of a rich guy talking about a war that ended before they were born.
This wasn’t the book that I was expecting to review today but Dear Edward is taking a long time. I wasn’t quite prepared for the emotional weight of that book. So, I started listening to this book at work. I’d had a copy of it on my shelves for a while. I can’t actually remember when I got it but it must have been when I was going through my middle grade phase. I bought a lot of kid’s books in 2020 and at the start of 2021 but never read them. It seemed like a good thing to get me through my day at work.
I meant to read Nancy Mitford’s Christmas Pudding back in December but I never got round to it. I ended up with far too many things to on my festive TBR and something had to suffer. Unfortunately, that was Nancy Mitford. Thankfully this month’s book club gave me the chance to make up for this when her novel The Pursuit of Love was chosen. It wasn’t my first choice but I was more than happy with the selection. In fact, it was probably the best bunch of novels so far. I’ve also learnt my lesson from previous months and not left the reading until the last minute. Of course, the chances are Ill have forgotten a lot of it by tomorrow’s meeting but it’s better than rushing the last third. This is what happens when people give me a reading deadline. I just lose all motivation to get it done.
As you’ll know from my review on Tuesday, I loved Jojo Rabbit. It was the funniest film I’ve seen in a long time. But since I watched it, I’ve read a lot of criticism about it. One of these was based around the fact that Taika Waititi’s portrayal of Hitler just came down to pulling silly faces. As if that didn’t make it enough of an anti-war film. Which is ridiculous. Waititi’s version of Hitler would be at home with any of the propaganda that the allied forces were putting out during the war. We have always been well aware that one of the best ways to take power away from a dictator is to turn them into a laughing stock. It’s been a tradition that has been handed down to us and that we should continue with. Look at America. Donald Trump is gaining support in many places in America but he’s basically a laughing stock around the world. Yes, it helps that he’s a fucking moron but it means he’ll never be a full figure to fear.
Sometimes it sucks living in certain parts of the world. Jojo Rabbit came out in October 2019 in the US. In the UK, we had to wait until the New Year before we could see it. Talk about unfair. By the time I finally saw the film, it felt as though I’d been waiting for years. Of course, when it was released a lot of people in America thought it was tasteless to release a comedy film about Hitler. It’s such a ridiculous notion. There is a strong history of satirising figures like Hitler. Look at the propaganda that came out of World War 2. Look at Charlie Chaplin’s The Dictator. Look at The Producers. We use comedy as a way to belittle and take power away from these people. The ability to see comedy in situations like this is important. For one thing, it helps us learn from them and see these moments in history for what they are. I’m not saying you should go too far or get too offensive. It’s important to be respectful. But, if you can’t find the funny in Taika Waititi wearing bright blue contacts and pretending to be Adolf Hitler, then I don’t know what you’re looking for in a comedy film.
Dear Postcards From No Man’s Land,
If Harry Potter turned me in a reader then you definitely turned me into an adult reader. And I’m not just saying that because you were the first literary sex scene I remember being exposed to. I mean, maybe it helped but… it’s not where I was going. I can’t remember how old I was when I read you but you were published in 1999. I was 11 at the time which definitely feels like too young an age to be reading you. Still, I was an avid reader at this point so it’s possible. I’m pretty sure I got you after studying about World War II in history and, even then, I was no doubt trying to be mature and a bit pretentious. I can’t properly remember, though.
I do have a vague memory of getting you but, as with most of my childhood memories, it’s entirely possible I’ve made it up to provide some context. There was a particular bookshop in a Scottish town, Gatehouse of Fleet, that we always used to stop in and look around. This bookshop is pure heaven. Stacks of bookshelves filled to bursting with piles and piles of additional books stacked next to them. You can barely turn around without potentially knocking something off. It’s fabulous. It never had the greatest selection of kids and young adult books but my twin sister and I always used to be able to find a sizeable haul when we were there. I believe one of those included you.
I’ll be honest with you now, since the first time I’ve never read you again. I’m not sure I would view you in the same way as an adult. But I’ve never been able to get away from you. I’ll never be able to forget that feeling of closing your cover for the final time. You were complex, full of historical facts, and an emotional roller coaster. It was a lot for my young mind to cope with. But I loved you. You haunted me in a great way. I wanted to read more of Aidan Chambers’ work and I tracked down as much as I could.
You weren’t the book that pushed me into reading but you were the one that got me thinking about the kind of books I was reading. I started wanting to read bigger and better books. I’d seen the kind of writing I’d been missing out on and wanted more. I felt completely changed by you and in a way that I hadn’t felt before. You taught me so much and opened my eyes to new experiences. You solidified my interest in history without me even realising. You opened my eyes to problems that I’d never encountered before. The narrative of a teenager coming to grips with his sexuality felt so new and mature to me at the time. I was naive when I started reading you. My eyes were more open thanks to you.
So, who cares if I can’t remember when I read you? Who cares I can’t retell the story of how or why you came into my life. The fact is, you did. And you made an impact that has lasted, under the surface, for the rest of my life. I’ve never forgotten the way you made me feel and how much you inspired me. I don’t know where I’d have gone as a reader if it hadn’t been for you.
Sometimes there only is, and no knowing
With less than a week until the Oscars, my quest to watch all of the Best Picture nominations is getting quite tense. I’ve got three more to go and I’m not really super keen to watch either of them. I managed to watch two in quick succession last week so, if I’m clever with my time, I should be okay. It’s just a shame that the film I’m talking about today marks the end of the list of films I really wanted to see. The Darkest Hour is something I’ve been excited about for months. Combining my love of history and Gary Oldman; what could be better? When the first pictures of Oldman in his full Winston Churchill costume came out months ago, everyone was apparently amazed by the transformation. The picture was placed on the front of newspapers along with the tantalising caption of “we bet you’ll never guess who this really is” or something. I didn’t get the uproar. I mean anyone that looked at the photo should instantly be able to see Gary Oldman’s eyes staring back at them. Don’t get me wrong, the transformation was incredibly but it’s quite clearly the actor underneath all of that makeup. I admit, I have a bit of a soft spot for Oldman so I might be more familiar with his face than many people. It meant that whenever I saw photos from the set of The Darkest Hour I only ever saw Oldman and not one of the greatest Prime Minster’s the UK has ever seen.