by Erin K. | | 4 Comments | Tags:

Welcome to Week 3 of the Online Book Club!

Are you still enjoying Small Island this month? I am! I thought the first section was a little slow, but this second section was really interesting to me.

A lot of the action in this second section revolved around Queenie. I was really interested to learn about her past. I was pretty surprised that she had such a colorful background with a father who was a butcher. For some reason, after reading about her in the first section, I assumed that she was a city woman or that she came from a really posh background. I was really surprised that she came from a working class background.

The most arresting parts of this section were the scenes about the bombings in London. I found those scenes to be the most revealing about each character. Bernard showed how much he cared for both his father and Queenie, and in that last bombing scene, Queenie showed that she does have some sort of feelings for Bernard.

Did you have a hard time really picturing the terror that would accompany that kind of random bombing? I did. I cannot imagine how frightening it would be to be roused from my bed and have to hide underground. It would be so terrifying to think that at any moment my house could be decimated. I think I would lose my mind if I had to endure that for even one night.

After reading this section, I did a little research about the bombings in London, and I found a couple of cool links that I think you should check out. First, here’s a first hand account of The Blitz, told from the perspective of a World War II correspondent, Ernie Pyle. Next, there’s a YouTube video that shows some footage from the bombings—this was especially interesting to me. Finally, take some time to listen to this radio account of the bombings. It’s a really interesting glimpse into the past.

Finally, to encourage you to watch the mini-series, I am leaving another clip! But, be warned, there’s a little bit of a spoiler at the end of the clip, so don’t watch past minute 2 of the video unless you have read the last section of the book. The scene I am linking to is the one where Hortense musters up the courage to ask what a chip is—I love how the clip allows the viewer to really see how hard it is for her to ask for help!

Let me know what you thought of this section by leaving a comment. Do you have any ideas what Bernard has been up to in the time between the end of the war and 1948? If you have any guesses, make sure to mention them in the comments. I look forward to hearing from you!

4 Responses to “Small Island: Week 3”

  1. Carrol

    This section of the book was so good. I really liked getting to know the characters better.

    I, too, was really surprised by Queenie’s background. She lived through some really difficult times. I was a little relieved when she agreed to marry Bernard so she could think about having a life for herself.

    I couldn’t believe when Queenie was injured during the bombing. How she managed to survive is amazing. I was really moved when her father-in-law cared for her and finally spoke to her.

    Gilbert is such a great character. I was so upset by the way he was treated when looking for a job. I cannot imagine the constant humiliation he endured.

    The links to the clips you gave us were so interesting. Thanks. I cannot imagine living in a place with the threat of bombs everyday. How interesting to observe these people living their lives as though
    they had nothing to fear. As I watched, I wondered how many I was seeing in the
    clips became casualties of the bombings.

    I am really anxious to read the last section of the book. I am really hoping for a “happy ending.”

    • Erin K.

      Carrol, that bombing section with Queenie was hard for me to read, as well! I can’ t imagine living under the constant threat of being bombed. I think it would kind of become routine after a while, but I don’t think the terror would subside at all.

      I hope you enjoy the end of the book. I am really curious to hear if you think that the characters got a “happy ending!”

      Thanks for commenting along again!

  2. Jane Engle

    Having been around relatives who had been in the military during WWI and II and a childhood where weekly atom bomb drills were a part of our school lessons and the Cold War took place, I did not have a hard time picturing the terror of random bombings. Living so close to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the possibility of being bombed or suffering the aftershocks or fallout from one or more bombs has always been an accepted matter of my life. Not being aware of this fact would have been a matter of naivety or refusal to face reality. Having lived through the 1974 Xenia tornado where our house was destroyed, I find some similarity in tornado threats and the way people have been and are affected by them.

    Ernie Pyle’s perspective shows the reaction to the London Blitz many people would have had due to never experiencing anything like it before. Not knowing the proper way to react, they felt detached from what they were encountering. The YouTube video shows that Londoners accepted what was happening to them as routine and their role in whatever took place as their role in supporting Britain’s war effort. As the video said, “The British didn’t know they had been defeated so they carried on.”

    The scene in the video reflects Queenie’s casual self-assured attitude and desire to help Hortense. Hortense, however, does not feel she needs any assistance other than knowing how to make chips. Based upon what I learned from this week’s reading, she feels extremely competent and would prefer not to be around Queenie. Having learned proper British etiquette, she cannot understand why “this woman” is asking her personal questions, looking at her and her husband’s room and possessions and what Hortense feels is overseeing what she has done. Their own beliefs concerning what the other should be or do seems to be the problem.

    Knowing Bernard was familiar with what had happened to his father as a result of his WWI military service, he may have felt that something similar was happening to him. Emotional trauma, i.e., shell shock, was not recognized as a valid medical condition at the time. As such, even if Bernard had been discharged from the RAF when the war ended, he may have felt unable to return home until 1948. If, instead, he was healthy and able to do so, Bernard might have continued working for the RAF until he decided to not reenlist.

    • Erin K.

      Jane, I totally agree with your assessment about how tornadoes and tornado warnings have a similar feeling to the bombings that these people lived through. Thanks for sharing your perspective about the Xenia tornado–I’m sure you have a much different understanding about tornadoes than I do since I have only seen tornadoes affect other people, and not my own house.

      Hortense is so interesting, isn’t she? She seems to have such high self confidence. It was so frustrating for me to keep reading about how she held herself up as being better than other people–I feel like she would have had a much easier time if she just understood that Queenie and Gilbert were trying to be nice to her!

      Great guess about Bernard! Let me know what you think about him once you read the end of the book!

      Thanks for commenting again! I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the end of the book next week!

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