You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘strange beauty’ tag.

Yet another historical novel has emerged from the rubble of World War II: this time, The Paris Orphan (2019) by the Australian Natasha Lester. Featured therein is the plight of the first women photojournalists covering front line battles in Italy and France, to the pique of their male counterparts.

Like the protagonist Jessica May’s sensitivity to word and photo, the author weaves a compelling story. Of note is the balance struck between Jessica and Lieutenant Colonel Dan Hallworth, set against the atrocities of war; neither story overpowers the other. The inclusion of unexpected humor, from poignant to tender to gallows, together with the plot’s switchbacks makes this work. Even more compelling is her use of the dual timeline that fleshes out relationships, both authentic and sinister.

Names of real people, of memorable battle scenes, of old-world chateaux, of clothing, of Lucky Strikes, of language, attest to Lester’s research. She drew her Jessica after Lee Miller, a Vogue model-turned-war-correspondent, of considerable talent, during World War II. Martha Gelhorn, one of Hemingway’s wives, also palled with Jessica, making light of the filth that clung to them for days, sorrowing over the dead and maimed bodies in field hospitals and upon battlefields.

Critical to these women was reporting their impressions of this shocking world to their readers, never mind how male censors would alter their work before wiring them to newspapers. In no way could their male co-workers produce such photos and stories, and they knew it. It was their compassion. Thus the rub—

 

Outside my study window, atop January’s hoary stubble, roiled menacing blacks, iridescent greens and blues, glinting in the morning sun. I shuddered. The scene resembled the threshold of Hades. Then, I remembered: grackles—I’d seen them before, scavenging overflowing dumpsters in upscale alleys, roosting in oak trees near turn-of the century residences in the Central West End.

As if snapped away by a magician’s cloak, the birds were gone. Still swamped by this intrusion, I blinked in disbelief, yet knew I had work to do.

With reluctance, I researched grackles with their yellow eyes and tiny black pupils, their large claws and scalpel-beaks and fan-shaped tails. Even the word grackle sounded guttural.

Other contributors, however, had differing impressions: colorful, intelligent, aggressive, resourceful, playful, adaptive, and at home within swarms. Like winds pommeling gates on rusted hinges, grackles’ cawing was unique to them. Again, I looked out the window at the backyard, long empty of the menace and reminded myself that grackles, too, are part of God’s creation.

That I still I felt uneasy plunged me into the cesspool of my prejudices: uninformed, spontaneous, unthinking reactions, activated by the morning’s grackles. Decades of unconscious living, with my eyes wide open, had harmed others and myself—had jaundiced my perception of life and kept me split off from Creator God.

So entrenched are these prejudices, though part of the human condition, they cry out for Mercy! I still need cleansing.

 

 

After graced stripping, the heart remains solitary, resilient, obedient.

 

 

 

Never have I been so awake, so full of purpose, and so filled with gratitude. Thanks for learning with me …

 

 

Available on Amazon

%d bloggers like this: