Book Review of “Radio”

One Woman’s Family in War and Pieces

By Alice H. Green and Peter H. Green

By Annette Rey

I met Peter at a writer’s meeting where he requested I review this biography of his mother’s memories. If you enjoy peeking in on the daily lives of a family from the 1910s to the 1980s, you will enjoy reading this biography of Peter’s mother, Alice.

The book is titled Radio, One Woman’s Family in War and Pieces because the invention of the radio was integral to Alice’s adult life and radio altered American society. Chapter 15 begins this part of the story when her husband, Ben, became an adman for an advertising agency closely associated with radio networks. When war in Europe erupted, WWII resulted. American families kept abreast of war events by listening to the new medium and President Roosevelt’s broadcasts.

But the book starts when Alice was a child. She recalls her mother and father in a generous and kindly tone, and though there were differences between them, none were earth-shaking or divisive. This could be because Alice tended to be a compliant child. These years are written in picturesque speech and give an insight into an era unfamiliar to us today. Images of stoking the home’s coal stove, to the coolness of their root cellar, to the smell of baked bread twice a week, to the planting of their own garden, to the streets being cleaned by a mustachioed man wielding a push broom, to the horse drawn milk cart – nothing is like it is today – except for the inter-relationships of family, and Alice’s parents who didn’t quite understand the adolescent mind and the gap that naturally forms between generations.

The story progresses, as you would expect, through her youth and courtship, wedded life and parenthood. She also was a writer who experienced professional rejection letters. During WWII, her husband enlisted in the Marines and was eventually shipped to the South Pacific and though he wrote home frequently, she garnered as much war information as she could from radio broadcasts.

I won’t tell you more; you wouldn’t be inspired to read it if you knew all the details ahead of time. So I’ll keep some of it for you to discover. It’s an informative read of the experiences of a resourceful and patient woman and of how circumstances influenced her life. As you read it, remember, you are reading it in retrospect. You already know how the world evolved over those decades. She was in the position of living those years and did not know how things would turn out. As you read, think of yourself today. You don’t know how present days will develop for you.

Keep those two perspectives in mind as you read this pleasant story. I think it will be an enjoyable experience for you as you travel through the decades.

 

 

 

 

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Book Review of Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale

By Annette Rey

The full title of the book is Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wicked Good Prose. I am only through Chapter Four and I am miles smarter than I was before. Ok, so, let’s agree I am miles more informed. And I know of what I speak. My library is full of instructional books on writing and, yes, I have read them. Some stand out from the others, but I’d say this one leads the pack.

Constance Hale has command of the English language and uses that skill to generously inform her audience. She includes grammatical detail without fogging the facts with superfluous words. She smoothly weaves correct English usage among short pieces of the works of other authors, and adds appropriate and entertaining quotes. She deftly demonstrates participles and other language conundrums so they can be understood. The way she illustrates the parts of speech in a piece of work illuminate the idea bulb above my head, and old mysteries are made clear.

Ms. Hale uses terms like “adjective-polluted” and sentences like: Adverbs are crashers in the syntax house party.

I suggest buying the book just to passionately (oops! adverb!) treasure pages 64-70. If you love fluent use of the English language, you will understand why I want these pages, this book, in my personal book collection.

The book reads like a story, not like a manual or guide or boring instructional course. I am immersed in the book and can’t put it down. At the end of chapter four is a directive from Ms Hale, an exercise, to write of a turbulent sky. I chose this moment to write of a sky view I have seen, so beautiful, I did not want to minimize it by my feeble attempts to describe it. Yet, on her directive, I did so. And I accomplished a great thing. I wrote that sky.

Study this book. Enjoy this book. It will make you a better writer.

It’s a book I look forward to reading again.