History Channel’s recent “The World Wars” 3-part series was a disappointment.
The actors chosen to play Hitler, Churchill, Mussolini, FDR, Patton, and MacArthur looked and sounded nothing like the real thing (right down to eye-color and physical demeanor) and when they were supposedly middle aged they looked too old, with the exception of the cardboard figure playing Stalin who was too young and never aged. Especially bad was the actor playing Harry Truman.
Another details the History Channel got wrong: hair. All the actors sported shaggy 2014-era hairstyles. Lots of other things didn’t work either: flowers blooming out of season, MacArthur unkempt and sweating like a stuck pig in the bunker while everyone around him looked cool as a cucumber, (any student of history knows MacArthur never sweated), using the same WWI actors and settings in the WWII scenes, no mention whatsoever of Eisenhower, Montgomery, or major WWII events such as El Alamein, Dunkirk, and the Bataan Death March.
Time was obviously the enemy during production of “The World Wars” because it suffered greatly by excluding the women in the leaders’ lives, the British royal family, and what was going on at the home front. PBS does better.
Had issues with Letters from Skye: a Novelby Jessica Brockmole. The debut novel about love, war, and utter stupidity on the part of two central characters, received praise (I thought The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was far superior), and while I salute anyone who can swing a publishing contract nowadays, I was put off by Ms. Brockmole’s use of 21st century vernaculars when writing about World War I and II.
Examples: one of her characters who was in England at the time, referring to fellow soldiers as “guys,” signing a letter with “take care,” using the terms “urban sophistication,” and “screwing another man’s wife,” when these expressions didn’t come into common usage until the late 20th or early 21st centuries. Yes, I’m nitpicking.
Sorry, guys! Take care, all you urban sophisticates!
Tried Ephron’s “Wallflower at the Orgy,” a collection of interviews of mostly dead celebrities (they were alive when she interviewed them–hee hee) and couldn’t get into it, probably because I’m not an insanely well-connected, fabulously wealthy Jewish New Yorker who hobnobs with the elite and dines and shops at all the finest places.
However, I am enjoying Robert Edsel’s brilliantly researched and compelling “Saving Italy: The Race to Rescue a Nation’s Treasures from the Nazis,” and am looking forward to the Clooney-Damon film “Monuments Men,” based on Edsel’s previous book “The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History,” due for theatrical release Dec. 18.
The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian, NYT bestselling author *****
This riveting novel, set in and around Florence, Italy, during World War II and ten years later centers on love, betrayal and the unimaginable losses suffered by a noble Tuscan family at the hands of the Nazis.
From the book jacket: “A breathtaking story of moral paradox, human frailty and the mysterious ways of the heart.”
From the Washington Post: “brilliantly crafted…utterly compelling.”
Mary Doria Russell’s A Thread of Grace, another unforgettable novel about WWII and Italy, and one of my favorites, inspired author Chris Bohjalian.