Through the night while you sleep undreaming we’ll fly
Lonely and quiet souled
Watching stars wheel true across the jet sky
Growing wise before we grow old
With the morning perhaps, my friends and I
Will sing instead to see
Your flowering dawn reclaim the sky
But our mornings may never be
– from a poem written by a WW2 fighter pilot
As a teenager, Joan MacDonald joined the Women’s Auxiliary of the British Air Force in 1941, later writing her life (and love of, and eventual marriage to, a Canadian fighter pilot) in Our Mornings May Never Be: Memoirs of a WAAF Sergeant… and Beyond. Happily for us, that beyond extends to the Eastern Townships, where MacDonald eventually settled with her family.
In England back when, whole families were issued gas masks, and windows were crisscrossed with tape to keep glass from shattering into dangerous shards when the German bombs fell.
MacDonald started by volunteering in an amputation ward, then joined the Women’s Auxiliary. (British women during World War II were also allowed to serve in some combat roles, such as with anti-aircraft units.) MacDonald got through basic training, was assigned a bicycle (to get from bed to work), and ended up in communications, relaying top-secret bombing orders.
There are war stories here, and snippets of stunning speeches from Prime Minister Winston Churchill (“we shall not flag or fail”).
Our Mornings May Never Be is a short 100 pages, and while it also includes chapters on the couple’s later years together, the war, and its impact on survivors, is front and centre.
MacDonald worked at Stanstead College for many years and she’s still in the Townships, in North Hatley. Sadly, her husband died last year.
Thanks to writers like MacDonald, we remember the war, and the dead. But thanks to her, the stories of those who lived are also told.
This week Good Reads focuses on 2002. Joan MacDonald’s memoirs were published that year, as she turned 80.
Others penned their works at younger ages.
The fantasy and sci fi author Neil Gaiman published Coraline in 2002 as a novella, which went on to become a very cool animated movie that was perfect for kids who want to trade in parents too busy bringing home the bacon to play with their children on rainy days.
And so Coraline is enchanted by the new, snazzier mom-and-pop models she meets who cook up delicious meals and always have time for board games. But these other parents are also rather evil.
In between book and film, artist P. Craig Russell adapted Coraline into a graphic novel (in 2008) (filed in Fiction with an orange dot). Russell came to fame as an artist with Elric, Batman, and The Sandman, among other comic books and graphic novels.
His Coraline is scared but later determined to save her kidnapped parents from the others, the love-hungry who have black buttons instead of eyes.
One last note: never, ever trust a rat.
THE POLITICS OF WATER
Canadian Maude Barlow was appointed the United Nations’ first senior advisor on water issues in 2008. She and think-tank official Tony Clarke wrote Blue Gold: The Battle Against Corporate Theft of the World’s Water in — you guessed it — 2002. They have since updated and published a second edition (in 2006).
Enron is listed as filing for bankruptcy but CEO Kenneth Lay is still alive, and George W. Bush is still president of the US, but these are minor matters; this is still an interesting read. The book looks at the consequences of the privatization of water, of what it means when you’re low on cash and a for-profit business controls your kitchen faucet.
Barlow and Clarke consider water a human right. The pair builds their case with example after example of water follies impacted by what they consider to be greed, incompetence and corruption.
There’s also lots here on bottled water and irrigation practices. Many governments are selling off groundwater to industry, eventually resulting in droughts in multiple countries.
The sobering Blue Gold is in New Arrivals.
Debut novelist Johanna Skibsrud has won this year’s Giller literature prize, for her novel The Sentimentalists.
A public poll has created the Top 10 reads of the decade for Canada Reads. The list includes Bottle Rocket Hearts, by Townshipper turned Torontonian Zoe Whittall, as well as The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis; The Birth House by Ami McKay; The Bone Cage by Angie Abdou; The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill; Essex County by Jeff Lemire; Life of Pi by Yann Martel; Pattern Recognition by William Gibson; Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden; and Unless by Carol Shields.
– Eleanor Brown, November 12, 2010