Surely there was great disappointment when no winner was chosen for this year’s Pulitzer for fiction. However, considered by many one of the greatest novels written in the 20th Century, D.H. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers never received one either! Published in 1913, it pre-dated the establishment of the awards in 1917 by four years! It would be interesting if the Pulitzer Board created a retroactive category.  In a sense, the Modern Library has done just that by ranking Sons and Lovers the 9th greatest novel of the 20th century. Quite right, quite right indeed!

Though technically a novel, Sons and Lovers is without doubt auto-biographical. D.H. Lawrence  is clearly writing of the struggles of growing up in a dysfunctional family in a poor mining community in England. The mother had married below her class to a husband that turned out to be not much beyond the daily retreat to the local pub with his co-workers.  In the novel, the mother is left with only her son to whom to direct all of her affection and emotion.  She would not let go of  what she perceived as all that remained important in her life.

I opened my Modern Library paperback version of Sons and Lovers and by chance the following paragraph unfolded. You will understand quickly why this great novel, once read, may erase any disappointment over their being no 2012 Pulitzer for fiction.

“Paul and Miriam stood close together, silent and watched…Paul looked into Miriam’s eyes…She was pale and expectant with wonder, her lips were parted, and her dark eyes lay open to him…Lets go, he said…Something made him feel anxious and imprisoned…The two walked in silence…Till Sunday he said quietly and left her and she walked home slowly feeling her soul satisfied with the holiness of the night…Always when he went with Miriam his mother was fretting and getting angry with him…when he walked into the house his mother had been sitting thinking…She could feel Paul being drawn by this girl and she did not care for Miriam…That there was any love growing between him and Mariam, neither of them would have acknowledged…She is one of those who will want to suck a man’s soul out til he has none of his own left.”

This magnificent novel rises to new heights on each page. If you have not read Sons and Lovers I commend it to you now. At 99 years of age it is contemporary and worthy of every accolade and honor that has been bestowed upon the book and its author.  Lawrence’s other better known novels are The Rainbow, Women in Love and of course Lady Chatterley’s Lover.  His last novel was The Virgin and the Gypsy written in 1930.

A footnote. In 1920, the year that Women In Love was published no Pulitzer was given for fiction! Also published in that same year was F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise and Sinclair Lewis’  Main Street.  Good company!


Andrew Roberts The Storm of War is without question the best and most complete overview of World War II that I have read. Extraordinary research, crammed with detail and revelations that  even well read students of the war will find enlightening.

Roberts, Britain’s  premiere military historian, writes with clarity and transforms this enormous subject into an understandable read that  links nearly every facet of the war to a logical conclusion. His penchant for detail and numbers easily falls into place making the narrative more exciting, eye-opening and impactful.  He clearly demonstrates that this two theater war,   based upon what he terms “false ideologies,”  is what led to the ultimate downfall of both Germany and Japan. Beginning with the rationale for Hitler’s failure to seize a victory at Dunkirk, the fall of France ( more French fought on the side of the Axis than the Allies,)  an explanation as to why Operation Sealion ( the invasion of Britain) was never carried out , the catastrophic blunder of Germany declaring War on the United States giving Roosevelt the green light to enter the war in  Europe, Roberts courses each twist and turn and his story is  often explosive and emotionally disturbing.  

Aficionados of military statistics are led through details of  comparison of  weapons, tanks, airplanes, submarines, troop strength.  In 1943, just over a year after Pearl Harbor the United States was building  98,000 war planes per year compared to Germany’s 40,000.  The Russians suffered 2-million casualties at Stalingrad and replaced the loses in a month. Germany lost 238,000 but had exhausted its reserves. His use of facts, rather than confuse, come together to strengthen the forcefulness of the book.

All of the major players are front and center, Churchill,  Roosevelt, Hitler, Hirohito, Eisenhower, Montgomery, Nimitz, Rommel, and the Nazi  cast of Field Marshalls, SS Officers plus  Goebbels, Goring, and Rundstedt. The author’s denunciation of the murder of millions of Jews is carefully calibrated and leaves absolutely no avenue for anyone involved to escape responsibility. 

Roberts brings insight into the Eastern front and Russia’s stalwart defence of Moscow, the  battle of Stalingrad and the siege of Leningrad.  The author outlines the impact of the failure of Hitler’s Operation Barbarossa ( the conquest of Russia based upon his ideological hatred of  Bolshevism.)  To highlight the fallacy of Hitler’s fanatical focus on Russia, the German’s lost 2.4 million men killed in Operation Barbarossa as compared to 202,000 fighting the Allies on the Western front. Despite these losses  on the Eastern front, Hitler maintained a “stand and die policy” nearly to the end. Ideology again!

The war in Pacific receives equal attention. From Pearl Harbor  through the dropping of the atomic bombs the reader learns why the great battles in the Pacific were won and lost in many cases  because the ideological leaders in Japan, like Germany, refused to listen to the generals on the ground. “The awakening of the sleeping giant.” ” The miracle at Midway.”

If I were asked to recommend just one volume as an overview of the Second World War my choice would be The Storm of War. However, this work will be appreciated even more  by those who have read extensively individual works by other renowned World War Two Historians such as Max Hastings , who is referenced throughout the volume by Roberts.

I met Andrew Roberts at a lecture in New York City. It became immediately clear that The Storm of War  would require reading every page, packed with facts and few wasted words. No quick read here and definitely not a historical novel. However, despite the immersion in detail, this epic story is profound and the conclusions logical because in the end Andrew Roberts seems to have missed nothing.

For W Roberts history on the World War II Western front, read Masters and Commanders: How Four Titans Won The War in the West ( 1941-1945)



The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
Adult Fiction

                I was honored a few months back when Gordon asked me if I would be a guest blogger on Gordon’s Good Reads. I am, however, a young adult school librarian by trade and as a result I spend most of my time reading young adult fiction and nonfiction. The Hunger Games? I’ve probably read the first book in the trilogy six times. I have always been an avid reader and I do read an adult book every third book or so―I just had to wait for the right book to come along in order to honor Gordon’s guest blogger request. Well, it has. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach is a stunning book. It’s got everything―phenomenal characters, a little Moby Dick and Melville lore, romance, and baseball. I don’t even particularly like baseball, but I longed to be a member of a baseball team while reading this amazing novel.

                It all starts with Mike Schwartz, aka Schwartzy. He’s a born leader, or more accurately a natural coach from a hard-knock background. He also happens to be a sophomore at Westish College, a small liberal arts college on the shores of  Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan, when he spots Henry Skrimshander playing baseball at a summer tournament. Henry is a shortstop, small and rather scrawny, but with an uncanny ability to field a baseball. Schwartz recruits the recent high school grad for the Westish Harpooner’s Division III baseball team. Henry is not much of a student, in fact the only book he has ever truly read is his dog-eared copy of The Art of Fielding by Aparicio Rodriguez, where Rodriguez, the greatest defensive shortstop who ever lived, manages to successfully equate the act of fielding a baseball with a Zen-like practice. Henry has committed to memory most of the numbered bits of advice, such as:

59. To field a ground ball must be considered a generous act and an act of comprehension. One moves not against the ball but with it. Bad fielders stab at the ball like an enemy. This is antagonism. The true fielder lets the path of the ball become his own path, thereby comprehending the ball and dissipating the self, which is the source of all suffering and poor defense.

When Henry arrives on campus and meets Owen, his beautiful, biracial, gay roommate,  we, as readers, are reassured that Henry will survive his new circumstances when he spots Owen’s own copy of The Art of Fielding on his meticulously kept bookshelves.
                It is on the Westish campus that we get to know Mike, Henry, Owen, President Affenlight and his daughter Pella(escaping a failed marriage), as well as the entire Westish baseball team. And lest you think that baseball is the only glue that holds the novel together, Harbach has had fun incorporating myriad literary references . Although Westish could be any struggling small liberal arts college, Harbach  created a singular, distinctive institution. The Westish Harpooners are a purposeful reference to Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. It was President Affenlight, as an undergraduate at the college, who discovered a ream of papers in the library which turned out to be a transcript of a speech given by Herman Melville when he visited the college in 1880. Westish College made the most of the Melville association, as did Afflenlight himself, who went on to become a renowned academic, the pinnacle of his career being the widely acclaimed scholarly book called The Sperm-Squeezers. His career come full circle, he is back as president of the college where he began his academic pursuits.
                The characters, both on and off the team, intersect and cross paths, with the meteoric rise of the Harpooners in the league standings serving as backdrop. Henry’s career is on the rise as well―scouts flock to game after game,  promising vast sums of money when he gets signed to the major leagues. But then Henry comes down with Steve Blass disease (named for the infamous Pirates pitcher who, all of a sudden, could no longer throw the ball accurately). Henry has fallen off his path, he has lost The Way. As he struggles, the other characters meander along their own paths, each trying to field their own game, so to speak. This is one baseball story that left me wishing there were a few more innings.

Wonder. Thanks RO. You are welecome at GGR anytime! Keep reading!


I am an unabashed fan of Pulitzer Prize winning historian Robert Caro.  Ever since first reading The Path to Power, the beginning of his epic study of the life of Lyndon Johnson. My second and equally enlightening exposure to Caro’s work was The Power Broker his Pulitzer prize-winning biography of Robert Moses. Next month the fourth book in Caro’s study of Johnson , The Path to Power will be published, in a process that began in 1976. Caro’s other Johnson volumes are in order of publication are Means of Ascent and Master of the Senate.

I commend to all Robert Caro fans a marvelous article by Charles McGrath published in The New York Times on April 14 putting all of Caro’s works in an insightful perspective.  A most worthwhile article for those of us anticipating The Path to Power.