Monthly Archives: January 2012

Can’t get enough of Downton Abbey?

If you’ve been watching PBS’s Downton Abbey, you’re familiar with the allure of Edwardian aristocrats living out their glamorous lives in their English manor houses … and all the behind-the-scenes drama that happens belowstairs with the hardworking staff who keep those lavish homes running smoothly! Season Two of Downton Abbey is almost halfway over, but don’t despair: you can get your fix with the following books.
In a Gilded Cage: from heiress to duchess by Marian Fowler is a lively biography of five American heiresses who married English Dukes.

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin tells the similar story of a fictional couple – high-spirited Cora Cash, who marries a duke with secrets … secrets that may do more harm to their marriage than Cora’s social missteps.
 The Perfect Summer: English 1911, just before the storm, by Juliet Nicolson shows us England balanced on a knife’s edge: beautiful on the surface but cracking underneath, and with war looming just over the horizon.
The Titled Americans: three American sisters and the British aristocratic world into which they married by Elisabeth Kehoe is the story of the glamorous Jerome sisters – one of whom became the mother of Winston Churchill.

The Gardens at Hatfield by Sue Snell gives an insider view of the 30-year restoration of the beautiful gardens at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire in England.

Stop by the library to check out any of these wonderful titles!


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The Heroes of World War II

One of our favorite reads from 2011 was Connie Willis’ novel-in-two-parts, Blackout and All Clear, in which time-traveling historians go back to WWII to observe the contemporaries and view heroism in action – at Dunkirk, in the countryside with the children evacuated from London, as part of ambulance crews responding to V-1 attacks.

Only something happens and they all converge in London during the Blitz:

Michael Davies should have come here, not Dunkirk, if he wanted to observe heroes, Polly thought, looking after them. She’d just seen them in action. And it wasn’t only the young women and their willingness to go out on the streets in the middle of a raid. How much courage had it taken for the rector to cross the basement and open that door, knowing it might be the Germans? Or for all of them to sit here night after night, waiting for imminent invasion or a direct hit, not knowing whether they’d live till the next all clear?

Not knowing. It was the one thing historians could never understand. They could observe the contemps, live with them, try to put themselves in their place, but they couldn’t truly experience what they were experiencing. Because I know what’s going to happen. I know Hitler didn’t invade England, that he didn’t use poison gas or destroy St. Paul’s. Or London. Or the world. That he lost the war.

But they didn’t. They’d lived through the Blitz and D-Day and the V-1s and V-2s, with no guarantee of a happy ending.

Blackout, by Connie Willis

We’ve got some WWII buffs around here, but this was a new thought: how can we really understand what it was like, us safe in our 21st century, knowing the ending? We can watch all the documentaries and read all the first-hand accounts, but when you know that all is more or less right at the end, how do you feel the uncertainty … and conversely, how do you fully appreciate the incredible resilience and bravery of those who lived through this terrible war?

This is where Connie Willis comes in. Passages like the above bring home this uncertainty, and we started to really get a glimpse of the strength of those people who sat in shelters night after night, waiting for the bomb that might kill them to fall. Not just because Willis has the writing chops and the research to bring this era vividly to life, but because of this important plot point: the drops that should have taken the historians back to 2060 Oxford aren’t working. No retrieval teams have come. Something has gone terribly wrong, and all signs point to the fact that they have inadvertently changed the course of history.

Which means the war could be lost. There might be no VE Day. Hitler might win.

They might all die.

It’s fiction, sure. But for the first time, we didn’t know the outcome, and we felt a bit of the fear and terror the real-life heroes must have lived through.

For some follow-up reading about real life WWII heroes, we particularly recommend the following:

Safe Passage: the remarkable true story of two sisters who rescued Jews from the Nazis, by Ida Cook

A Train in Winter: an extraordinary story of women, friendship, and resistance in occupied France, by Caroline Moorehead

Shot At and Missed: recollections of a War War II bombardier, by Jack R. Myers

Unbroken : a World War II story of survival, resilience, and redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand

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TJH Pryor Public Library + Overdrive = more ways to read!

Here at the library, we love to read, no matter the format. In print, as an audio book, or on an eReader, it’s all good! And now we’re pleased as punch to offer you access to almost 6,000 eBooks and around 1,500 downloadable audio books (with more items being added all the time) as well as a selection of downloadable music. Just think: no late fees, no scratched or missing CDs, no damage charges because your new puppy mistook your book for a chew toy. What’s not to like?

Here’s how it works:

First, go to the OK Virtual Library site and click on the My Account tab.

Next, choose the Thomas J. Harrison Pryor Public Library from the list of participating libraries.

And finally, log in using your library card number, with your last name as the PIN.

If you need help, check out the downloadable digital media tour, or look at Overdrive’s new feature MyHelp! And of course, you can always call us (918-825-0777), comment here, or leave us a post on Facebook. We’ll do our best to help.

Enjoy, and let us know how this service is working for you!

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