Another U.L.S. entry by Roberta Eaton Cheadle–All Quiet On The Western Front

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Roberta Eaton Cheadle, or Robbie, is an esteemed member of the U. L. S. — the Underground Library Society — and she is offering her thoughts on another book! Robbie, thank you so much!

Robbie has excellent blogs: Robbie Cheadle books/poems/reviews and   Robbie’s inspiration. Both are wonderful; please be sure to visit them.

Thoughts about All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

Overview

This book is a first-hand account of the life of Paul Bäumer, who belongs to a squad of German soldiers on the  Western Front during World War I. Paul and his classmates enlisted in the army at the end of their high school career as a result of the impassioned patriotism and relentless coaxing of their teacher, Kantorek. 

All Quiet on the Western Front tells the story of Paul and his friends experiences in the trenches. There is a lot of fighting, death, and destruction in this book, but there are also scenes of comradery, friendship, and bravery that break up the ‘heaviness’ of this read and give the reader some short periods of lighter relief.

Among these lighter scenes is one when Paul and his friend ‘Kat’ decide to poach a goose from a local farm. They roast the bird and enjoy a midnight feast, even venturing to share some of their spoil with friends who are in prison for insubordination towards a senior officer.

There are also some interesting insights into life for the French civilians trying to survive amid the disruption and decimation of the war. Russian prisoners of war also feature in this story and their pitiful plight is almost too much to bear.

My thoughts

Why do young men volunteer for war?

I look at my two sons, and I wonder why young men hurl themselves into the teeth of the storm through voluntary subscription to the army. I read about this in The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, and I read about it again in this great, but disturbing, novel, All Quiet on the Western Front.

I have decided there are a few reasons that lead to this rash action. The first, is the expectation of parents and other older members of society that their sons throw down the gauntlet and risk all for “king and country”. Secondly, I believe there has historically been a terrible ignorance about the reality of war. War is glamourized and young men enter the fray with no concept of its harsh conditions or the horror of death.

I wonder if the young men of today would be as eager to take up the role of ‘cannon fodder’ with their greater knowledge of the world through internet access and better educational opportunities.

Leaders and war mongers pray on the passionate fervor of the young to achieve their ill-gotten ends when it comes to war. Wars are all fought either for purposes of greed and power or over religion. More recently, greed and power have trumped the possibly purer intentions of religion. Have recently explored in great depth the reasons behind the Anglo Zulu War and both Anglo Boer Wars in South Africa, as well as the First and Second World War, power and the gain of wealth have been the overarching reasons for placing young men in the line of fire and, often, ending their lives before they have even started.

All Quiet on the Western Front is a book that is written in a war setting and exposes with a sharp and unerringly accurate pen, the absolute horror of the First World War. The book is not, however, about the war, but rather about the loss of innocence the young soldiers experience and their inability to ever adapt back to civilian life afterwards. This is quite clear by the manner in which the story is told. Battles are not named and have so little relevance to the story that whether they are won or lost is not even revealed. Battles feature as a regular feature of the lives of Paul and his comrades; one during which death is a high possibility and survival is the only goal.

The obvious themes of war and patriotism that present in this novel are not the ones that resonated with me.

Given my status as the mother of two teenage boys, not much younger than the boys featured in this novel, it is understandable that the following themes are the ones that have stayed in my mind. I am sharing select quotations that explain these themes as they do so far better than I could.

Loss of innocence

“While they went on writing and making speeches, we saw field hospitals and men dying: while they preached the service of the state as the greatest thing, we already knew that the fear of death is even greater. This didn’t make us into rebels or deserters, or turn us into cowards – and they were more than ready to use all of these words – because we loved our country just as much as they did, and so we went bravely into every attack. But now we were able to distinguish things clearly, all at once our eyes had been opened. And we saw that there was nothing left of their world. Suddenly we found ourselves horrible alone – and we had to come to terms with it alone as well.”

Loss of individuality

“I can still remember how embarrassed we were at the beginning, when we were recruits in the barracks and had to use the communal latrines. There are no doors, so that twenty men had to sit side by side as if they were on a train. That way they could all be seen at a glance – soldiers, of course, have to be under supervision at all times.

Since then we’ve learnt more than just how to cope with a bit of embarrassment. As time went by, our habits changed quite a bit.,

Out here in the open air the whole business is a real pleasure.”

Home

“It gets dark. Kemmerich’s face gets paler, it stands out against his pillow and is so white that it looks luminous. He makes a small movement with his mouth. I get closer to him. He whispers, ‘If you find my watch, send it home.’

I don’t argue. There is no point any more. He is beyond convincing. I’m sick with helplessness. That forehead, sunk in at the temples, that mount, which is all teeth now, that thin, sharp nose. And the fat, tearful woman at home that I shall have to write to – I wish I had that job behind me already.”

Hopelessness

“But our mates are dead, and we can’t help them. They are at peace – who knows what we might still have to face? We want to chuck ourselves down and sleep, or stuff as much food into our bellies as we can, and booze and smoke, so that the passing hours aren’t so empty. Life is short.”

Primitiveness

“It’s a nuisance trying to kill every single louse when you’ve got hundreds of them. The beasts are hard, and it gets to be a bore when you are forever pinching them between your nails. So Tjaden has rigged up a boot-polish lid hanging on a piece of wire over a burning candle-end. You just have toss the lice into this little frying-pan – there is a sharp crack, and that’s it.”

Conclusion

All Quiet on the Western Front is a book we should never allow to be burned or removed from its place as a historical classic. Its primary role in literature, in my opinion, is that it illustrates the pointlessness of war which descends into a series of actions and day-to-day survival with no real meaning or even importance to those involved in the fighting. This sentiment is generally presented through the character of Albert Kropp, one of Paul’s previous school friends.

This book also highlights the destruction of young men’s innocence and their inability to ever reconnect with ordinary civilian life. It doesn’t mention post-traumatic stress syndrome specifically, but this is alluded to throughout the book.

All in, this is one of the most emotional and memorable books I have ever read.

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Again, thank you to Roberta Eaton Cheadle for this U. L. S. post!

Copy of Roberta Writes - independent pub 2 theme.

Robbie

Please Join The Underground Library Society!

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I am again asking for those who would like to join the U.L.S., the Underground Library Society, to join and write a guest post. I put this request out several times over the course of a year, because I hope to have more people join in the cause.

In an earlier First Year Class at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, The U.L.S. — The Underground Library Society — was created. It is in the spirit of the Book People from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. In that novel, all books have been banned, and a few people “become” books by memorizing them, in the hope that, one day, books will be permitted to exist again.

In that spirit, I am putting out the call once more for like-minded people to join The U.L.S. All that is needed is to choose a book you would memorize if the need ever arose. The type or genre of the chosen piece does not matter.  There is no restriction on what you would become. You do not, however, actually have to memorize  the book now. If you wish to join, simply write a guest post in which you say what book you would “become” and why.

I have had several other bloggers join the U. L. S. Join the movement!

I hope many of you choose to join.

If you are a member and wish to add another book that you might become, you are welcome to do another post!

In the past, I have mentioned that I would become one of the following books: The Lord Of The Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien, Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, or Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

If you do wish to do a post, please email me at frenchc1955@yahoo.com  and write a guest post as a Word doc. Thank you.

Charles F. French

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I am looking forward to hearing from new members!

Please, come and join in the fun!

A Post from A Member of the U. L. S. — Robbie Cheadle

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I want to welcome Robbie Cheadle to the U. L. S., The Underground Library Society! This group is an unofficial collection of people who deeply value books. It is based on the idea of The Book People from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.  Robbie is the newest member of this group of book lovers!

Robbie has excellent blogs: Robbie Cheadle books/poems/reviews and   Robbie’s inspiration. Both are wonderful; please be sure to visit them.

King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard

Background

I decided to read King Solomon’s Mines as it is set in South Africa in the late 19th century. I am currently finalizing my first adult novel, A Ghost and His Gold, which is set during the Second Anglo Boer War. I hoped that King Solomon’s Mines would give me insight into life in southern Africa during this period.

Rider Haggard spent time in South Africa after he took a position as the assistant to the secretary to Sir Henry Bulwer, Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony of Natal in 1875. In 1876, he was transferred to the staff of Sir Theophilus Shepstone, Special Commissioner for the Transvaal. It was in this role that Sir Haggard was present in Pretoria, capital of the then Boer Republic of the Transvaal, in April 1877 when it was officially annexed by Britain. Sir Haggard was tasked with the duty of raising the Union flag and reading out much of the proclamation at the annexation event after the official originally entrusted with this duty lost his voice.

I had an interest in Sir Rider Haggard and his books because he lived in Ditchingham, a town close to my mother’s hometown of Bungay in Suffolk, England. When her brother was a young man he was employed by Sir Haggard and Sir Haggard daughter, Lilias Haggard, edited a book entitled The Rabbit Skin Cap which told the story of an old man who was well known to my mother. My mother’s memories of Sir Rider Haggard’s house and his daughter, Lilias, are included in the fictionalized memoir of her life, While the Bombs Fell, which we wrote together.

King Solomon’s Mines literary importance

King Solomon’s Mines is a book that is worth preserving because it is a rollicking good story with lots of action, written along similar lines to the famous Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stephenson. The author has a wonderful gift of descriptive writing and shares the beauty and mystery of Africa in a most appealing and interesting way. The author demonstrates a thorough knowledge of southern Africa and the way of life among the hunters of the time. An example of this glorious language is as follows:

“But just before you come to Durban there is a peculiar richness about the landscape. There are the sheer kloofs cut in the hills by the rushing rains of centuries, down which the rivers sparkle; there is the deepest green of the bush, growing as God planted it, and the other greens of the mealie gardens and the sugar patches, while now and again a white house, smiling out at the placid sea, puts a finish and gives an air of homeliness to the scene.” Although this sentence is long by modern book writing standards, it describes the scene vividly. The language used by the writer is not complex and overwhelmingly ornate like many other books from this same period, but rather is written in a simple and conversational style.

Another wonderful description is of the Kalahari Desert: “On, on we went, till at last the east began to blush like the cheek of the girl. Then there came faint rays of primrose light, that changed presently to golden bars, through which the dawn glided out across the desert. The stars grew pale and paler still, till at last they vanished; the golden moon waxed wan, and her mountain ridges stood out against her sickly face like the bones on the cheek of a dying man.”

I must state that this book is set in Southern Africa in the late 19th century and contains some language that is offensive to modern readers. This book also expresses some of the colonialist thinking of the time, particularly in its descriptions of certain relationships between the Europeans and the Africans. These views and relationship depictions are dated and reprehensible by modern standards, but it is of literary interest that the author was progressive for the time and this was reflected in his work.

Haggard demonstrates respect of the African culture and describes many of the African warriors, including Ignosi, one of the main characters in the book, as brave and heroic. Twala, the existing king of the Kukuana people, when the three European travelers and Ignosi arrive in Kukuanaland, and Gagool, the witch doctor, are described as being cruel and barbaric but this is in line with their roles as the villains of this story. The story also includes a romance between Englishman, Captain Good, and a Kukuana maiden called Foulata, which would have been socially unacceptable at the time.

My review of King Solomon’s Mines

King Solomon’s Mine is a thrilling tale of Allan Quatermaine, a European hunter living in Durban, South Africa, who partners with Sir Henry Curtis, a huge Adonis of a man from a wealthy English family, and his colleague Captain Good, to cross the Kalahari Desert in search of Sir Curtis’ younger brother, Neville and the legendary mines of King Solomon. Being on the wrong side of 50 years old and with his career as an elephant hunter drawing to an end, Mr Quatermaine agrees to accompany the pair on their ambitious journey.

Allan Quatermaine is rather pessimistic by nature and does not believe he will live to return to his home in Durban. His terms of engagement include making provision for his son in the likely event of his death. He does not see himself as a brave man, but his actions demonstrate this he is brave, and clever and levelheaded too.

Sir Henry Curtis is beset with guilt as he believes himself responsible for his brother’s rash action in crossing the desert, a journey very few have survived. He is determined to look for his brother and redeem himself, even if it results in his own death. Sir Curtis is brave and strong, the kind of man admired by many for his physical attributes. He fights alongside Ignosi’s best warriors when a tribal war erupts later in the story. Sir Curtis is kind and compassionate and is not corrupted by greed like many men are, even when he learns of the treasure hidden in King Solomon’s mines.

Captain Good is an ex-navel man and quite precise in his behaviour and beliefs. He is prim and proper and takes great care of his personal appearance, a characteristic that nearly results in his death early in the story but proves to be of great assistance to the adventurers later on.

Ignosi enters the story as an African servant named Umbopa. He is a huge man, strong and clever, who does not fit well into the role of a servant. Despite this, Sir Henry and Quatermaine decide he is perfectly suited to accompany them on their journey. Good has some reservations but these are swept aside by his traveling companions.

The book tells the story of the four men’s journey from Durban to a small African village on the outskirts of the desert. It provides a lot of insight into life at the time and describes travelling by ox wagon, an exciting elephant hunt that ends in tragedy and the life-threatening trek across the desert.

Once the men manage to traverse the desert and the mountain and enter Kukuanaland, the story becomes even more exciting when they encounter the evil Twala, a Shaka Zulu styled tyrant with no respect for human life, and Gagool, a powerful witch doctor with a taste for murdering beautiful young girls.

Readers are treated to a ferocious tribal war, an exciting trip to the mines of King Solomon and an evil trap. This is an exciting and fast paced story which demonstrates the author’s knowledge of southern Africa and the lifestyles and cultures of the time from both the European and African perspective.

Potential readers should be warned that this book was written during the colonialist era and contains some language and ideas that are offensive to modern readers. If you can set this aside as a function of the politics and ideology of the era, it is a fantastic adventure story along the lines of Indiana Jones.

A Ghost and His Gold by Roberta Eaton Cheadle – Cover reveal

A Ghost And His Gold

About Robbie Cheadle and Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with seven published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.

I have recently branched into adult and young adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. My first supernatural book published in that name, Through the Nethergate, is now available.

I have participated in a number of anthologies:

Two short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Dark Visions, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre;
Three short stories in Death Among Us, an anthology of murder mystery stories, edited by Stephen Bentley;
Three short stories in #1 Amazon bestselling anthology, Nightmareland, a collection of horror stories edited by Dan Alatorre; and
Two short stories in Whispers of the Past, an anthology of paranormal stories, edited by Kaye Lynne Booth.

I also have a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.

Thank you to Robbie Cheadle! Please visit her sites.

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Welcome To A New Member of the U. L. S., The Underground Library Society!

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I want to welcome a new member of the U. L. S., the Underground Library Society, Michelle Saul, an excellent writer, a former student of mine, and someone I am proud to call friend. This is her choice of book to become and to save, if we lived in a world as in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 in which books are forbidden.
Michelle’s post:
I have always though that the preservation of the written word is one of the most important things in the world. As a lover of books for as long as I can remember, some of my earliest and fondest memories are of my mother, my Aunt Mary, and my nana reading books to me. Blue Bug and Word Bird were just the start of a life long love of books. As I’ve gotten older and have discovered more books and authors, my love for books has only grown stronger with each passing year. So the thought of a world without books and reading is a horrifies me!
I’ve given a lot of thought as to what book I would memorize should the need ever arise and I’m sure for anyone who knows me, they would be surprised to find that my choice isn’t Harry Potter. Though I have loved Harry Potter for over half of my life and have learned many lessons from it over my lifetime, the book I’m choosing I feel embodies the true spirit of memorizing stories and telling them.
That book would be Ireland by Frank Delaney.
The first time I read Ireland was in my Irish Literature class during my undergraduate degree and it was literary love at first read. This is a book that comes off the page and immerses you in the world Frank Delaney created. For those who have never read this novel, it’s about a storyteller who visits the home of the main character Ronan when he is nine-years-old. The three nights that the storyteller is there changes Ronan’s life forever. From there, we see Ronan grow and have only one true goal- To find the
storyteller that changed his life forever.
It is a beautifully written story with a rich history of Ireland. This novel shows how one good story can change a person’s life and set them on the path of who they’re meant to become. It shows how important the written and spoken are. So this novel, with its theme of storytelling and the life-changing magic that comes with them, makes it feel like an appropriate and very fitting choice for The Underground Library Society.
Please visit Michelle at mythoughtsonwritingandreading
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A Call For Guest Posts for the ULS, The Underground Library Society

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Hello to everyone! I recently had an excellent guest post from Josh Gross, a wonderful blogger.  I am sending out a request to anyone who would like to join the ULS, the Underground Library Society, and who would like to write a guest post about it. This is an organization begun in my First Year Writing class last semester at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. When asked, my students said that they would like to have this organization continue, and I am very pleased by their sentiment. So, I hope to keep it alive in the blogging world.

If you decide to write a guest post, all that is needed is for you to choose a book you would become if we lived in a world in which books were illegal. Then, you would write a post about that book and why you would pick it to memorize. I am not saying you would actually have to memorize the book, but it is what you would do if we lived in a world of total censorship.

The ULS is a small attempt to battle censorship and book banning.

So, would any of you like to do a guest post? Please let me know.

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