A Ghost And His Gold by Roberta Eaton Cheadle–A Review

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A Ghost And His Gold by Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a brilliant, thoughtful, and deeply emotional novel. In this book, which is a historical paranormal novel, she weaves together the plots of a distant time period and shows how they connect to the present. Her historical research is impeccable, and her characters draw the reader completely into the story.

A Ghost And His Gold is a tale of love and hatred, the impact of the past on the present, greed and decency, war and peace, and sinning and redemption. Weaving such an intricacy of themes could easily be difficult, but Cheadle is extraordinary in her narration. She moves the reader seemingly without effort from one time period to another, and confusion is never a problem. Her plotting skills as are strong as are her character development.

This novel is set in South Africa, both in contemporary times and during the Boer Wars. The impact of this setting and history is interwoven beautifully with both the character of the ghosts and those of Michelle and Tom, and we see the tensions of these characters as they impact each other.

While Cheadle intertwines moments of great terror, both from the paranormal and from the consequences of war, ultimately this is a novel about committing terrible transgressions, forgiveness, and achievement of redemption. It is a book about the complexity and depths of the human spirit.

I recommend this novel completely. Roberta Eaton Cheadle is a truly talented writer, and this book is excellent! I give this book a five star review!

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Roberta Cheadle is an accomplished novelist and poet: please read her other work as well and visit her blogs:

Robbie Cheadle Books | Poems | Reviews  and Robbie’s inspiration

Copy of Roberta Writes - independent pub 2 theme.

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 Honor Memorial Day

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I hope all of you have a wonderful weekend, but I also hope you remember why this holiday exists.  The word “holiday” comes from “holy day,” and the remembrance of this day and its purpose should be sacred. It was originally known as Decoration Day after the end of the Civil War, and it was designated Memorial Day in the 20th Century.

This day is intended to honor, give thanks, and remember those who have sacrificed their lives for The United States of America.  Please honor the fallen and the wounded on this day.  I realize the day was meant originally for the dead, but I extend my wishes and  thanks to the wounded also. Regardless of political beliefs or stands on a war, these are the men and women who fought to keep us safe, and they deserve our remembrance.

They deserve our thanks and our honor.

Please keep in mind that this day is not merely the beginning of the summer season, nor is it intended to be the time of a special sale. This should be a sacred and somber time. There will be plenty of opportunity for shopping and vacationing afterwards. Please remember those who sacrificed.

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Another Member Of The U.L.S. — Robbie Cheadle Writes On The Red Badge of Courage

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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.

The Red Badge of Courage

Background

The Red Badge of Courage is a novel about the American Civil War, written by American author, Stephen Crane. Although the author was born after the war and had not ever participated in a battle when he wrote the book, The Red Badge of Courage is cited for its realism and naturalism.

The book depicts several very vivid and intense battle scenes which are graphically depicted from the perspective of the young protagonist, Henry Fleming, a private in the Union Army. The book explores the themes of maturism, heroism and cowardice with regards to Fleming’s regiment which comprises mainly of inexperienced first-time soldiers who have conscripted for various reasons and the indifference of nature to the follies of man.

The red badge of courage referred to in the title of the book is a wound incurred during battle.

My review of this book

The Red Badge of Courage was a fascinating insight into the psychology of warfare for young recruits who have never experienced battle before. I read the author’s biography and was astonished that he had never experienced war before he wrote this startling descriptive and vivid account of the fictional 304th New York Infantry Regiment during the American Civil War.

The main character is 18-year old man from a farming background called Henry Fleming. Henry is tired of the monotony of his life helping his mother on the farm and enlists because he has romanticized battle as a result of reading several accounts of war. He is attracted by his perceived glamour of battle and enlists against the advice of his mother. When she attempts to give him some practical advice before he leaves to join his new regiment, he resents her words which belie and detract from his romantic notions.

Henry’s main ambition is to prove that he is man enough to be a soldier, and he suffers endless anxiety about how he will react when his regiment eventually sees some action on the front. He becomes friendly with a number of his compatriots, including a young man named Jim Conklin, who confesses that he would run from battle if all his peers did so.

Henry’s regiment finally faces the enemy and is successful during their first session of combat. After a short reprieve, the regiment faces the enemy again and this time Henry is convinced that his regiment will lose and he runs away from the battle. He retreats into a nearby wood and comes across a dead body. In his fear and fright at coming across this grim sight, he joins up with a group of injured soldiers, one of whom is is friend, Jim Conklin. Henry is deeply ashamed of his cowardly behavior and does his best to hide the fact that he is not injured but has fled the battle. He manages to get away with it, but his disgust at his own behavior and fear of discovery results in later behaviour that is almost reckless and lacking in reasonable self-care in his attempt to redeem himself in his own mind.

I loved the characterisation of Henry as a thinker and a person who is sensitive to his own potential failings and fears. I am sure that many young men must feel like this when faced with the real possibility of their own imminent death. The effect of peer pressure and the comradery or brotherhood of soldiers when in a group is also intriguing and believable.

Once again, thank you to Robbie Cheadle, and welcome to the U. L. S., The Underground Library Society!

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Always Remember And Honor D-Day

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

Today is the 75th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion by the Allied troops in which, on June 6, 1944, over 150,000 troops launched the largest sea, air, and land invasion in history against the Fascist powers led by Nazi Germany. The invasion itself saw these troops land in Nazi-occupied France, and it marked the beginning of the end of Nazi control of France and of the European war.

This landing was part of Operation Overlord, the code name for the overall plan to invade and retake France and move into Germany. During this battle, approximately 210,000 Allied casualties, including about 37,000 killed were suffered.

Most of the soldiers who attacked that beach and faced horrific gunfire from the occupying Nazi forces were around 18-20 years old, and they were among the most honorable and brave forces the Unites States ever produced. They were, indeed, among America’s Greatest Generation.

Please remember their courage and sacrifice.

Please remember that their actions helped to create the postwar American-European alliances that are currently at risk.

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Dining With Character, Part 3 — Revisited

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To continue this series, I wanted to invite major characters from British mythology.  As before, I am imagining what it would be like to invite a few fictional characters to a dinner and have conversation with them.

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https://en.wikipedia.org

(This is the first page of the extant original copy of Beowulf, written in Old English.)

 

Today’s guests are Beowulf, King Arthur, and Aragorn, all kings from British epics: Beowulf by an unknown poet, Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory, and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. These books range from the Dark Ages, circa the mid 800s to the Middle Ages, circa 1485 to the contemporary world in the mid 1900s. These texts are all important to me, both as a reader and as a teacher, because I have used all of these books in different college classes, primarily in the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. While covering a very long historical range, they all deal with the difficulties faced by leaders especially when the fate of their kingdoms rests in their decisions and actions.

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(King Arthur and his knights)

For this entry, we would dine again at a traditional British pub, and we would be seated around a fairly large, wooden, round table.  This seems appropriate, given the attendees.

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“Aragorn300ppx” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Aragorn300ppx.png#/media/File:Aragorn300ppx.png

I would like to ask these three kings what it was like to lead soldiers actively into combat. Unlike the leaders of contemporary armies, they faced death directly with their fellow fighters. I would also ask them what they see the main responsibilities of leaders to be. I would also like to ask them if they consider fate to be real, or are they in control of their own destinies?  Given the variation in optimism and pessimism that ranges in their attitudes, their approaches to facing the difficulties of life and death would be fascinating to explore.

I would certainly be curious to see how these three warrior kings spoke with each other. I think a checking of the swords at the door might be a very good idea.

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What questions would you ask these leaders or other leaders in mythology?

Capitulation and Treason

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Once again, I find myself forced to speak about politics in this blog. President Trump’s

disgraceful press conference with Russia’s Putin demonstrated a singular abandonment

of American values and policies. Trump has made it clear that the Russian dictator

controls him, and that he values Putin more than he does the United States of America.

He has buckled to Putin and capitulated to the former K.G.B. agent’s agenda.

I wish I were over-reacting, but I do not believe that I am. I quote from CNN Politics (7/16/2018):

“Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican who has consistently criticized the President,

said Trump’s comments were ‘one of the most disgraceful performances by an American

president in memory.'”

“Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, issued a blistering statement
just minutes after the press conference wrapped. Sasse rebuked Trump’s statement that
he held ‘both countries responsible’ for the deteriorated relationship between the United
States and Russia. ‘This is bizarre and flat-out wrong. The United States is not to blame.
America wants a good relationship with the Russian people but Vladimir Putin and his
thugs are responsible for Soviet-style aggression,’ Sasse said in the statement.
‘When the President plays these moral equivalence games, he gives Putin a propaganda
win he desperately needs.'”
I quote from nbc.news.com (7/16/2018): Former CIA director John Brennan, a frequent
Trump critic and a national security analyst for NBC News and MSNBC,   called
Trump’s performance ‘nothing short of treasonous.'”
It is now certain that Russia instituted and conducted a cyber attack against the United
States of America and our voting system, the sacred basis of our democracy, an action
that can be considered an act of war. Article Three of the Constitution of the United
States of America defines treason as “Treason against the United States, shall consist only
in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and
Comfort.” Russia clearly is our enemy, and giving aid or comfort to the enemy is, without
a doubt, an act of treason.
Americans need to put aside differences of being liberal or conservative, Democratic or
Republican, and recognize the clear threat to our democracy that is being shown by
President Trump. Congress needs to act, and Americans must keep pressure on Congress
to act.
We must preserve our democracy.
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Honor Memorial Day

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I hope all of you have a wonderful weekend, but I also hope you remember why this holiday exists.  The word “holiday” comes from “holy day,” and the remembrance of this day and its purpose should be sacred. It was originally known as Decoration Day after the end of the Civil War, and it was designated Memorial Day in the 20th Century.

This day is intended to honor, give thanks, and remember those who have sacrificed their lives for The United States of America.  Please honor the fallen and the wounded on this day.  I realize the day was meant originally for the dead, but I extend my wishes and  thanks to the wounded also. Regardless of political beliefs or stands on a war, these are the men and women who fought to keep us safe, and they deserve our remembrance.

They deserve our thanks and our honor.

Please keep in mind that this day is not merely the beginning of the summer season, nor is it intended to be the time of a special sale. This should be a sacred and somber time. There will be plenty of opportunity for shopping and vacationing afterwards. Please remember those who sacrificed.

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(https://pixabay.com)

Please Remember the D-Day Invasion

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Please let us all take a moment and remember the sacrifices of those men, often little more than boys, who took part in the largest military invasion in the history of humanity: Operation Overlord. Thanks to their courage, they were able to begin the end of Hitler’s reign of terror in Europe. The invasion began on June 6, 1944 and lasted until the middle of July in 1944.

Many soldiers from a variety of countries lost their lives during this campaign, and today several cemeteries exist to honor those who fell. One such sacred place is the Normandy American Cemetery.

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To all who fought to defeat Fascism, I give my thanks.

What Is One Of Your Favorite Movies?

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I have posted before about favorite books.  I will come back to that idea again in the not too distant future, but I was thinking about movies, because I am going to teach a hybrid online/traditional in-class course on Literature and Film at Muhlenberg College for The Wescoe School (the adult program) this summer. This will be an early question I will ask my students, so it is only fair that I think about it.

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My answer would be the same as if this question were for books: The Lord of the Rings by director Peter Jackson (all 3 movies considered to be one–the same as with the books.) I think this adaptation is one of the best adaptations of a book to movie that has ever been accomplished. I love the depth of the story, the issues raised of political power and corruption, war and peace, good and evil, life and death, love and hatred, industrialization and the decimation of the natural world, heroes, both large and small, and the connection of all people. I recommend this filmic adaptation to all.   Please also read the books!

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So, I ask everyone: what is one of your favorite films?