This week my book discussion group met to talk about Elizabeth Berg's story of the Heaney Family on the home front during WWII entitled, Dream When You're Feeling Blue. I wrote about this title last Spring when my local library used this title as part of a cooperative effort to present The Big Read with other area libraries.
Click here for my original posting about this title, including plot and readalikes.
Click here for the information compiled by those presenting the Big Read, including readalikes, historical background information, and information about the author.
Besides the readalikes listed in the two above sources, I want to remind you to check out Ken Burns' WWII documentary, the companion book, and the CD box set. His multi-part film captures the tone of this work and also gives attention to the home front. Since this novel is also named after a song of the era, and popular culture of the time, dancing, and music all play a large part in the story, the CD box set also goes nicely with the novel.
Another book our group read about a group of women (not sisters though) who work together through hardship and protect each other is Sandra Dallas' The Persian Pickle Club. You can click here to read about our discussion.
But enough about all the background info and readalikes. On to what we discussed...
A big discussion point about this novel has to do with the ending, in fact, that is where our discussion began. Although everyone in the group loved reading the book, some were "crushed" by the ending, another thought it was too abrupt, and still others loved it. Without giving the twist away, I will say that although the ending is a twist, it is not outrageous, and, as far as our group was concerned, whether or not they liked the ending did not interfere with their overall enjoyment of the novel.
Kitty, the middle sister who is in her late teens, is the character through which we view the Heaney family. Many of my group participants were young children during the days of WWII and commented on remembering some of the things that Kitty discusses such as Roosevelt coffee, going to Marshal Field's as a special outing, and the USO dances. One participant loved watching Kitty grow and blossom. As a young girl, she never thought she had a choice of what she could do with her life once she grew up, but seeing Kitty get a factory job and begin to assert her independence made this woman happy. Others remarked that despite her selfishness, Kitty always showed empathy for those around her.
Of course, the group loved the Chicago setting and many people shared their own stories about their victory gardens, rations, and especially of going downtown and seeing sailors and soldiers everywhere you looked.
Toward the end we moved to a discussion of drawing parallels between the WWII era and today. We talked about life on the home front during war time. My group talked about how proud they were to endure the hardships on the home front because it made you feel proud to be part of the war effort. The participants felt it was easier to band together then because our enemy was so clear and defined. Today our enemies are unknown. They could be anyone, and the psychological burden of this hidden enemy makes us live under, what one participant called, "a cloud of concern." The group agreed that without a transparent enemy, it is hard to unite those at home.
I am so glad my group discussed this book. My participants are of an age where they can remember a bit from the era and were excited to relive those memories. I would suggest this book to any Chicagoland book clubs or to groups anywhere with participants who lived through the WWII era.
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