Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Summer Heat

We made it through the 4th of July blast - temperatures in the high 90's and low 100's here in the Midwest.  It was miserable.  I finally gave in and turned on my A/C.  I hate being shut in during the summer months.  I grew up in a big old house that had electric heat for the winter and some 20 year old fans for the summer.  One fan was made in the late 30's, probably.  I kid you not - heavy, wood encased dark metal blades.  In other words, I am used to temperature inconvenience.  My best childhood memories are of nights scorching hot where my sisters and I would sleep at the ends of our beds in order to be closer to the breeze from our box fan.  Inevitably, sometime in the night, the temperature would drop and I would crawl to the head of the bed, and pull a sheet over me to deter the chill.  Bliss.

Middle age brings the need for comfort, however.  Night times are the worst for sweating, I have found.  Air conditioning is the savior for those uncomfortable muggy evenings when not a breath of air is moving through the windows. Reading in bed is one of my favorite things to do, so a cool evening is appreciated.  My latest read came from Penguin First Reads.  City of Women by David R. Gillham is a WWII story set in Berlin in 1943.  All the men are gone - either burned up in ovens or fighting the battle against the Russians.  Sigfrid lives with her mother-in-law while her husband fights on the front.  She works in the patent office and appears to be an honorable German hausfrau  doing her part for the Motherland.  In truth, however, she is an adulteress who has had an affair with a Jew named Egon.  The beginning of the book centers on this relationship and with Sigfrid's self absorption as she deals with his recent disappearance.  Strewn with glimpses at Sigfrid's sad childhood and her lonely adult existence, the book allows readers to see the motives for the protagonist.  She is not a likeable character, but by the end of the book, she has added layers and matured to become a believable and complex woman who makes choices no longer based on her wants and needs.  Her involvement with the illegal hiding of Jews complicates her life in numerous ways, which leads to death, betrayal and finally redemption. 

This was an excellent book and I am glad that it was part of the Penguin First Reads program as it is not a book I would have committed to otherwise.  I no longer seek Holocaust literature, though it will certainly haunt me forever.  But this book was more than just a story of the underground railroad for Jews.  It was the story of a woman who like a slim wick dipped over and over in hot wax, developed into a candle with the possibility of light.  This will be a great discussion book, and one that will stay with me for a while.  Complex and sad, it is not a beach book, but it was a cool spot during the summer heat for me.