After German forces occupied France in 1939, French citizens reacted in a variety of ways — some became resistance fighters, some conspirators, most tried to maintain a sense of their daily lives. Wooster author Erwin David Riedner’s book Sorrows Revisited: Personal Histories, France 1940-1944 is a collection of stories of French men and women who survived l’heure allemande, “the hour of the Germans.”
Many of the stories are firsthand reminiscences told directly to Riedner by those who lived them; others come from children or grandchildren, or are composites of several people, to preserve their privacy.
In the first story, a man remembers traveling on a train from Marseille to Paris days after France’s declaration of war on Germany, and hearing his dining car companions agree that “this Hitler person was leading Europe in a very bad direction.” So he was: Riedner’s correspondents report starvation, executions, betrayals. A report of a French translator assigned to an American battalion at the liberation of Dachau tells what he found there.
Not all the stories are grim; some relate how the French used ingenuity and resolve to outwit the Germans or to simply retain their humanity. One, “The Teutonic Cow,” tells of a detail of German soldiers who commandeer livestock from a farmer, an action they live to regret; another is the story of a family who raises a contraband pig in the city, with dreams of future pork chops.
Sorrows Revisited (182 pages, softcover) costs $16.95 from the Wooster Book Co. Erwin Riedner earned a doctorate in public health from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
The Newton Falls poet Jeanne Bryner, whose writing reflects both her work as a registered nurse and her Appalachian upbringing, brings more of her observation and compassion to Smoke, a new collection.
In Bryner’s previous book, No Matter How Many Windows, four generations of her West Virginia family are represented, beginning with her great-grandmother, whose cow has died and who is hoping there are mice to eat in the barn, and including Bryner’s own mother, confined to a mental institution with apparent postpartum depression.
That illness appears again in “Aunt Clara” (“That year my Mama was crying depressed and put away”). In “Bread and Wine: Poem for My Brothers,” Bryner tells of her brothers’ abuse at the hands of their stepmother, and the neighbors who offered to call Children’s Services, knowing it would be futile, but in “Where God Lives,” she recalls Elsie and Janet May from down the street, who came to the rescue when toddler Ben was injured, the children’s father having gone out drinking.
The professional side of Bryner’s life is revealed in poems like “Last Trees,” in which nurses accept the gratitude of elderly patients who are getting better treatment in the hospital than from their own families, and in “Birch Canoe,” in which the narrator deflects her daughter’s questions about the welfare of a little girl rescued from a trailer fire, by telling her instead about the heroic firefighters who had gone in after her.
Smoke (95 pages, softcover) costs $16 from Huron’s Bottom Dog Press. Jeanne Bryner is an emergency room nurse at Trumbull Memorial Hospital in Warren.
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• Advance registration is needed to meet Casey Daniels, author of the Pepper Martin mystery series, and (as Kylie Logan) the Button Box mysteries, at 7 p.m. Oct. 15 at the North Royalton branch of Cuyahoga County Public Library, 14600 State Road. Call 440-237-3800.
• The schedule has been posted and tickets are on sale for the Mandel Jewish Community Center’s Festival of Jewish Books & Authors, Nov. 4-18 at various locations in Beachwood. A few events are free, but all require reservations. See the schedule at www.mandel jcc.org or call 216-831-0700.
Malone University (Johnson Center for Worship and the Fine Arts, 2600 Cleveland Ave. NW, Canton) — Novelist and essayist Scott Russell Sanders (A Conservationist Manifesto) will speak on “The Art of Peace” in the inaugural William Stafford Lecture, 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Ohio Theatre (Playhouse Square, 1511 Euclid Ave., Cleveland) — Tracy Kidder, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Soul of the New Machine and his latest, Strength in What Remains, appears on the 2012-2013 William N. Skirball Writers Center Stage series to benefit the Cuyahoga County Public Library, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. $30. Call 216-664-6051.
Our Lady of the Elms High School (1375 W. Exchange St., Akron) — The Author! Author! lecture series continues with Josh Rolnick, Akron author of the prize-winning short-story collection Pulp and Paper, and Patricia Latimer, author of Ohio Wine Country Excursions. 11:30 a.m. Wednesday; lecture at 12:30 p.m. With lunch, $40; without lunch, $20. Visit http://web.theelms.org.
Tommy’s Restaurant (1824 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights) — Josh Rolnick hosts a lunch for readers from noon to 2 p.m. Thursday. Reservations required; email email@example.com.
Hudson Library & Historical Society (96 Library St.) — Physician Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr. returns to speak about the vegan lifestyle and his book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
Barnes & Noble Booksellers (198 Crocker Park Blvd., Westlake) — Maria Isabella and guest chef Karen Small of Flying Fig present In the Kitchen with Cleveland’s Favorite Chefs: 35 Fabulous Meals in About an Hour, 7 p.m. Thursday; former Spencer resident Jobie Hughes, co-author (with James Frey) of I Am Number Four, signs his semiautobiographical debut novel At Dawn, 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
Visible Voice Books (1023 Kenilworth Ave., Cleveland) — Authors who contributed to Rust Belt Chic: The Cleveland Anthology read from and sign the story collection, 7 to 9 p.m. Friday.
Learned Owl Book Shop (204 N. Main St., Hudson) — Karen Robbins signs her comic novel In a Pickle, about a widowed pickle maker who learns she’s accidentally used an illicit ingredient in her latest batch, 1 p.m. Saturday.
— Barbara McIntyre
Special to the Beacon Journal
Send information about books of local interest to Lynne Sherwin, Features Department, Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Event notices should be sent at least two weeks in advance.