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BY THE WAY

Here are a couple of good books to curl up with by the fire this winter

Tuesday, January 28, 2014 - 12:01 am

One wonderful gift a polar vortex brings is the opportunity to stay home and read. (At my age some one else does the snow removal.)

Of course, I really don’t need heavy snow and ridiculously bitter cold to afford me the time to read. That’s an essential part of living in my household. And the reading has been good.

I am a fan of Fannie Flagg, as you know by now, and her latest lives up to expectations. It’s “The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion,” and it is a winner. The book is filled with great characters, including the Phillips 66 filling station in Point Clear, Ala. Remember when you drove into a service station and honest-to-goodness service began? Well, that’s what customers received at that one, and it was awarded certificates of merit for the cleanliness of its restrooms, as well. That’s when parts of this book take place.

Then there’s Sookie, who never could please her mother, Lenore. She tried awfully hard, even pretending to adopt some of the family’s snobbish standards, but then one day she received a package in the mail and everything changed. Sookie begins the adventure of her life — and her daughters’ lives, too. And the reader is reminded of what it was like for women back then, especially female pilots.

Flagg writes about the tremendously important service these few American women supplied during World War II. This is history that should be known, remembered and celebrated — and this book should get a medal for doing it. I loved the book. I hope you do, too.

Another that combines fact and fiction is “The Windsor Faction.” The author is D. J. Taylor, who is English, so you’ll find British spelling of words, which I find fun. The story takes place at the very beginning of World War II — and the author “changes history.”

Wallis Simpson has died after surgery and Edward has become King Edward VIII, mourning and lonesome. Those of us old enough to have lived through that era remember hearing that he was an admirer of Hitler and that he was very lukewarm about the war.

This was a period when there was little happening. We all knew about the Maginot Line, and the French were hunkered down on one side and the Germans on the other, and Mussolini was strutting his stuff and some felt bloodshed could be averted — that Hitler would listen to reason and the British should, too.

A faction had organized in England and was meeting surreptitiously, hoping to achieve the peace Prime Minister Chamberlain had spoken of. Many were fascists — and disloyal.

Young protagonist Cynthia learns about this group. The reader follows her exploration and involvement and meets many intriguing characters along the way. This is history as it didn’t happen, and it makes for a very readable book.

Then I decided it was time to relax and go back to my old friend Sue Grafton. It had been quite a while since I had treated myself to time spent with her private investigator and her wonderful landlord, and “U is for Undertow” was exactly what I needed. Grafton may never rewrite history, but by golly she does give us some entertaining reading. That’s what this is. More anon.

Betty E. Stein is a retiredteacher in Fort Wayne.