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Rumors of Peace by Ella Leffland

Rumors of Peace

by Ella Leffland

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Every once in a while, we can be pleasantly surprised – no, more than ‘pleasantly surprised’; we can be downright astonished!

I picked up a copy of Ella Leffland’s Rumors of Peace on a stoop here in Brooklyn one afternoon last summer, read “coming-of-age story” on the back cover, and thought it might make for a good little read for my daughter. This summer, I decided to first read it myself so as not to waste my daughter’s time if the book turned out to be some silly kind of YA Fiction.

A waste of time? Nothing could be further from the truth! If the name of Ella Leffland wasn’t already as well-known to me as that of Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Connor or Joyce Carol Oates, I consider that to be my failing.

Ms. Leffland’s prose is immaculate – and her character, Helen Maria (not the protagonist, Suze, but rather the protagonist’s older sister), has to rank right up there alongside Uriah Heep, Frankie Addams, Atticus Finch, Captain Ahab, and Don Quixote for being (to me at least) among the most colorful and memorable in literature.

At the same time, I found Ms. Leffland’s use of headlines (about the progress of WWII) as a literary device to be every bit as effective as John Dos Passos’s use of Newsreels in his U. S. A. Trilogy.

If I’ve always considered Carson McCullers’s Member of the Wedding to be the most accomplished coming-of-age story in American literature – and on a par with Charles Dickens’s David Copperfield and Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones in British literature – I now have to say that Ella Leffland’s Rumors of Peace figures right alongside it. Yes, it’s that good!

One of the more impressive aspects of Rumors of Peace is Ms. Leffland’s ability to show, in both thought and action, Suze’s growth – and to illustrate that growth in perfect syncopation with world events right up to and including the dropping of the A-Bomb on Hiroshima. While I realize that this is the objective of any coming-of-age story worth its salt – or at least its ink – I can’t recall ever having seen it done so effectively.

In any case, I have to wonder in this, the year 2014 (and beyond): will anyone still possess comparable powers of observation for things both near and far? In this, the year 2014 (and beyond), with most people – whether on foot or in some other mode of transportation – plugged in digitally, will anyone still be able to observe and describe the world beyond his or her own digital navel?

Somehow, I doubt it.

Brooklyn, NY

( )
1 vote RussellBittner | Dec 12, 2014 |
I got to chapter 15 and had to stop. I love books about this era and I enjoyed this book until Suse met Peggy and her sister Helen Maria. It turned strange and uninteresting for me.
  bellamia | Aug 4, 2008 |
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For my mother, and in memory of my father.
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In later life, when I grew up and went out into the world, I was astonished to hear people speak of California as if it had no seasons.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060913010, Paperback)

Perhaps no novel since A Seperate Peace has so superbly captured the impingement of a world at war upon a safe and sheltered environment. The place in Mendoza, a small oil-refining town thirty miles east of San Francisco. The time encompassed is World War II, from the bombing of Pearl Harbor until the bombing of Hiroshima. The narrator and heroine of the story is the fierce yet enchanting Suse Hansen. In the intervening four years, we watch with compassion as Suse evolves from a tomboy who wishes to be a trapeze artist to a young person whose moral growth has been as remarkable as her blossoming womanhood. In Suse's perceptions of the war, in her ability to reconcile her unfolding knowledge of human nature with the horrors of the news reports she so anxiously follows, we see a growth that is all the more dramatic for the subtlety and awe with which it is portrayed.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:27 -0400)

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An impingement of a world at war upon a safe and sheltered environment. The place in Mendoza, a small oil-refining town thirty miles east of San Francisco. The time encompassed is World War II, from the bombing of Pearl Harbor until the bombing of Hiroshima.… (more)

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