Monday, April 18, 2011

books...we'll always have books

I first saw this on a poster in a bookstore in NYC, think it was the great Strand bookstore.
This was one poster I wanted but never got around to bringing it home on the plane. Recently I
discovered it online and some history behind it. This was taken at Holland House in London after a bombing during the Blitz. Holland House was built in 1605, in the 19th century hosted literary types as Byron, Thomas Macaulay, Benjamin Disraeli, Charles Dickens and Sir Walter Scott.
Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother and King George VI attended the last great ball held at the house a few weeks before the outbreak of World War II. In September 1940, the building was badly hit during a ten hour bombing raid. Today the remains form a backdrop for the open air Holland Park Theatre, home of Opera Holland Park. A youth hostel is now located in the house. The Orangery is now an exhibition and function space, with the adjoining former Summer Ballroom, The Belvedere, now a restaurant. The former Icehouse is now a gallery space.
Here's a clip from British Pathé newsreel that shows the library.


The remains of Holland House were left in ruins until 1952 when it was partially restored, leaving some ruined areas to remember, and thrives today. But this photo says so much; what people go to in adversity, the strength of reading, the refuge books provide and so much. I posted the photo on Facebook and received so many, many comments I'd like to share some here. It touched a chord for many.

" It's good to know you'll be surrounded by friends when you die."

"I still think there is nothing like a REAL book to read ... not Kindle or Barnes & Noble's Nook. Just bought Murder in the Marais today ... a real book!"

"If we have a power outage I guess people might have to!"


"The British ethos of "KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON" when confronted by adversity"

"My parents were in London during the blitz, my father designed radar, my mother was a red cross nurse - but they went to the theatre."

"Oh my gosh. I'm a librarian and absolutely love this!"

From our UK friend Ali Karim "My elderly Aunt from North London was a Nurse in London. She is German and came to London just after WW2. She came with my Uncle who was a pilot, and like me of Indian origin. My aunt Klara due to her German background suffered terrible racial abuse from the other London nurses, because due to terrible London Blitz, many had lost relatives and seen many terrible results on the people of London. At that time she could not tell them about the equally terrible bombing of German cities such as Dresden, or where she was a child, and witnessed for herself, with her own eyes, the horrific damage those bombers did during those dark days. She was a great reader, loved music. Well into her 90's she is in a nursing home with a destroyed short-term memory, but her long-term memory is intact, complete with sounds of aircraft engines, bomb blasts and the screams they brought."

Cara - Tuesday


  1. Try this link

  2. Toward the end of the clip, the camera is on a young man who carefully goes through the damaged book. Given the date of the bombing, he was likely under 18 years old. Virtually every British male over that age was in uniform. Men too old for active duty patrolled the streets as fire watchers and rescuers.

    The ability of the British to "carry on" during the Blitz seems to come from the same part of the human character that has allowed the Japanese to move forward so quickly and with their focus on the future after the tsunami.

    The fire bombing of Dresden in February, 1945 is a black mark on the military leaders of Britain and the United States. Dresden had no military installations. There were no factories producing items for use by the German army. The city was filled by German families evacuees escaping from the destruction of other cities. People from the east were coming west into Dresden, trying to get away from the advancing Soviet Army. Civilians caught by the Soviets were not likely to survive.

    From the standpoint of the British, Dresden was only getting what the Germans had given to non-military support areas of their country. But the attack on Dresden occurred less than two months before Germany surrendered. The victims were women, children, and the elderly.

    This link will lead to another point of view of the bombing. War is hell and that generation of children lived lives that were nightmares.