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The crowd coming up the stairs, from the black and gritty tubes of the subway and onto Times Square, blinked in surprise. A few stopped short. In the eerie dimness, everything on Broadway was there, and yet not there. This was not new, certainly not unknown, but it was still a surprise.
"Jeez," one of the sailors murmured, impressed.
Before their eyes Times Square and New York's theater district, the Horn and Hardart's Automat, the giant illuminated Camel cigarette sign that blew six-feet high smoke rings, the RKO, Paramount and other movie palaces that ordinarily lit the night with miles of neon tubing and thousands of light bulbs--even the band of the latest news that ran around the top of the New York Times building--was dark. Skyscrapers had suddenly become looming shadows. At ground level Times Square was shuttered tightly to muffle any stray spark of light. Even the streetlights had blinders in the form of metal hoods, and the top half of the headlights of taxis and buses were painted black.
At first, New York City had had no total blackout like the West Coast, which now, a year later, still feared a Japanese invasion. Or London, where after three years of war the inhabitants still groped through the pitch dark, except when there was light from fires set by German bombs. Eventually, though, there had been concern over New York's ?sky glow," which, it was realized, could be seen for miles out to sea. When Manhattan's skyscrapers were lit, enemy submarines could target Allied ships silhouetted against them, and launch their torpedoes. There were plenty of submarines out there: newspapers and the radio networks reported that Hitler's wolfpacks lurked as fearfully close as Lower New York Bay and extended as far south as Atlantic City.
The East Coast of the United States, the War Department decided, would initiate a ?brown-out." A dimming, rather than a complete dousing of the lights. On the island of Manhattan there were suddenly darkened office towers, a lightless theater district. Macy's and Bloomingdale's went black. Blackout curtains appeared at every window. Civilian Defense air raid wardens, looking for leaks, patrolled the night. There was a war on.
New York City did its part.
Posted October 20, 2008
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I was given this book and said I must read, by someone who knows good books. Still, I thought, hun? It's literature, not romance, its about WWII, which I know very little other than Historical Channel, and thought I did not want to know. So, I went in reading thinking, no matter how good, this is not my cup of tea. BOY WAS I WRONG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!<BR/><BR/>I was mesmerised by the images this book put in my mind, held spellbound, and could not put it down. You just don't see books like this very much again more. It brings to mind Pearl, From Hear to Eternity, The Winds of War, but is a woman's book, telling straight from the heart what the women went through when their men go to war, how they tried to support them, and how war affected their lives. How it changed them.<BR/><BR/>It's rich in so much details, so thrilling to get the behind the scene look at the production of a Broadway musical, yet she swings into another chapter with a harrowing sea battle with a U-boat. <BR/><BR/>I was totally absorbed and all I could say was WOW!!
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Posted January 1, 2005
You can almost smell the coffee at Sardis and the Stage Door Canteen as Maggie Davis transports you back to the challenging days of World War II. In her latest novel, she weaves the personalities of different characters--each with his or her own agenda--into an interesting plot filled with people who are not so perfect, but who want to do whatever is necessary to life life with gusto while there is still time. In short, Stage Door Canteen is a page-turner.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 11, 2004
not sure what I can add that the other reviews have not already covered. Yes, this needs to be a movie or a mini-series even better, so it can really do justice to the whole book - maybe a Broadway play - maybe all. There sure is a enough material. From the first page, the evocative prose pulled me into this book, seeing vivid images of what New York was like during WWII, the uncertainty, the press to grab life for the moment. I've have seen several of the old Stage Door Canteen movies, but they cannot even touch the scope of this book. I was very impressed with the deep empathy for the British sea Captain, his pain, how shared the pain in Jenny. These were very human moments. I could go on and on about the brilliant behind scenes drama of the birth of one of America's most beloved musicals, the unflinching portrayal of the prejudices that existed during that era. So many times when a writer steps back and writes about a past era, there is the temptation to make it brighter, better more perfect than it really was. Davis holds nothing back, not opting to take that easy road. She uses to time capsule feel to portray American how she was, somewhat innocent, often a little unfeeling toward their fellow man, but with the ultimate belief in good and struggle to stay on that path. It's a sweeping drama, yet at the same time tells very personal stories. Doesn't get much better than this.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 20, 2004
It¿s all here. From Hollywood and Broadway glitterati to the intrigue of New York during the ¿black-out¿. Stage Door Canteen brings you the flavor of WWII New York and the fighting men and women who lived through an era which decided the fate of the free world. From the British sea captain who could never really go home, to the aspirations of young actresses on Broadway, to the nightmares of a ball turret gunner; a gripping read page after page.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 2, 2004
I cannot recall when I last read a book so deep in substance. This story is skillfully woven with tales of Broadway, the glitter of stars stepping out of their roles to do their share to support the Home Front, the more personal tales of how changes peoples lives, down to a slam-bang sea battle. Topics of the era are vividly drawn, issues not made 'politically correct' but handle with the forthrightness. Frankly, it's a journey on a time-machine. You don't read this book, you experience. Several of my friends and family have read it, and I laugh, because everyone tries to compare it to other works like 'From Here To Eternity', 'The Winds of War' and 'Pearl', and I can see where they might, but frankly, this book is more....Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 2, 2004
This story takes place between 1942-43, and is framed by WW2, as experienced through the lives of a select group of theatre people, young women volunteers, and a cross section of America's fighting men and women, who pass through the doors of the Stage Door Canteen - a former off Broadway nightclub turned USO, that is largely funded and staffed through the generosity of the New York City show community. Primarily set in New York City, and Washington, DC - where the Pentagon is still under construction - this is a study in contrasts. Jenny is a singer/actor in a Broadway show. Her husband is a drafted writer working on top secret documents that will help define US policy. Gene, a decorated gunner, falls in love with Dina, a canteen volunteer hostess, whose dream is a part in a Broadway show, not a home and family. Elise, another volunteer, who is a Jewish refugee/college student, grapples with her fears, while trying to bring the reality of Hitler¿s death camps to the attention of the American media. These characters, interacting with a myriad of other diverse personas, are brought back for the reader¿s review, again and again. All are grappling with the supreme sacrifices demanded of a people living through a turbulent wartime period, attempting to tie knots and hang onto their dreams, love (Just enough steamy romancing to keep it interesting), and life, while the action exposes the soul of a bloody and horrible war. Surfacing, along with the intricacies of World War II - and a lot of facts that you probably forgot since History 101- are the names, faces, and personality types that made an impact on the fabric of our lives during the early 1940s. GIs and foreign correspondents relive their battles, and share their angst. Discrimination, segregation, faith, and other values are questioned. Stars such as Katherine Hepburn, Ava Gardner, and Ray Bolger impress us with their humanity, dance, or sing their way through the chapters of this book. Show people, including talents like Celeste Holmes, and the composers/creators of the musicals that rocked Broadway, strut across the pages, as they strive to produce one of the most significant musicals of the period - OKLAHOMA! What a fabulous resource for the theatre aficionado! It¿s all here! Names, dates, arguments, snubbings, hirings, firings, intrigues, crashing affiliations and new liaisons. You name it! As for the fantastic story of World War II, as it flows from Maggie Davis' pen - it is unparalleled! Much more than just another goodie for the WWII buff! More than a book that should be on every college history teacher's must-read class list! Stage Door Canteen is a book that everyone is definitely going to want on his or her personal bookshelf! I highly recommend it!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 4, 2004
I write many reviews for good books. However, once in a great while, one comes along that¿s so special it¿s hard to write a review. Words pale in expressing the rich qualities of the prose, the imagery, that you feel unable to convey properly how wonderful a story it is. Marvelous, amazing, fabulous, just doesn¿t hack it. That¿s my chore¿pleasure¿in writing a review for Maggie Davis¿ ¿Stage Door Canteen¿ and I know from the start, my words can never do the book full justice. This is one of those novels that will spread by word of mouth, because once you have finished, you¿ll be moved to tell someone about it. I saw it happen with ¿Bridges of Madison County¿. I expect - hope for - the same with this book because it deserves that sort of recognition. Frankly, the story¿s ripe for Ted Turner to snatch up and make into a movie. It addresses many of the issues close to his heart: flag-waving (meant in the most honorable and patriotic fashion, mind you), America - strong and brave - of what made the Country so great. Recently, with our men again fighting overseas, we¿ve finally come to the understanding one doesn¿t have to believe in a war, but we should always support the soldiers who go to fight and, maybe, died for their flag. ¿Stage Door Canteen¿ is a story of the women who worked, loved and supported the soldiers in WWII, but it¿s just as relevant today. Crafted with strong details, rich in the history of the period - simply put, the book is amazing on so many levels. ¿Stage Door Canteen¿ portrays this frantic denial of war¿s realities through the eyes of the women left behind. The Canteen, a nightclub in New York City, was run by the USO, giving enlisted men a place to go that wasn¿t a dive. Young soldiers, far away from small town USA, had a safe spot to go for a good time and have a dance with a pretty lady, before shipping out. It quickly became a pet project for many of the stars of Hollywood and Broadway. Maggie Davis captures all the fun, the worries, even the social issues of the times. I especially applaud Davis¿ ¿head-on¿ addressing of the prejudices against Blacks and Jews in this period. Many writers would¿ve glossed over these issues, making them ¿politically correct¿ to see the topics more palatable for the readers of today. But that would¿ve been taking the easy road. Gutsy Davis doesn¿t flinch in her treatment, but is frank, compassionate and understanding in her writing. SDC centers on the lives of the ladies that work nightly at the Canteen, such as Genevieve Rose. A star on Broadway, she¿s in the midst of rehearsals for the experimental Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, which seems headed for implosion - and maybe taking Genevieve¿s career along with it. Not only, does Genevieve have to contend with qualms over run-throughs that are often a battle zone, a leading man who chews garlic to hide his drinking, she¿s facing a marriage that is floundering due to separation because of the war. But for her, the show must go on, especially at the Stage Door Canteen. There is Elise Ginsberg, a Jewish refugee who fled from the terrors of the Nazis. In possession of photos that prove Hitler is running death camps, she¿s desperate to get the knowledge to the press. She must juggle leading the crusade to shine a light on the truth, her love for a political activist, and the pressures of being in America, and yet not really feeling safe from the horrors of Germany. The whole time she must to put on a pretty face at The Canteen. The vivacious and beautiful, Bernadine Flaherty, a dancer from the Performing Arts School, she dreams of the big break into show business. She¿s pursued by the Audey Murphy type GI, Eugene Sturhbeck - a man riddled with self-doubts over being a ¿hero¿, crippled by short-manitis, and unwilling to give Bernadine room to choose a career over his love. Davis evokes unforgettable images. Broadway¿s ¿The Great White Way¿ is turned out in fear of being a target forWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 4, 2004
this book has so much heart. It's a vivid period piece, that evokes many of the things close to the heart. An ensemble 'cast', the characters are so real, so down to earth. The treatment is classical, a true book for the ages. The feelings, the emotions just reach out to you and pull you long. I have not enjoyed a book so much in years. My cousin sent me the book and said I have to read it, that is was very special. She will likely never let me hear the end of it - but she was so right.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 8, 2004
Well, I'm a romance reader or fantasy reader. But since I know Maggie Davis aka Katherine Deauxville from her romance books - Crystal Heart, Red Red Roses,and Enraptured, The Last Male Virgin - I was willing to give this a go. Literature, generally, is not my cup of tea and I am not a big fan of WWII drama. Contrary to all that going in, I found myself caught up in the sheer drama of this book. My attention was fixed by scene after scene of various people, living in New York during the war. How they coped, their individual personal stories. I guess, we all see movies about Pearl Harbor and such, that is never crossed my mind that New York actually was so touched by the 'closeness' of war. I especially loved the peek behind the curtains of the production of the musical Oklahoma. That was a book into itself. Yet, around that, Ms Davis cleverly weaves the menacing threads of war. Such a brilliant contrast - the whimsy of the musical against submarines lurking off the coast like wolves, waiting to attack ships leaving the harbor; that the lights of Broadways had to be dimmed so they would not silhouette the departing ships. It sent shivers up my spine. It's such a visual book; it demands to be made into a movie, with so many great parts for women. I always see interviews with Penny Marshall, Sandra Bullock, Madonna, the actresses who have gone into production as well as acting, saying there are no good parts for woman they can adapt for film. Well, this is crying for that with several great roles for women; several for me. David is so dashing! So thanks to the 'elf' who sent me the book and said 'read or I shall come after you with my claymore'. I might not have picked it up on my own otherwise. Considering this is one of the best books I have read in ages, I am so glad I got it as a gift. Don't wait. Buy it yourself.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 11, 2004
This book is hard to write a review about. It is just SO MUCH. Basically, if you read only one book this year - I'd suggestion making it this one. It's a very patriotic book without waving flags - because it is about the people and how they try to carry on in their everyday lives, how was touches even those on the homefront. It's a super peek into the production of a musical, the behind the scenes hair-pulling of talented individual - now legends to us. It's a time-capsule slice of political and ethnic views of WWII era. Davis very simply, yet elegantly crafted a book that should be a bestseller. It evokes emotions on many levels. A book that will please women, because is it centres on the women of the Stage Door Canteen (can see the Hollywood starlets arm-wrestling over this one when they find it! This is choice material for big screen - it just cries for full treatment.). Yet, at the same time, a man reading the novel will see it is a book for them, because there is a heart-stopping sea battle, addresses how war changes their lives, too, brings in the forming of the pentagon. Basically, one could write pages about this book and never address it full scope. It's just one super work, but best 'experienced' yourself. My wife gave me the book and said 'You must read this. It is a Classic.' Do yourself a favour - don't wait till someone give it to you or tells you to read it - rush out and discover this novel yourself - then you can be the one telling everyone else to read it!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 11, 2004
Posted March 23, 2004
This book was sent me to for a gift by my sister-in-law. I was not sure what to expect. I love Ms. Davis' (Katherine Deauxville) Crystal Heart, likely my favourite medieval historical. But this is straight Literature. I guess I read for escapism/adventure and generally Literature is more thoughty. However, I was amazed by this book. A wonderful book that does so much. I could not put it down from the firs page. It provokes, it's a stroll down memory lane - but not that fuzzy, forgetful where everything was wonderful way - but painting with such reality, warts and all. a tour de force that is the book people will talk about in the coming year.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 1, 2004
Maggie Davis captures the dark romantic world of World War II New York City brilliantly in this tour de force novel. Building her story around the efforts to bring the wholesome and risky musical 'Oklahoma' to the dimmed lights of Broadway creates a metaphor of hope in the face of darkness that we need again today. There is a sense Maggie Davis lived this book, which clearly is not possible. The writing has such attention to detail that the Canteen and the people in it truly come alive. From the stars who graced the USO Stage Door Canteen to the frightened silenced Jewish refugees from Hitler's Germany, to the young soldiers and sailors who may have had their last dance in the arms of some of the most beautiful women of stage and screen, it's all here and it all rings true. For women waiting for their men to come home from war, for people tormented by an unchallenged evil they cannot stop and most especially for anyone who loves history, this book is a must read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.