ISSUE 22, July 2007
Editorial
Quarterly Communication: Speech of the Grand Master : Address of the Pro Grand Master : Report of the Board of General Purposes
Historic: Architect to a King
Young Masons: Value of a warm welcome
Faith and Freemasonry: The twin supports
Supreme Grand Chapter: Speech of the Pro 1st Grand Principal and Report of the Committee of General Purposes
The Grand Secretary: Notes
   Travel: In the footsteps of the pharaohs
Inventor: Voice of the people
Human Rights Court Judgement: Landmark victory for Masons
International Conference: Masonic history unveiled
The Grand Chancellor: Special overseas role
Specialist Lodge: Prior Rahere and his legacy
Public Service: Serving the famous
Education: Events : Importance of the cable tow
Lbrary & Museum: Fraternal art
Masonic Charities: RMTGB : Grand Charity : RMBI : NMSF
Letters, Book reviews, Gardening

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On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan, published by Jonathan Cape, £12.99. ISBN 97802240811811
    Enthusiastic followers of Ian McEwan’s works will seize upon his latest offering On Chesil Beach with anticipation and relish.
    After all, he has staked a strong claim to be one of our most talented novelists with some ten novels and two collections of stories to his credit. These include Booker Prize-winning Amsterdam, as well as Enduring Love and the splendid Atonement.
    The first disappointment is the slim size of this new book, released in April in hardback. The second is the even thinner plot which can be summarised as a couple on the first night of their honeymoon; both virgins; he eager; she terrified: failure; immediate falling out: never to be reconciled.
    Those who read his previous novel, Saturday, will recall that McEwan limited the story to the events of one day, a ploy which worked surprisingly well. Sadly this one, which is restricted to a mere couple of hours, does not, at least for this reviewer.
    By contrast, the plot of Atonement was splendid and frankly in a totally different class. No one could deny that the author is a brilliant writer, but here he has surely wasted an opportunity to build his reputation yet higher.
    This is a longish short story rather than ‘a masterwork of quite remarkable depth, power and poignancy, by a writer at the height of his powers’ as his publishers claim. Of course, it is for the individual to make up his or her own mind.
    But Chesil Beach was for me an unfulfilling, unconvincing and disappointing study of two young people, whose apparently loving relationship is destroyed in a split second due to sexual failure.
    Let us hope for a more considered follow-up by so capable an author.



LENI: the Life & Work of Leni Riefenstahl by Steven Bach, published by Little, Brown, £25. ISBN 978-0316861113
    Leni Riefenstahl had an inauspicious start to life. A plumber’s daughter in one of Berlin’s tougher industrial suburbs, she showed considerable resourcefulness surviving the hyperinflation in Weimar Germany, firstly selling picture postcards in tourist cafes, then as a professional dancer and later as an actress, where she developed an interest in filming. Such resource, combined with a ruthless ambition, remained with her until her death in 2002, at the age of 101.
    By the mid-1930s, Riefenstahl had successfully ingratiated herself with Hitler and become the most celebrated film-maker in the Third Reich, using the century’s most powerful art form to glorify a dictator whose policies were to lead to the death of millions.
    In this fascinating book, Bach attempts to address the question of her culpability in promoting the Third Reich and the extent to which she was exploited. Was she a monster whose idealised picture of the Nazi regime justified its excesses, or was she an artist merely practicing her craft in extraordinary times?
    This book goes a long way to smashing any preconceptions of her innocence and in casting huge doubt on her continuous claims after the war that she hadn’t been a Nazi.
    She was, like so many of her fellow countrymen, totally taken in by Hitler.
    When she read Mein Kampf, she declared it was ‘beautiful’ and that fascism was the way forward. Later, at a Nazi rally in 1932, she had her first sight of the Führer and declared it was ‘like being struck by lightning…an almost apocalyptic vision’.
    A year later her film, Victory of Faith, was celebrating the Nazi rise to power at the Nuremberg rally. Many more films glorifying Hitler followed and brought Riefenstahl both fame and considerable fortune.
    Bach shows Riefenstahl little sympathy and recounts a number of examples of her complicity in some of the regime’s most savage policies. In September 1939, her special film unit, financed by the Reich, was on hand to record the conquest of Poland and, in one Polish town, she witnessed the killing of 30 Jewish civilians, who had been forced by German soldiers to dig their own graves.
    Although she denied being present, snapshots by a German soldier show she was there. It is just one of the many examples which put an end to any thoughts the reader might have that Leni Riefenstahl was merely a victim of history.



Four Weeks in May: The Loss of HMS Coventry – A Captain’s Story by David Hart Dyke, published by Atlantic Books. £18.99. ISBN 978-84354-590-3
    The 25th anniversary of the Falklands War has been celebrated with a wide choice of new and reprinted titles covering every aspect of that memorable conflict. Of these, Four Weeks in May, the story of HMS Coventry’s war, demands particular attention.
    David Hart Dyke, the Captain of Coventry, has recorded the events leading up to the sinking of his ship, the details of the traumatic events of 25 May 1982 and the aftermath, with candour and skill. It is understandable why, unlike others, he did not rush into print, preferring to wait a quarter of a century.
    First, one suspects that it has taken him many years to place matters in their true perspective. He was himself burnt when two bombs exploded deep in his ship (and another failed to) and, by his own admission, he was psychologically scarred, but time has proved a great healer.
    One moment he was responsible for a modern warship and over 200 highly skilled men – ten minutes later he and the survivors were fighting for their lives and the Coventry had capsized. She sank the next day, and 19 men died and others were injured, some seriously.
    The vacuum that the loss of Coventry left in his life was clearly cataclysmic, and he became no more than a passenger shuttled between various ships in the Task Force before returning home on the QE2. It would, however, be quite wrong to imply this is a sorry tale. On the contrary, his story is a proud one.
    Four Weeks in May is more than a personal account although, with the inclusion of correspondence between the author and his stalwart wife, it is certainly that. It also paints a graphic picture of preparation for war, with the author overcoming his misgivings.
    For some, his treatment may be a touch too emotional, but there is no denying the sincerity and genuine attachment of the author to his crew and ship. The action is conveyed superbly by the use of numerous individual accounts, which testify to many acts of great courage.


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