Elizabeth Berg is the author of many bestselling novels as well as two works of nonfiction. Open House was an Oprah’s Book Club selection, Durable Goods and Joy School were selected as ALA Best Books of the Year, and...read more
Elizabeth Berg is the author of many bestselling novels as well as two works of nonfiction. Open House was an Oprah’s Book Club selection, Durable GoodsandJoy School were selected as ALA Best Books of the Year, and Talk Before Sleep was short-listed for an Abby Award. Her bestsellers also include The Year of Pleasures, The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted, and Dream When You’re Feeling Blue. Berg has been honored by both the Boston Public Library and the Chicago Public Library and is a popular speaker at various venues around the country. She lives near Chicago.
Dream When You’re Feeling Blue. Do you know the song? It was written by Johnny Mercer, and it was popular in the ‘40’s. If you’ve never heard of it, please find a way to listen to it sometime; it’s a great song. It’s romantic, but it’s also strong and practical and positive, which I think accurately reflects the spirit of the people I wrote about in my new novel. The book takes place during World War II. A lot has been written about the battles fought in the war, and the politics, but not so very much about the home front. Given my preference to focus on women and domestics, I chose to build a wartime story around three Irish Catholic sisters, Kitty, Louise, and Tish, who live with their parents and three brothers in a small house (with one bathroom!) in Chicago. I wanted to write about the way children participated in metal and rubber drives, the way housewives had to cook creatively because of the meat and coffee and sugar rationing, and the way women drew seams on the back of their legs to make it look as if they were wearing no-longer-available nylons. I wanted to bring readers to airplane factories and crowded streetcars and palatial movie houses and USO dances–and foxholes. I wanted to recreate wartime romances. I wanted to include letters from young men overseas whose teeth-chattering fear alternated with robust bravado, and letters from young women who sat at the kitchen table in their pin curls, making red lipstick kiss marks on V-mail envelopes. I wanted the novel to ask if war is inevitable; if there can in fact be such a thing as a good war. I wanted to show the cost of war. Mostly, though, I wanted to demonstrate how “the greatest generation” got its name. I came away from writing this book with a newfound and really deep appreciation for my parents and their contemporaries. I think you might, too. And I think you’ll have fun. I hope you’ll enjoy reading, as I did writing, the descriptions of the food, the fashion and the flair of a lost time–I hope you’ll find yourself transported there. That kind of lifting away from our own lives into those of others is, after all, is one of the great pleasures of reading. Just don’t get inspired to run out and buy a bunch of vintage clothes and then never wear them. Alas, that’s what I did! I hope I’ll see you when I tour. In any case, thanks for your time in reading this note, as well as my books. You let me be me.