Friday, March 6, 2015

World War II might be over, but the ramifications of the conflict continue to impact the lives of the characters in the latest season of Foyle's War.  Although set 8 of the series won't be available in the US until April 14, you can watch it now online on Acorn TV.  Why not give the free month's membership a try and watch this excellent series?

 Former policeman Christopher Foyle (Michael Kitchen) is still working at investigating crimes, although now it's at the behest of MI5, the British intelligence agency.  He is ably assisted by his driver, Sam Wainwright, played by Honeysuckle Weeks.  Sam is married to MP Adam Wainwright, so in addition to her day job she must find ways to support her husband when he encounters difficulties of his own.

The three episodes of Set 8 all portray situations which have their roots in events that happened during the war.  Episode One, High Castle, opens with a dead man discovered in the woods.  The man turns out to be a professor at University College, London.  In his pocket, police find the name and address of an American oil company executive, Clayton Del Mar.  While investigating the death, Foyle learns that the professor, William Knowles, was working as a translator at the Nuremberg trials.  Foyle visits Del Mar, and while he feels there's something suspicious about the man, his superiors don't want Foyle to upset the American too much.  Del Mar is negotiating with the Iranians in an attempt to get them to sell their oil to the British, rather than the Soviets.  If that's the case, why has he been spotted meeting with a Soviet agent?  At the same time, Sam's husband Adam is asked by one of his constituents to investigate a case of sex discrimination at the workplace.  She was given a supervisor's position at a factory during the war, but now that the men have returned she has been demoted and her job given to a man.  Adam must confront his own prejudices when he takes into account his own actions in pressuring Sam to turn in her resignation, since she's expecting a baby.  This episode features the delightful John Mahoney (known to Americans as the dad in the long-running series Frasier) as Del Mar's curmudgeonly, bed-ridden father.

The second episode, Trespass, deals with the still thorny issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  A man living in Palestine is arrested by British soldiers looking for Jewish terrorists.  Even though he was innocent, he has a heart attack and dies in custody.  His daughter, Lea, comes to London to study medicine and stays with her father's oldest friend, Rabbi Greenfeld and his family.  She is treated to a sight-seeing tour of London by the Greenfeld's son, Nicholas, who is a sound engineer.  Things are a bit tense in London as two meetings are planned which present great security threats.  The first is a speech being held by Charles Lucas, a Fascist and leader of the International Unity Party.  With the rationing and shortages caused by the war impacting the lives of everyone, Lucas finds a ready audience for this claims that immigrants and Jews are responsible for all the problems.  While Foyle and his superiors are concerned about the possibilities for violence and rioting if Lucas riles up the crowd, the local police seem remarkably unconcerned about the potential for problems.  The second event that is happening in London is a large international conference about the Jewish-Palestinian conflict.  During this time, Foyle is brought in to investigate the beating of a young Jewish student, Daniel Woolf.  The odd thing is that neither Daniel nor his parents seem to want the police to investigate the incident.  A few days later, the father, David Woolf, is shot and killed in his home.  Police suspect a terrorist organization, the Defenders of Arab Palestine, but Foyle isn't so sure that group is responsible.  Sam becomes concerned about a young boy with breathing problems.  Even though the National Health Service has been proposed, it has yet to be implemented and the poor are often prevented from receiving medical care due to lack of money.  When the Rabbi's family discovers Lea hasn't been admitted to medical school and seems to be missing, they wonder if she might have a secret reason for being in London.

Ms. Pierce, one of Foyle's colleagues at MI5, is approached by a young man who tells her "This is for Elise" before shooting her in the final episode, Elise.  As she recovers in the hospital, Foyle learns that during the war, Ms. Pierce was responsible for sending young female radio operators to France to work in the resistance.  Nine of the young women were identified, arrested and executed by the Germans in a very short period of time, leading the SOE (Special Operations Executive, the shadowy organization responsible for the work) to suspect that one of their members was a double-agent.  They called this person Plato, and opened an investigation to discover his or her identity, but never found out who it was.  Elise was the code name of one of the young women who was killed.  Foyle is fairly quickly able to identify her as Sophie Corrigan, and to discover that the man who shot Ms. Pierce was her brother, Miles.  Foyle has a late-night secret meeting with Miles, who says he plans to shoot everyone who was involved in getting his sister killed.  While Foyle wants to track down the people who were involved in the SOE war project, his bosses aren't that concerned with stirring up old events from the war.  Instead, they want Foyle to investigate the shady dealings of Damien White.  While White seems to be a legitimate businessman, MI5 is convinced he's heavily involved in the black market.  Once again, the police seem unconcerned with black market goods being openly sold on the streets.  Adam is also unconcerned, but his constituency chairman, Glenvil Harris (played by Jeremy Swift, known to Downton Abbey fans as Maggie Smith's butler, the disapproving Spratt), convinces him to investigate the black market goods, a situation which once again places both him and Sam in danger.

This set also features loads of interesting extras, including "A Day in the Life of Foyle's War," an interview with John Mahoney, and series creator Anthony Horowitz and historian Terry Charman discussing the real events behind each of the three episodes in this series.  Supposedly, due to the high costs of producing the series, this will be the last we'll see of Foyle's War (I was continually amazed at all the shots around London -- it must be terribly difficult to film without getting in any modern skyscrapers into the shots!). However, this has happened before, and the series came back due to public demand, so we can always hope that we haven't seen the last of Foyle and Sam!

Disclaimer:  I received access to Foyle's War on Acorn TV in exchange for this review

Final Verdict for Foyle's War, Set 8  Four Gherkins, for being a welcome visit with old friends

Thursday, March 5, 2015

While most people start dreaming of "what they want to be when they grow up" early in life, very few people are fortunate enough to actually end up in a profession that they enjoy.  Jeff Goins, in his new book The Art of Work, attempts to help people identify the signals in their lives which will lead them to satisfying, productive work.

Through interviewing many people who are working in fields which demonstrate their "true calling," the author has identified seven stages of calling, including awareness, practice and mastery.  Each of these stages is discussed in detail in its own chapter.  The main points that seem to occur over and over are that you should be aware of opportunities and not see failures as a reason to quit.  Since 87% of workers are unfulfilled by their jobs, everyone should be open to opportunities to do work that will be both important and empowering.

Many of the people whose stories are told in the book came into their current work through misfortunes or difficult situations in their lives.  Others saw their dream careers fade due to injuries or lack of motivation, with no idea what they were going to do afterwards.  Through seemingly random encounters, they were set on a path to their true calling.  One famous such person he mentions is William Hung. Even though he had a disastrous audition on American Idol, it lead to an online following and 3 albums.  However, after achieving a modicum of musical success, he discovered that his dream was actually to work in the field of mathematics.  Sometimes you need to figure out that what you think you want is not really what will make you happy.

The real test is to recognize the calling of what you should be doing with your life, and not to be discouraged by failures.  The author himself quit his full-time, secure job with benefits in order to become a writer.  Not everyone will recognize what their true calling is, but by being mindful of opportunities, listening to "that little voice" inside you, and not being discouraged by failures, people can find their true purpose in life and leave a lasting impact on the world.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of The Art of Work from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for this review

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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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