19 June 2010


Locus Focus: Take Six!

Since it is still June and I'm still hosting that contest/giveaway that is getting everyone really excited (I hope!), I shall write about another book I am offering for free to one lucky reader. (It is just one book in a whole package, really, so it's another good deal.)

And I have to say that the only thing more fun than writing my weekly Locus Focus features is getting to read everyone else's! So remember: the only one pressured to be punctual with a Saturday post is myself. If you want to link up your post on Sunday, Monday, or even Thursday, it will still be as welcome! Just leave a comment after linking so that I and other readers will know there is something new to check out. =)

Number 75, Ortega Street
Barefoot in Fire: A World War II Childhood
by Barbara-Ann Gamboa Lewis

From the very first time I saw our new house . . . I loved it. It was a wooden house with a rusting corrugated iron roof. Bougainvillea vines, old and gnarly, but with hundreds of purple flowers, twined around the front porch. The vines hung across a narrow path to a broken-down arbor that once must have been quite elegant--there were remnants of black and white ceramic tile showing through layers of dead leaves and dried mud under the bougainvillea. The house stood on the edge of a hill and looked like a one-story house from the front. The back of the house, however, went out over the hill, and there were two small rooms under the main house.

I think a child could be happy in any home, as long as it had character. And thankfully, Number 75, Ortega Street had some real character!

After the Japanese troops march into Manila, the Gamboa family moves as far away from the urban centre as possible, to the foothills of San Juan. These days, San Juan is a city of asphalt, but back then, it was still very much a rural community. Although Japanese troops and some conscripted Koreans wandered about freely--one even wandering into a poignant anecdote--there seems to have been no bloodshed or terror for the families of San Juan . . . until, of course, the air raids. There are some foxhole stories here, too.

As for the house itself, it had been looted of water pipes, window shutters and wiring before the Gamboas moved in; so by that time, all it had to offer were walls, floors and a roof . . . and a chicken coop . . . and a big backyard extending into a wide field . . . and a ratilis tree in the front yard. On the whole, it wasn't a bad place for a child, and Gamboa-Lewis writes of it very fondly--especially when describing her bedroom.

She was not originally supposed to have a room of her own because the house was so small. But one day, one of the small rooms under the main house--a space that had been converted into her father's study--collapsed under the weight of all those books and papers, right into the chicken coop! This room, with its sloping floor and exposed beam which could be used as a shelf, turned out to be the perfect bedroom for a ten-year-old girl with an aptitude for happiness.

And I'll admit that her parents had good instincts about this house (if about little else!). Some parents have no choice but to bring up their children in the middle of a war; but let us hope they have the luck to find a home like Pooh and her siblings had.

Now it's your turn!
Leave the link to your Locus Focus post in the linky
and take some time to check out and comment on those of others.
I can't wait to read what everyone has to say! =D

EDIT: In case the linky is down for maintenance, here are quick links to the posts by this week's group of participants.

Birdie's Nest, Spinner's End (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling)

The Introverted Reader, Egypt circa 1880s (Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters)

Pearls Cast before a McPig, Titanic (Various Books)

Image Source: Barefoot in Fire by Barbara-Ann Gamboa Lewis


Belfry Bat said...

Can you imagine, I'm thinking of doing another house, myself. Something about not having one seems to leave me feeling poignantly for literary houses, too (I'm moving between rooming/apartments... yearning for My Own Place... a place to raise the (entirely hypothetical) bairns with (conjectural) Mrs... but with me being a PhD student, that's probably a ways off); but the others seem often to have done houses for their loci foci, too. Maybe houses just resound with character?

Sullivan McPig said...

Sounds like a great setting.
I'll be late with my post this weekend as I got a cold and am sneezing and coughing in an attempt to get rid of my tortured lungs, which in turn give me a head ache.

Enbrethiliel said...


I've featured two houses (one very literal; one very mythical); Birdie once linked up with a post about Manderley (which still straddles the literal and the mythical in my mind); and Paul recently wrote about a castle, which is a house for royal people. When you find a house worth writing about, you won't be able to help yourself! (But I'll admit that Pooh's home barely beat out the bombed Philippine General Hospital for this coveted Locus Focus spot.)

Some great houses I can think of . . . Thornfield, Howards End, Green Gables . . . but also the homes of the Marches, the Moffats, and the Ingalls. I think the childhood homes are the most loved--and I totally understand why.

Enbrethiliel said...


Oh, poor Sully! =( I hope you feel better soon.

IntrovertedJen said...

Isn't it interesting how very basic our housing needs are as children and how very much more we think we need as we get older? This girl sounds happy just to have a field to run in, a roof over her head, and a room to spark her imagination.

Enbrethiliel said...


That's true, Jen! I can think of lots of children's books in which the families are poor and yet the homes are very happy.

Cozy Book Nook (Lesa) said...

I love the sound of this house-- I see houses that hang over the edge all the time in the Ozarks. Looks scary but I wish I lived on a mountain-- much more interesting than a pasture.

One of my childhood homes-- a tiny 2 bedroom rent house--- had thick old gnarly wysteria vines growing everywhere-- the purple grapelike clusters of flowers flowed over the top of an old rope and board swing. I thought it was the most beautiful and magical place ever...

Enbrethiliel said...


The swing alone sounds so lovely and magical!

My childhood home had a playset in the backyard that must have been made of iron because after the paint wore off, it started rusting! =P But, oh, the memories . . . !

Kinsey said...

I soooo wanted to do Locus Focus last Saturday, but I guess I'll have to wait until this Saturday comes along. At least I have a whole week to think up houses.

Enbrethiliel said...


That'll be something to look forward to, then. =) Thanks, Kinsey!