Author: P.W. O'Reilly

Pamela is the author of "The Kandinsky Project", a time-travel espionage story set during World War II. She is a WWII history buff, and has an Art History degree from the College of William and Mary with a minor in French. Willem de Kooning is her favorite artist, and she is currently working on a sequel. She lives in the Washington DC area with her husband, daughter, and two dogs.

This Started out as a Completely Different Thought…

When I started writing this, it was about traveling to Tampa in the Spring of 2022. It turned into a book/movie review, which is really only pertinent to my book because this is also one of Rebecca’s favorite books. (We have the best taste in reading material). This all started because I wrote in my Little Women travel journal after making some observations getting through the airport to board my plane…(which is a different blog entry all together)…If you haven’t been exposed to the books or the movie, just know that there are SPOILERS in this entry!

May, 2022 (Traveling to Tampa)

I made a number of observations while I was going through the series of activities to get to the plane, and I wrote about it in a cute little travel journal that I bought at the Louisa May Alcott house–it has an illustration of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy with Marmee, and I love it.

If I haven’t told you yet, Little Women is my favorite book and I own several copies–one that my grandmother gave me when I was little (the illustrations are by Tasha Tudor and they’re gorgeous); I have the Annotated Little Women, which I’ve never read because it’s too heavy to hold up; I have a paperback copy from the Little Women movie (TV Movie with Maya Hawke and Emily Watson); I have the book from the latest Little Women movie (directed by Greta Gerwig), and of course I have the digital copy on my Nook.

I’ve seen almost all the movies–some wonderful, some truly awful (I’m talking to you, BBC). There are a few (1918, for example) that aren’t readily available, and some I couldn’t even stomach the thought of: Little Women in a modern setting (TV Movie, 2018) where their father is away in Afghanistan and Facetime replaces letters. No, thank you. Please, just stop trying to do modern-day Little Women–it just doesn’t work.

Another version that airs during the holidays is on the Hallmark Channel: The March Sisters at Christmas from 2021. This one is about a set of nearly grown women whining at their mother who wants to sell Orchard House because it’s too big to take care of. I think at one point, their mother even says something like, “You didn’t think you were going to live here forever, did you?” It also made Amy look like a snotty b____.(The portrayal of Amy in most of the movies is one of my biggest peeves–I expound on this later).

There are a few versions that I like (in varying degrees). My favorite is the 1994 version with Winona Ryder. I saw this in the movie theatre when it came out and ugly cried through the whole Beth dying part. I still feel like Ryder is the best Jo, but Saoirse Ronan is a very close second. The tone of the movies between 1994 and 2019 are completely different. 1994 is the closest to the book, and I love that about it. 2019 is all about strong women; Jo complains that everyone expects the woman to end up married at the end of the story, and that’s not the story she wants (for her book or her life). While the 2019 film is a little difficult to follow if you haven’t read the book, the energy of this film is different from the 1994 version, and I love both of them.

The other two versions I like are the 1949 version with June Allyson, and the 1978 TV Miniseries. (I know, there are parts about that one that are horrible). The 1949 version has Elizabeth Taylor as Amy (blonde and lovely–she really was such a stunning woman), Margaret O’Brian as Beth, Janet Leigh as Meg, and Peter Lawford as Laurie. This one glosses over the Beth dying thing–one day she’s there, the next day she’s not. All the movies handle Beth’s situation differently: 1994’s Claire Danes as Beth makes me cry every single time. The hardest one to get through was the TV Miniseries version from 2018. It was the most realistic view of her death, and it’s painful all the way to my bones and the ache stays with me for a few hours afterwards.

The 1978 miniseries was cast badly, with Susan Dey as Jo, Meredith Baxter as Meg, Eve Plum as Beth, and Ann Dusenberry as Amy. The biggest offense in this series is casting William Shatner as Professor Bhaer. I bought this version (DVD) and thought it would be a short movie; I started watching it at 8pm and figured I’d be asleep by 9:30. Of course, once I started watching I couldn’t stop, so I sat through the entire thing and cried at the end (in my defense, I was overly tired, and you try not crying at the end when they show that stupid bird.) There may have been some sobbing.

So–onto the portrayal of Amy March. The real “Amy” (Abigail May) of the Alcott family was actually an amazing artist and studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and traveled and studied throughout Europe, exhibiting with other artists at a time when it was unusual for women painters to be acknowledged.

I totally think that Amy has been underrepresented in all the movies–even in the ones I liked. In the 1949 movie, she’s a little prissy, and then she’s older all of a sudden (with a thing for Laurie, as we discover as she’s about to leave to go overseas with Aunt March), and disappears until the end when they come back from Europe. She looks beautiful, of course, but then the one line that ruins everything for me is: “In Europe, one feels that dirt is so picturesque”. And Laurie thought that would be someone he would want to spend the rest of his life with? Sorry, no. The rest of the movies generally make her seem like a selfish brat and totally skip over the best parts of the story where we see her growing and maturing.

The other movies aren’t as egregious in their portrayal–1994’s version is pretty good, the mini-series from 2018 isn’t too bad. I do like that she recognizes early on when Laurie is visiting her at Aunt March’s house when Beth is sick. That’s the best part of the book–you see her trying to be a better person. It’s a gradual change, and I don’t think many films give it the time it deserves. I do like the Florence Pugh Amy the best–Gerwig’s Amy understands that there’s an expectation that she marry well to help her family, so you see her motivated by that fact. There’s also a better segue into her relationship with Laurie–you see her as a young girl having a crush on him to a grown woman trying to deal with the fact that she loves him, but he loves Jo. I love how Gerwig handles that.

After all of that, here are my Little Women film rankings from best to worst:

  1. 1994, Winona Ryder version
  2. 2019, Saiorse Ronan (a VERY close second)
  3. 1949, June Allyson
  4. 2018, Maya Hawke
  5. 1978, Susan Dey (I know, but I can’t help but love the 70’s cheeziness)

Did this post get a little out of hand? Absolutely.

Next time, I’ll try to write the post I was going to write here, before it turned into a book/movie review. Rebecca and I are going to get a cup of hot tea, curl up in the lounge in the Residences, and read Little Women. Again.

Review: In Love’s Time by Kate Breslin

“In Love’s Time” is the sixth work of historical fiction by Kate Breslin, and the fifth set during WW1. During the summer of 1918, Captain Marcus Weatherford continues his dangerous work for Britain, hoping to put an end to the war that has dragged on far too long; his latest secret mission to Russia involves the search for the Romanov tsarina and her son and a plot to assassinate Lenin. Although Natalya, the beautiful ballerina that accompanies him, is posing as his fiancé, Weatherford only has eyes for one woman: Clare Danner, a hospital orderly working to care for herself and her young daughter Daisy. Marcus knows that duty and love don’t mix and is torn between the two, especially after Clare witnesses something that convinces her that Marcus is in love with another. Clare herself is waging her own war against the family that wants to take her daughter away from her, and when Marcus is injured, all of their futures are at stake.

I will start with saying that I’ve been a reader of Ms. Breslin’s books since her first novel, “For Such a Time” was published in 2014, and every time she publishes a new one I know I’m going to be reading long into the night to finish it! I read “In Love’s Time” in one day, to the detriment of everything else (so technically, it’s her fault that my laundry isn’t done…), and I may be rereading it this week. The characters and places she creates are so real, I feel like I spent a whole day in WW1 England; I totally lost track of time and place and was completely immersed in the time period and swept up into the drama of their stories. (I may have cried at the end, just a little). I think one of my favorite aspects of her stories is that the characters aren’t overtly religious–you can tell that they are Christians and believers, but it doesn’t come off as preachy; Clare deals with jealousy and hatred and doubt just like I do, and is far from perfect, yet her faith sustains her. It reminds me that it’s okay for me to be perfectly imperfect, and inspires me to keep practicing my faith every day, even in the face of challenges. The reminder that there is a loving Savior that is with us through all our trials is woven through the entire story, and feels like a warm hug. It’s a story that everyone can enjoy and connect with.

This is a must-read, and if you haven’t read her other books, you should!

Same Old Problem

Just read an old blog post from the beginning of July, and see that I had the same problem then that I just wrote about in my recent post. So….not a lot has changed. Hmmmmph.

The Opposite of Writer’s Block…

OK, I know we were just talking about writer’s block in the early part of last month. Writer’s block is a real thing, and it stuck with me for a while. It may have had something to do with the fact that all my energy was taken up with job searching (long story) and I had no time for fiction (which is, after all, a hobby for me at the moment).

Then I got a job, and went on vacation for a week to the beach, which is my happy place. (I’d like my happy place to be Paris–today’s Paris, not the Paris that Rebecca gets to see, but I can’t afford a Paris vacation once a year, so the beach it is…). I relaxed and saw new things and experienced something besides the four walls of my house and my creative brain got bigger. NOW my problem is that I have too many ideas, all rolling around in my head and I’m having trouble organizing all of them and getting them down on paper. The possibilities are endless, and I think that’s as much of an issue as not having any ideas at all. Rebecca could be still in World War 2–a time period with which we’re both very familiar–or she could go almost anywhere. My initial idea was to have her at Los Alamos while the US is building the atomic bomb (if you haven’t seen the TV Show Manhattan, I highly recommend it). What an interesting place to set a story! All the secrecy and the science, people living in close quarters, all these strangers coming together to accomplish a common goal…it was such an appealing venue, so full of mystery and glamour…

Until I started doing research on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I can’t even imagine the horror that people experienced. People who were just going about their mornings as usual, people who had no idea what was coming. A lot like September 11th, 2001. I read some eyewitness accounts of the horrors at Hiroshima, and suddenly, writing about it didn’t seem as palatable. Maybe I’m getting more sensitive as I get older, or maybe it’s just that the last three years have been filled with so much chaos, so much ugliness. Back when I first learned about WW2, we had no idea what war was like. Those of us born in the 70’s and 80’s were trained to hide under our desks because of the Cold War, but we didn’t understand –what actual war looked like–when our friends and relatives went to war and didn’t come back. There were a few skirmishes, but we lived largely in blissful ignorance until 9/11.

Recently, of course, we’ve had more than our fair share of ugliness, sadness, anger, frustration. My dad always use to say “The world’s going to hell”, and I used to nod and smile and say, “I think every generation thinks that about their own timeline–it’s really not that bad.” Lately, I’m beginning to think my dad was right. So to combat that, when I next take up my pen (or pick up my laptop) to write something, it’s either going to contain and express all that anger and frustration and ugliness…or it’s going to be something distracting and diverting (Bridgerton without all the sex?)–an escape from all the anger (because we all need those sometimes). OR, it may be both. (Because who says you can’t write two books at the same time?). I’ll keep you posted.

(*Note: I am not going to write another Bridgerton. It’s already been done very masterfully by Julia Quinn, and if you like historical fiction, it’s really fun to read and very well-written. I’m now making my way through the prequels.)

Writer’s Block…

Forgive me if you’ve heard this before….but I have writer’s block. I have so many ideas rolling around in my head it looks a lot like it did when Dorothy and Toto got sucked up into the tornado, except my particular tornado is filled with words and colors and disparate images.

Everyone is asking for a sequel to Kandinsky, and I totally appreciate that people want to read more of my words, and I will get there–I promise. But lately, I’m wondering if I’m made for something more–If I could write something more, if I wasn’t scared. My friend, the amazing Jamia Wilson (whose book “This Book is Feminist” is wonderful and you need to read it) once asked me whether the characters in my stories are fighting to be heard, and I said that we all discover each other inside the writing process. For Kandinsky, that’s what happened. But for a while now, I’ve felt another story simmering, and other characters that are trying to break free and exist as part of a larger tale–one that I could write if I had the courage.

What could we all do if we weren’t afraid to fail? To get rejected, to have people hate our writing–the bits and pieces of it that come out of our bones and are such a personal part of us. It’s a terrifying prospect. But at the same time, I feel like I’m not stretching my brain enough. One of my friends who read Kandinsky said that she didn’t particularly like the Prologue, that it didn’t seem like something I would write, and she was concerned about what the rest of the book would be like. (Fortunately, she kept reading and actually ended up liking the book quite a lot). Here’s the thing: I want to write something that doesn’t feel like “me”–something that comes from the murkiness, the misery, the depression, the anxiety, the anger, the bitterness that we all experience in life. Something that comes out of the dark night of the soul. The artist Francis Bacon certainly understood that darkness–his painting Study after Velázquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X (1953) is almost viscerally disturbing–my skin crawls every time I look at it and all I want to do is look away. His Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion (1944) was painted the same year that photographs of the Holocaust were made public–again, art reflects the pain and suffering of life. We’re artists on the edge of history, and it seems only right that art (any art) should echo who and where we are right now. To do anything else would seem….irresponsible. (Says the girl that just read four Bridgerton books in a row). It’s this odd combination of wanting to escape life and wanting to communicate life in a creative way–and I’m lost in the limbo between the two, completely paralyzed.

So I’ll ask these questions: What is our obligation to reflect the current state of affairs, and what could we accomplish if we weren’t afraid to fail?

(As soon as you figure it out, let me know).

Winter and Writer’s Block

It’s the dead of winter in Virginia, and I’ve been absent from the blog for a while. My dad was sick, and then passed away just before Thanksgiving last year. I’ve been in the doldrums since then, buried in a punishing full time job and dealing with grief, burnout, and absolutely NO creative motivation. The last few days felt like Spring was coming! And then…it was 35 degrees yesterday. Ah, Virginia, how I love your weather. So I quit my job at the beginning of February–said no, thank you to the grueling pace with no time off (since July, unless you count my dad’s funeral…which I don’t), disrespect and other frustrations–and said YES to self-care and life and family and creativity. Yes, I’m looking for another job, but it has to be the right job. For the right company. And I’m writing again, working part-time on the Kandinsky sequel, and part-time on a little pet project about a woman who builds a glass house at the beach. (Because I’m an architecture nerd, it was inspired by Mies van der Rohe and the house he built for Edith Farnsworth in Pennsylvania).

I was in Boston a few weeks ago for work, struggling with anxiety and depression and generally feeling overwhelmed, when I thought of Rebecca. She was sent away from her safe, comfortable life into a world of intrigue and uncertainty, and she managed it in spite of her fear. I figured the least I could do was leave my hotel room and go do my site survey. There’s something to be said for the growth that comes from being pushed out of your comfort zone–it makes a lot of things possible. But I think there’s definitely a balance–outside the comfort zone isn’t someplace I can live full-time. Living with chronic anxiety, I need a home base, a nest that I can retreat to when the world gets too scary–and that can be my home, or my job, or the people I interact with on a daily basis. I think that’s okay. It gives me the strength I need to go back out and attack the world again, to live up to the next challenge. Just like Rebecca did. For now, I think she’s probably regrouping, learning more about code-breaking so she can take over the training from Mr. Baumgart when he retires. So she (and I) will be ready for our next adventure.

Welcome Fall

Fall is my favorite season, and not just because my birthday is around this time of the year. For me, fall feels like a rest break from the busyness of the summer–vacations, travel, trips to the pool, camp, etc. I always feel compelled–obligated, really–to spend as much time as possible outside in the bright sunshine before the winter arrives, and for someone with anxiety, that can feel like a lot of pressure. (I know, it’s weird). The fall weather gives me an excuse to wrap up in my favorite sweatshirt from Elly & Grace, put on my big fuzzy slippers (which I have been known to wear out of the house), and catch up on my reading. I always read “Outlander” in the fall–I first read it in October of 2017, when I had bronchitis and broke my foot. I remember having “Dragonfly in Amber” in the hospital with me, and every nurse that walked in commented on how much they loved those books. Once it gets chilly, I love to wrap up in my lambs wool Outlander replica tartan stole and throw my Outlander-themed blanket on my bed. (Yes, I’m obsessive).

My nesting habits that start in October are probably different than what Clemence would do in the fall in Paris. I think she would nest a little, too–but she would do it in some fabulous pink wrap with marabou feathers, and her apartment would be filled with mink throws in her favorite colors. Max would, no doubt, have purchased her a beautiful full-length white mink coat (for his darling dove), and she would help him off with his long camel-hair coat, or his gray uniform coat, whenever he visited.

Rebecca would nest like I do–even though her life as Clemence left her with a new love for the color pink and a thing for feathers on her clothes. (She may have gone out and purchased some marabou feather slippers once she got back to DC). Life in the bunker is isolated from nature, so anytime is a good time for a cozy blanket, a good cup of hot cocoa (or tea–she loves tea), and a good book. She and Julian do like to go to fall festivals and visit the wide variety of wineries that can be found in Western Loudoun County.

I wish fall lasted longer–but winter will soon be upon us, so it’s time for me to go grab “Outlander”, a blanket, and a cup of tea, and settle into some reading. Happy Fall!

Why Kandinsky?

Kandinsky is one of my favorite artists, but the reason that he ended up in this book was the correlation between math, formula, and art. I’ve always loved abstract and non-objective art–it was one of my favorite periods in art history to study; I spent several years as a docent for the Muscarelle Museum and the Denver Art Museum, working to make modern art accessible to the public.

Kandinsky didn’t start out to be an artist–born in Moscow in 1866 to a wealthy family, he studied law at Moscow University and ultimately became a law professor. He had always loved making art; he recalled in later years that when he was a child working with a drawing coach, “drawing and a little bit later painting lifted me out of the reality”. His early art consistently focused on very specific color combinations, where “each color lives by its mysterious life”. He noted two events that changed his life work from that of law to painting: Visiting an exhibition of French Impressionists in 1895 (particularly the work “Haystacks” by Monet); and seeing Richard Wagner’s “Lohengrin” at the Bolshoi Theatre.

Kandinsky founded several artist groups, including the Phalanx and the Blue Rider group; he was also associated with the Bauhaus, first in Weimar and then in Dessau, until it was closed down by the Nazis in 1932. His work consistently examines the play between color, line and figure, and those works–his Compositions from the 1920’s (particularly Composition VIII from 1923) were the perfect paintings to use for Rebecca’s coded information. The Nazis hated art by Kandinsky and his associates, and sought to eliminate as much of the “degenerate” art they could find. As such, it makes perfect sense that the codes were hidden under a layer of paint depicting bucolic landscapes and idealized towns and villages. Unfortunately, as it happened in the art gallery where Rebecca worked, many paintings were destroyed and a portion of that history has been lost.

Some information for this article is courtesy of, which is a wonderful resource for the artists work, life, and associates.

If you’re interested in reading/learning more about Kandinsky, the Blue Rider, and the Bauhaus, the Guggenheim has a great site related to their Kandinsky Research Project.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble also have a lot of great books on Kandinsky, including “Concerning the Spiritual in Art”, and “Klee and Kandinsky”. There are also a number of good books on the Bauhaus.