Saturday, November 15, 2014

Book Review: War Brides by Helen Bryan

War Brides by Helen Bryan
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication date: 2007
Pages: 496
Source: Purchased e-book
For: Book Group

Summary from goodreads:
With war threatening to spread from Europe to England, the sleepy village of Crowmarsh Priors settles into a new sort of normal: Evacuees from London are billeted in local homes. Nightly air raids become grimly mundane. The tightening vice of rationing curtails every comfort. Men leave to fight and die. And five women forge an unlikely bond of friendship that will change their lives forever. 

Alice Osbourne, the stolid daughter of the late vicar, is reeling from the news that Richard Fairfax broke their engagement to marry Evangeline Fontaine, an American girl from the Deep South. Evangeline's arrival causes a stir in the village but not the chaos that would ensue if they knew her motives for being there. Scrappy Elsie Pigeon is among the poor of London who see the evacuations as a chance to escape a life of destitution. Another new arrival is Tanni Zayman, a young Jewish girl who fled the horrors of Europe and now waits with her newborn son, certain that the rest of her family is safe and bound to show up any day. And then there's Frances Falconleigh, a madcap, fearless debutante whose father is determined to keep her in the countryside and out of the papers. 

As the war and its relentless hardships intensify around them, the same struggles that threaten to rip apart their lives also bring the five closer together. They draw strength from one another to defeat formidable enemies: hunger, falling bombs, the looming threat of a Nazi invasion, and a traitor in their midst, and find remarkable strength within themselves to help their friends. Theirs is a war-forged loyalty that will outlast the fiercest battle and endure years and distance. When four of the women return to Crowmarsh Priors for a VE Day celebration fifty years later, television cameras focus on the heartwarming story of these old women as war brides of a bygone age, but miss the more newsworthy angle. The women's mission is not to commemorate or remember; they've returned to settle a score and avenge one of their own.
Things I Liked:
There really is no concise way to summarize the book.  I was really immersed in the historical story, the war story of all the very different women's lives.  I found the details and the interactions of each of the women fascinating.  I wanted to laugh and cry with them and all they struggled with.  During that portion of the book, I really enjoyed the story.  It was fantastic historical fiction and obviously well-researched and well-written.  I had some real issues with the end, though, that kind of tainted my enjoyment.

Things I Didn't Like:
As I mentioned, there were a number of things I didn't like.  First, the prologue was very confusing.  I found that starting in the "present day" (1995, I think) left me just not sure what or who or anything.  But most of what I didn't like was the ending.  The very last parts of the historical story were rushed and then abruptly cut off.  It seemed only half-finished, and obviously Bryan wanted to complete the story from the present looking back, but I think it could have been more gently done.  I was a bit angry that we didn't get more of Alice at that point, as things were going in an interesting direction (finally).  And at the end when they are having their reunion I was just plain appalled at what happened.  It seemed really out of character for some of them and completely out of the blue.  I can understand some of what they are feeling, but honestly, it did not seem to fit the rest of the story.  Despite my disappointments with the way things ended for the characters back in the 40s, the ending of the book really made me end up disliking the whole thing. 

Well, the historical part reminded me a bit of Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

s-factor: !@

mrg-factor: XX
a bit too descriptive at times

v-factor: ->
some, since there was a war, but not too graphic

Overall rating: **

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

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