Welcome one and all to The Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the works they enjoyed most over the previous month. Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino, and join in the fun. This blog hop is hosted by The Armchair Squid. Click on the link to sign up to join us.
The best book that I finished this month is War Brides by Helen Bryan.
Although this work of historical fiction/romance/mystery is fairly long, I didn't want it to end. I can't say that the writing is brilliant, but the characters are so interesting that I wanted to know what happened to them. It was hard to put War Brides down at night and go to sleep. I think I even dreamed about reading it.
Five young women end up in the English village of Crownmarsh Priors during the second World War, and all––in spite of their differences––become close friends and war brides. Their romances take center stage, but they're also dealing with refugees, pregnancies, evacuees from London, working as "Land Girls," rationing (of very bad food), and danger. Their day-to-day lives are interesting enough alone, but when one of them is recruited to go above-and-beyond the call of duty by her country, she jumps in immediately to give her all.
In addition to loving the characters, I'm pleased that this novel focuses on how important "women's work" was during the war. Helen Bryan writes in her "Introduction":
In households I knew as a child, family photographs of uniformed men and women were yellowing and gradually consigned to closets and drawers to make way for wedding pictures, new babies, and family holiday pictures. I began to add to what I already knew about how women had coped in the war, not sure at first what I would do with this information. The preoccupations women of any period share––falling in love, marriage, looking after husbands and families, struggling in many cases with financial pressures to make ends meet or forced by circumstances into spinsterhood––remained the same as the war engulfed everybody. In terrible times, and despite the heavy added burdens of war work, rationing, and the threat of invasion, many women fought a personal battle for some kind of normality, with the kind of determined courage never mentioned in the history books. Elsie, Frances, Alice, Tanni, and Evangeline soon invented themselves out of the information I was amassing. They hung about, waiting for their stories to be written.
I'm glad Bryan couldn't get these characters off her mind without writing their stories. I must say that the conclusion of the book also has a twist that makes me long for a sequel, but I don't expect one since War Brides was published in 2007. I wish I'd known about it sooner.
This book will make a great summer read on the beach, at the pool, in your favorite chair, or where I read it: in bed.
Infinities of love,