Author: Helen Bryan
Publication Date: June 2012
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Source & Format: Borrowed; paperback
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As war moves ever closer, the sleepy English village of Crowmarsh Priors settles into a new sort of normal: Evacuees from London are billeted in local homes. The nightly German air raids become grimly mundane. Rationing curtails every comfort. Men leave to fight and die. And five women forge a bond of friendship that will change their lives forever in this engrossing novel of loyalty, loss, and love in the shadow of World War II.
With the hardships of war intensifying every day, the women band together to defeat formidable enemies and find remarkable strength within themselves to help one another. It is a war-forged loyalty certain to endure years and distance.
When four of the women return for a celebration fifty years later, their mission is not simply to commemorate or remember. They’ve returned to confront a traitor whose actions cost countless lives — and to avenge one of their own at last.
Lately I've been really intrigued by books that tell the lesser-known perspective. The men who helped build the railroads instead of the corporations that took all of the attention; the families that journeyed to make a new, different life for themselves; and the women of war. When my boss passed over her copy of War Brides to me (we've got a weird little reading group at work), I wasn't sure what to make of it. When I read the author's introductory note in the beginning, I was in.
When I read the title, I expected something along the lines of Cary Grant's "I Was A Male War-Bride" (fabulous movie if you haven't seen it). The title made me think of military romances. Instead, the novel tells the tale of five different women who come together in Crowmarsh Parish, creating a bond that outlasts the horrors of the war.
I liked that each character had an extraordinarily different perspective and personality: Alice was the good vicar's daughter, Frances the radical, Evangeline constantly struggled with her love life, Tanni the young mother, and Elsie was the soft-hearted character with a hard shell. These occasionally clashing personalities brought out the best in each character, especially as they struggled through their own problems brought on by the war.
The various men in their lives faded into the background for me, more or less. Once they returned to the scene, I remembered them, but this isn't their story.
My only complaint about War Brides is how the book deals with the two separate stories at hand. On one side, the novel tells of VE Day, fifty years later, and the reunion of the women. Although it was interesting to see where they had ended up, I didn't like the mystery that was thrown in at the end - it didn't fit the rest of the novel cohesively. There wasn't a lot of closure about how the women had lived for the past fifty years, only bits and pieces.
On the other side, I loved the story take ranged from 1938 to 1944. I am not a history expert whatsoever, but from a literary side, I enjoyed the narration about the state of the world through these characters' eyes. Although the war played a major role in the novel, other issues shine through, such as women's rights, which I personally loved. The story's twists and turns stayed fairly close to the timeline of historical events, and seeing it all through the characters made it come alive in a new way.
War Brides is in a third-person POV, fairly standard to today's novel. The rotating narration kept me interested because it allowed for little glimpses inside the mind of each character. One thing that stood out to me was the inconsistent accents. The Cockney accent (Elsie) and the Southern accents were fairly well featured, but others fell by the wayside. For me, I prefer all or nothing, but that's a minor issue for me.
Overall, a good book, especially for the history and chick lit lovers. War Brides tells the story of five strong women overcoming one of the worst events in history. Although there were some missteps in the novel, I enjoyed the main historical story.