Monday, 24 March 2014

Book Review: GI Brides



I have read quite a lot of historical fiction recently, some of which has been excellent, but you can't beat a true life story.  Even better is four true life stories in one book, all of which make for some gripping, 'you-couldn't-make-it-up' reading.  A Sunday Times bestseller, here is the blurb:
 
From the bestselling authors of The Sugar Girls, G.I. Brides weaves together the real-life stories of four women who crossed the ocean for love, providing a moving true tale of romance and resilience.

The ‘friendly invasion’ of Britain by over a million American G.I.s caused a sensation amongst a generation of young women deprived of male company during the Second World War. With their exotic accents, smart uniforms and aura of Hollywood glamour, the G.I.s soon had the local girls queuing up for a date, and the British boys off fighting abroad turning green with envy.

But American soldiers offered something even more tantalising than a ready supply of chocolate, chewing gum and nylon stockings. Becoming a G.I. bride provided an escape route from Blitz-ravaged Britain, an opportunity for a whole new life in America – a country that was more affluent, more modern and less class-ridden than home.

Some 70,000 G.I. brides crossed the Atlantic at the end of the war to join the men who had captured their hearts – but the long voyage was just the beginning of a much bigger journey.

Once there, the women would have to adapt to a foreign culture and a new way of life thousands of miles away from family and friends, with a man they hardly knew out of uniform. Some struggled with the isolation of life in rural America, or found their heroic soldier was less appealing once he returned to Civvy Street. But most persevered, determined to turn their wartime romance into a lifelong love affair, and prove to those back home that it really was possible to have a Hollywood ending.

Even though the stories follow the ups and downs of romances that began against the backdrop of war, the issues facing the four women in the book are ones that are just as relevant today: badly timed pregnancies, alcoholism, poverty, infidelity, cultural divides, gambling addictions and self-fulfillment outside of the role of mother and wife.

Written in an engaging and insightful way, this book really endeared the four women to me, and I found my heart sinking and rising as I read about the ups and downs of the paths they had chosen. I had no idea before reading this book about the number of 'GI brides' that crossed the Atlantic, or about the problems that they faced - disapproval from patriotic relatives, awful conditions on board cramped ships and 'holding' barracks, and a less than warm welcome from American women once they got to the other side.

I liked the format that alternated chapter by chapter between the stories of each of the four women, as it gave you a sense of time and perspective as major events in the war unfolded.  It did mean sometimes I forgot who was who though and had to re-read a few bits to make sure I understood what was happening!

I haven't read the other offering from the authors Barret and Calvi, 'The Sugar Girls', but am keen to get hold of this one next.  GI Brides should appeal not just to fans of historical writing, but to anyone who enjoys reading about the lives of real women.

4/5 - a great read.

I was very kindly sent a review copy of the book, but as always, views are my own!

9 comments:

  1. I would love to read this book! The cover says already enough for me.
    But reading a book in a language that isn't written in your native language isn't always that easy...

    xoxo Emma
    http://littlemissbamboo.blogspot.be/

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    1. Oh I bet that would be really hard, I hope it's really successful and gets translated for you!! P x

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  2. The last WW fiction book I read was my son's Goodnight Mr Tom. Even if it was a teenager's book, it really tugged my heart and I re-read it again recently. I will look for this book in Kindle if they have it :)

    Mrs Jack Of All Trades
    http://www.mjoat.com/

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    1. Thank you for stopping by my blog! I've just found yours, and am pleased to 'meet' someone from Dubai - my sister lives there! I am yet to visit, but it's on the list! P x

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  3. Sounds like a good read! I love memoirs. :) I've been watching a lot of a Canadian TV show called Bomb Girls... It would be fun to read this soon while the WWII theme is fresh in my repertoire! :)

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    1. I've heard that series is very good, but haven't seen it! P x

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    2. I'd definitely recommend Bomb Girls. It's a good show and such beautiful costumes!!! I love watching shows with period costumes... like Mad Men (of course)and also Pan Am :)

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  4. This isn't normally a genre that appeals to me, but your review is so excellent I may give it a try. Perfect for you and your love of the era xxx

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  5. Engaging, lovely review. Thank you! This book is high up on my "to read list", especially because it reminds me very much of a handful of elderly British war brides that I had the great pleasure of knowing as a youngster here in Canada (where many also followed GI's across the Atlantic).

    ♥ Jessica
    ♥ Jessica

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