Monday, September 14, 2015

Review: GI Brides: The Wartime Girls Who Crossed the Atlantic for Love by Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi

Publication Date: September 2nd, 2014
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (Kindle)/Harper Audio (Audiobook)
483 pages/11 hours, 6 minutes

WWII Historical Fiction


"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 bewitched 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 easily conquered their hearts, leaving British boys fighting abroad green with envy. But for girls like Sylvia, Margaret, Gwendolyn, and even the skeptical Rae, American soldiers offered something even more tantalizing than chocolate, chewing gum, and nylon stockings: an escape route from Blitz-ravaged Britain, an opportunity for a new life in affluent, modern America.

Through the stories of these four women, G.I. Brides illuminates the experiences of war brides who found themselves in a foreign culture thousands of miles away from family and friends, with men they hardly knew. Some struggled with the isolation of life in rural America, or found their soldier less than heroic in civilian life. But most persevered, determined to turn their wartime romance into a lifelong love affair, and prove to those back home that a Hollywood ending of their own was possible.

What Did I Think About the Story?

I just love WWII history! There is such an amalgamation of beauty and romance, horror and desolation that I seem to be transfixed with these stories no matter what angle they take. In GI Brides we get another interesting angle (and one I haven't read yet): that of the English women who fell in love with the American men that flooded their shores and that left behind everything to follow these men to a country they knew so little about. What makes this story that much better is the fact that it's all true!

GI Brides shares the experiences of four English women during the war and after as they moved to America with their G.I.s. Each chapter concentrates on one woman's story and the chapters alternate between women. I was impressed with how well the stories flowed together, showing the similarities within each storyline as well as how each woman's situation was unique, and it really read more like a novel than what I've experienced with more bland, facts-driven nonfiction (which is a good thing!). What I enjoyed most of all was the fact that the stories weren't sugar-coated to give "happily ever after" situations. These women sacrificed a huge amount, leaving behind everything they had to follow these men they really didn't know very well. None of the men were exactly who they said they were and these women had to face the realities of men suffering with alcoholism, gambling addiction, overbearing families and even infidelity. What I was left with was a remarkable appreciation for what these women endured and how they never gave up on working for the life they wanted for themselves and their children (if they had any), whether that was with these G.I.s or not. These women were survivors.

My biggest complaint with G.I. Brides isn't really the story but the narrator of the audiobook (I switched back and forth between the Kindle version and the Audible version). While she did a good job of guiding the story along with her inflections and pacing she didn't really distinguish much between the various characters' voices. While I know it would be incredibly difficult to differentiate between this many people I have heard it done before and, for the most part, the women all sounded the same and the men all sounded the same. I will also say that there are some delightful pictures of the women and their families, which I very much enjoyed, but they were lumped all together at the end of the eBook. I would have preferred them disbursed throughout when the actual people were being discussed so I could visualize them while reading, not after I was finished.

I think G.I Brides does a wonderful job of giving a well rounded look at what these English women gained and lost by following their hearts to America. It isn't overly romanticized or exaggerated, it is real life with all its ups and downs. I would probably recommend the print version if you are like me and love having pictures throughout showing the people being discussed (I assume the print version does this), but if this isn't an issue for you I would highly recommend getting the story whichever way you can. I look forward to reading more about G.I. brides and that's because of what I learned here.

What Did I Think About the Cover?

I like it a lot! It fits the story perfectly, showing the American GI passionately kissing his bride before the statue of liberty, which has its own meanings of liberty and freedom as well as representing the land the women struggled to get to. I love the muted coloring as it makes me think of an old photograph as well.

My Rating: 4.0/5.0

*The Kindle and Audible audiobook versions of GI Brides: The Wartime Girls Who Crossed the Atlantic for Love used for this review were my own purchases*

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