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!