Adult,  Big Book

Letters From Home

Kristina McMorris
Two people. An unforgettable moment. One extraordinary love story.
In Chicago, Illinois, two people are about to lock eyes across a crowded dance floor. The following moment will spark the love story of a lifetime…
The year is 1944 and America has just entered the war. Young men and women are being drafted in to fight with their allies on Europe’s distant shores. Throughout America, sweethearts are saying their last goodbyes.
Liz Stephens is already betrothed to budding US politician Dalton Harris, but when she meets GI Morgan McClain, she feels an instant and intense connection. But then he dances with her flirtatious best friend Betty and Liz is left feeling like just another soldier’s fancy.
Betty is mesmerized by Morgan and begs Liz to write letters for her to post to him overseas. Liz reluctantly agrees, in the end anxious to retain a connection to him. As the last searing days of World War II loom, a correspondence begins that will alter the course of their lives forever.

I picked this up on one of those supermarket two for £xx deals. I really wanted the other book and took this as I can’t resist a book bargain and ironically I enjoyed this more than the one I had really wanted in the first place.
I have always had a bit of a fascination with WWII and part of that is the way it affected people at home. I’ve read plenty of novels that are based in those times and touch on many issues, but I have never read one that was set in America during the war. It is a little different from the UK as I am sure you will appreciate!
Having read this story though, the things that stand out for me were the similarities between the lives of people here and there. People are people wherever they are! There are the obvious differences, less rationing, more men at home and the women are less directly involved as there are men there to do ‘men’s’ jobs. But the women in this tale are living lives dominated by the war and dominated by the men who are at home and away fighting. In some ways it feels that they have even less freedom than British women at this time, some of whom were experiencing things they never would have had the opportunity to do before. However there is that over-riding popular view that women belong at home and their job is to support their man and have the children! Even though this is a clever love story reading this from a 21st century perspective the women seem quite trapped, and some of them don’t even feel or seem to notice it. It is not that they are unhappy; their expectations are just so different.
There are three girls at the heart of this novel. Liz meets a GI (Morgan) and falls head over heels, despite her being attached to someone else, and despite the fact that her friend Betty likes him too. As Betty agrees to write to Morgan and then doesn’t follow through Liz takes up the job with far-reaching consequences. Betty is a bit of a good time girl. She really wants to be a singer but through the turn of events ends up being a nurse in the jungle; this is not a situation that pleases Betty! Finally there is Julia who is excelling in her clothes design course but passes up the opportunity to work for Vogue magazine so she can support her Fiancée Dalton in his ambitions, and not disappoint their two families.
Through these three women’s lives we get a clear picture of what it was like in 1940’s America. Feminism hasn’t arrived yet and there is huge pressure to fit with the social norm. These three women all find ways to overcome that pressure and have their own rebellion in pursuing what is important to them despite what other people may think.
There is insight into the frontline war as well with Morgan’s letters giving us a realistic illustration of the terror and hardships suffered by soldiers, along with the guilt, loneliness and the battle to remain true to yourself in a wartime situation.
Verdict: Even though I have dwelt on the elements of this book that interested me in this review it is primarily a love story. There is happiness and heartbreak, unrequited love, misunderstandings, friendship, families and warmth. It did take me a few pages to really get into it but once I did I couldn’t put it down.
Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: May 2011
Format: Paperback
Pages: 384
Genre: Historical Fiction, Chick Lit
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: Oldest Book


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