Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Julie's Review: Next To Love

Next to Love: A Novel Summary: “War . . . next to love, has most captured the world’s imagination.”—Eric Partridge, British lexicographer, 1914. A story of love, war, loss, and the scars they leave, Next to Love follows the lives of three young women and their men during the years of World War II and its aftermath, beginning with the men going off to war and ending a generation later, when their children are on the cusp of their own adulthood.
Set in a small town in Massachusetts, the novel follows three childhood friends, Babe, Millie, and Grace, whose lives are unmoored when their men are called to duty. And yet the changes that are thrust upon them move them in directions they never dreamed possible—while their husbands and boyfriends are enduring their own transformations. In the decades that follow, the three friends lose their innocence, struggle to raise their children, and find meaning and love in unexpected places. And as they change, so does America—from a country in which people know their place in the social hierarchy to a world in which feminism, the Civil Rights movement, and technological innovations present new possibilities—and uncertainties. And yet Babe, Millie, and Grace remain bonded by their past, even as their children grow up and away and a new society rises from the ashes of the war.
Beautifully crafted and unforgettable, Next to Love depicts the enduring power of love and friendship, and illuminates a transformational moment in American history.~amazon.com

Review: I hate to admit it, but World War II history isn't something I normally read. Perhaps this is because I am under the impression all of the books about this time period are non-fiction. Next to Love is a powerful, moving and unforgettable novel about the long lasting effects that war has on not only the men (and women) who fought in it but their loved ones as well. The novel takes us over decades with 3 friends who have been inseparable since Kindergarten. We are first introduced to Babe, who is from the wrong side of town and a bit of a rebel. Millie, is the classic beauty and Grace, is the one who can never do any wrong.

Perhaps it is because we are introduced to her first or maybe it's because of her spunk, Babe remained my favorite throughout the novel. She is the one that changes for me by battling the effects the war had on her husband and herself. How she keeps it together for both of them through some very tough years. How she herself finally finds purpose in the late 1950s/early 1960s with the NAACP. Her husband, Claude, is a solid and gentle man but when he returns from the war he is tortured. He has nightmares and he builds a wall around himself. They both turn to drinking to help them cope. These days they'd be in rehab but back then no one talked about it or acknowledged it. I loved how they made it through the rough times only to come out (seemingly) stronger. I feel that people took marriage a bit more seriously back then. Divorce didn't happen for minute reasons but only for something extraordinary.

While I enjoyed Millie's story, I can't really say much without giving away anything. I will say that I did like the progression of her story and how her son Peter (Jack) grew up into a fine young man.

Grace was the only character who drove me a bit nuts. She defined herself by her marriage to Charlie. She married young and had no sense of self. She let other people sway her into thinking certain ways instead of making decisions on her own. She was very much the epitome of women during that generation. She could never decide on her own happiness and was therefore miserable most of her life. This has a profound affect on her daughter Amy and the choices she will make in her young adult and adult life.

Ms. Feldman has wrote a gem of a novel. It has all the elements of a wonderful read: realistic characters, strong writing, strong plot and a perfect period in history to explore. I felt that I was on this journey with the 3 friends and I was sorry to see it end.

My favorite part of the book was during the war when the women would receive letters from the men while they were training and then fighting for freedom and their lives. These pages in the book jumped out for me and took me inside the men of the book. The art of a letter is certainly something that has been lost on this generation and more than likely, future generations sadly.

From looking at her website I can tell that Ms. Feldman loves historical fiction. She obviously took her time researching World War II and the other events that came afterward.

For lovers of historical fiction and perhaps others like me that haven't read a lot of novel based on World War II, then Next to Love should make it onto your "TBR" pile.

Next to Love is to be released on 7/26/2011 by Random House.

Final Take: 4.25/5

Thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC of the novel to read and review.



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