This novel has a cast of characters: Margaret, a young woman leaving her father and brothers on their ranch in Australia; Jean, the youngest bride--a little too eager to party and a bit immature; Frances, a nurse who worked in the Pacific during the war, and Avice, the well-to-do young woman who imagines a picture perfect life in England. All of these women have one thing in common: they have married British soliders who were stationed in Australia, and they're finally traveling to England to meet their husbands. They're on no ordinary cruise ship--they are traveling on the British aircraft carrier HMS Victoria, which has a full compliment of crew making their way home at war's end. It has all the makings of a potential disaster. How can anyone think all those men and all those brides will behave for six weeks at sea?
I did enjoy this book, but I felt it dragged on a bit. There were times I felt like I was on a six week trip. I did come to enjoy the women very much and felt for them when not-so-great stuff happened. The slow addition of the male characters (who have their own stories to tell) rounded out a picture of people returning home changed by war, and not quite sure what to do or what to expect once they return to civilian life.
Can you imagine sailing into the unknown, hoping when you got to the other side your husband was waiting with open arms? What if you got a "do not come" letter halfway into your journey? The homesickness must have been unbearable. What brave women.
Fans of Jojo Moyes will read this, and don't think that I didn't enjoy it, because I did, and I was sad to say goodbye to the women. I just felt some parts were a bit slow, and it could have been shortened up a bit. And the mystery of Frances was very slow in being revealed. This is historical fiction that will probably peak your interest in war brides. It is a subject worth exploring.
Rating: 6/10 for a story that has a large cast of characters, but dragged a bit in places. An interesting look at war brides.
Available in paperback and e-book.
Thank you to Penguin for a review copy!