Saturday, June 14, 2014

GI Brides: The wartime girls who crossed the Atlantic for love, by Duncan Barrett & Nuala Calvi. William Morrow 2014

When America entered WW 2, many soldiers were sent to England as a staging ground for attacks on the continent. With many British men already fighting in Europe (or wounded or dead), the influx of relatively well paid young GIs found a country full of young women willing to date them. With the threat of battle immanent, both men and women grabbed at happiness and married without knowing each other well at all. When the war ended and the GIs were sent home, their young brides went with them- on separate ships, of course, and with a lot of indignities. What they found when the arrived on US shores wasn’t what they’d expected.

Calvi’s grandmother was one of these GI brides, and she learned Margaret’s story not long before her grandmother’s death. This led to looking into the lives of other war brides. Four of them; Rae, Margaret, Sylvia and Gwendolyn (Lyn) have their stories shared with us here.

One found herself married to an alcoholic who spent every penny he made (and then some) on alcohol, finally becoming abusive. Another married a compulsive gambler with PTSD. One’s family didn’t take to her at first at all and seemed to deliberately make her life miserable, and she contracted polio on top of that. Another’s husband was womanizer. They all had culture shock and found that even the English language wasn’t the same in the US as it was in England. The image of America that many had was of relative wealth, and it wasn’t always so. Not all the GI brides had horrible marriages; even after rocky starts, some remained happily married for a lifetime. But they all had to be incredibly strong to survive what they did. Some of them were only teenagers when they married and left their homes.

I loved this book. Social history is fascinating to me, and I’m glad these stories are being told before that generation dies off. Each chapter is about a different one of the four, going in rounds. I confess that I sometimes had a little trouble with that format; I’d forget what the one I was reading had done in her last couple of chapters. I managed, though; it’s not hard to flip back and take a look. 

The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something, Amazon will give me a few cents. This book was given to me by the Amazon Vine program in return for a fair review. Neither of these things influenced my review.

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