Home » OPINION » Columns » BOOK BIZ — War brides' true stories are meaningful and inspiring

BOOK BIZ — War brides' true stories are meaningful and inspiring

» GI Brides The Wartime Girls Who Crossed the Atlantic for Love By Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi Published by William Morrow $14.99 paperback

» GI Brides
The Wartime Girls Who Crossed the Atlantic for Love
By Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi
Published by William Morrow
$14.99 paperback

This book tells the compelling stories of four English women who married American servicemen during World War II and immigrated to the U.S. when the war was over.  Being addicted to books about WW II, I started reading this book without realizing the stories are true. Learning that the four women are real — with no names changed — and the events really happened to them made it more meaningful. That fact also made up for the writing, which at times was unpolished and uninspired. I became completely engrossed in following the adventures of these ladies who left their families and everything familiar to follow their hearts.

There are then-and-now photos to help these brides become more real to readers, and the book concludes with updates about them. The brides are Sylvia Bradley, a loyal, bright-eyed optimist; Rae Brewer, a resourceful, quick-witted tomboy; Margaret Boyle, an English beauty who faced down every challenge; and Gwendolyn Rowe, a brave woman ahead of her time. Boyle is the grandmother of author Nuala Calvi whose interest in the war brides began at an early age.

Although these women made the bold choice to leave family and the world they knew, the journey each experienced was unique — ranging from romantic to heartbreaking. Unfortunately all the stories do not have happy endings, but they are told as the events unfolded. There were humorous misunderstandings when brides used words that meant one thing in the U.K. and something quite different in the U.S. For instance, Sylvia Bradley exclaims, “I’ve been diddled” when she discovers the latch on a new powder compact is broken. Her husband whispered in her ear what that expression means in the states and her face turned red.

In some cases relations with their new American in-laws are strained with mistrust and misunderstanding. The brides must learn a different culture, and of course, there is homesickness.

More than 70,000 GI brides followed their husbands — men they barely knew in some cases — to America to begin new lives. These are only four of those thousands of stories, told with care and tenderness.

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