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G.I. Brides by Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi

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Source: TLC Book Tours and William Morrow
Paperback, 368 pages
On Amazon and on Kobo

G.I. Brides: The Wartime Girls Who Crossed the Atlantic for Love by Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi is a biography-memoir hybrid in which the stories of four women who married American soldiers, known as G.I. brides, during WWII are told.  Sylvia Bradley is a bit young and naive but an optimist, while Gwendolyn Rowe is a determined woman.  Rae Brewer is the tomboy to Margaret Boyle’s beauty.  These stories are romantic as these ladies decide to leave the only home and family they have known to marry an American, only to find themselves facing more than just marital challenges.  Culture shock is just one aspect that is well depicted in these stories, especially as the women marry into not only American families, but families that still maintain their old world cultures and traditions — like the Italians big family dinners to the rowdy Irish parties.  As different as their lives had been from each other during WWII, they are vastly different when they reach America.

“During the day, Margaret did her best to get up on deck as much as possible to assuage her seasickness.  Starting out across the endless miles of ocean, she was reminded how cut adrift she had always felt in her life.  Some brides might feel the ache of homesickness, but she had never had a real home to miss.”  (page 98)

“As she packed her bag, she heard a chugging noise coming from outside and looked out of the window.  There in the distance was the menacing outline of a doodlebug passing over hoses opposite.  Then suddenly the noise stopped.  Rae knew what that meant — the flying bomb was about to fall.” (page 114)

Through extensive interviews with these women and their families, Barrett and Calvi have brought to life the home front in England, as these women struggled with rationing and the fear of bombs killing them on the way to work or in their sleep.  As their families struggled, brothers were sent off to fight the Germans, and they found work to support the war effort, these women were introduced to a whole new world outside the cocoon of their family units.  They went to dances with Yanks and volunteered in Red Cross-sponsored facilities, only to find that these Americans were not as crass as they were told by brothers and parents.

“For months Lyn had felt desperate to return home to England, but now she realized that the thing she had been looking for no longer existed.  It was her younger self — that confident, carefree girl who hadn’t had any knocks in life, who could stand on her own two feet …” (page 340)

Once in American, these women must fight another war — a war within themselves.  They feel like outsiders, they struggle to find their place with their new families, and many times they are met with failure.  But even though they long to return to England and walk away, they also realize that they must first stand on their own and learn what they want for themselves.  G.I. Brides: The Wartime Girls Who Crossed the Atlantic for Love by Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi may only breathe life into the lives of four G.I. brides from WWII, but it stands to reason that many of those 70,000 brides experienced similar hesitations, failures, and triumphs in their new lives.  Wonderfully told and executed.

About the Authors:

Duncan Barrett studied English at Cambridge and now works as writer and editor, specialising in biography and memoir. He most recently edited The Reluctant Tommy (Macmillan, 2010) a First World War memoir.

 

Nuala Calvi also studied English and has been a journalist for eight years with a strong interest in community history pieces. She took part in the Streatham Stories project to document the lives and memories of people in South London. They live in South London.

Connect with them through their website.

61st book for 2014 New Author Reading Challenge.

 

 

 

24th book (WWII) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.

 

 

 

 

19th book for 2014 European Reading Challenge; (Set in England)

  • HeatherTLC

    My grandparents met during WWII and married just afterward, once my grandma was able to come over from England. I’d love to read other stories like theirs!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  • Pingback: Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi, authors of GI Brides, on tour September 2014 | TLC Book Tours()

  • I love books that explore overlooked women’s roles through history. This sounds fascinating.

    • This was really well done and talked a lot about the societal changes as well as how the women felt about their roles and their new lives in America, etc.

  • Anna

    I’m glad you liked it and that it doesn’t sound dry at all. I can’t wait to read it.

    • There are facts, but they are well integrated. It does start of a little slowly, but that was Ok once you get into the meat of it.

  • bermudaonion(Kathy)

    One of my dad’s closest friend had a GI Bride. She always missed the UK but never wanted to return there to live. I’m excited about this book!

    • Wow, that’s wonderful that you actually know someone who had a GI Bride. I knew that it happened, but didn’t know that was an actual name.

  • Holly (2 Kids and Tired)

    I seriously want to read this one so much!