G.I. Brides by Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi

tlc tour host

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)

Mailbox Monday #287

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

1. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: The Making of a Television Classic by Charles M. Schulz and Lee Mendelson for review from Harper’s Dey Street Books.

Now available in a hardcover edition, the lushly illustrated It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: The Making of a Tradition, stars Charles M. Schulz’s beloved Peanuts gang, and features hundreds of full-color images as well as enlightening anecdotes that take you behind-the-scenes of how the charming Halloween special was created.

Trick-or-treating has never been more fun—with Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Sally, Schroeder, Linus, and, of course, the Great Pumpkin. Since its first airing more than forty years ago, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown has become a beloved perennial classic synonymous with Halloween.

Illustrated with more than 250 full-color images.

2. The Rat (Disgusting Creatures) by Elise Gravel for review from Tundra Books.

One in a series of humorous books about disgusting creatures, The Rat is a look at the black rat. It covers such topics as the rat’s long, agile tail (it’s good for balancing and picking noses), long teeth (they can chew through anything, including books) and disgusting taste in food (delicious electrical wires in tomato sauce, anyone?). Although silly and off-the-wall, The Rat contains real information that will tie in with curriculum.

3.  Children’s Activity Atlas by Jenny Slater and illustrated by Katrin Wiehle and Martin Sanders for review from Sterling Children’s Publishing.

Young explorers: grab your ticket to a world of fun! Featuring 12 fully illustrated maps, this atlas is jam-packed with information about the different continents and each region’s wildlife, food, architecture, and culture. The journey continues with more than 250 reusable stickers, eight perforated postcards, and a pocket-size passport with quizzes and cool facts. Curious kids will dream about their adventures to come.

4. GI Brides: The Wartime Girls Who Crossed the Atlantic for Love by Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi for TLC Book Tours in September.

The “friendly invasion” of Britain by over a million American G.I.s bewitched a generation of young women deprived of male company during the Second World War. With their exotic accents, smart uniforms, and aura of Hollywood glamour, the G.I.s easily conquered their hearts, leaving British boys fighting abroad green with envy. But for girls like Sylvia, Margaret, Gwendolyn, and even the skeptical Rae, American soldiers offered something even more tantalizing than chocolate, chewing gum, and nylon stockings: an escape route from Blitz-ravaged Britain, an opportunity for a new life in affluent, modern America.

Through the stories of these four women, G.I. Brides illuminates the experiences of war brides who found themselves in a foreign culture thousands of miles away from family and friends, with men they hardly knew. Some struggled with the isolation of life in rural America, or found their soldier less than heroic in civilian life. But most persevered, determined to turn their wartime romance into a lifelong love affair, and prove to those back home that a Hollywood ending of their own was possible.

What did you receive?