Molly K. (San Jose, CA)
What is Next to Love
Next to Love came with promise, excitement, nostalgia, and expectations that were well beyond what I found. Ellen Feldman created a tableau of interesting players. In the mix were whites, blacks, Jews, a rich banker, and a woman from the “wrong side of the tracks”. The story is told through chapter sets, each chapter covering several years with a sub-section devoted to each of three women. I liked watching the characters change over time as the country changed with them.
But, in the end, the story was boring and somewhat predicable. The dialog is often stilted and the characters unsympathetic. Only twice did I find myself wanting to know more about how they were dealing with the issues at hand.
Told in the present tense, the writer often seemed to be an invisible wall between me and her characters. I suppose present tense is intended to make the narrative more intense, perhaps create a sense of urgency. For me, though, it is overused, intrusive, and annoying. Feldman dots her story with historical snippets to let us know she did her homework and to put a framework about the women’s lives.
Okay, okay, so I expected the distaff version of The Best Years of our Lives. The book did not deliver.
Lisa F. (Newton, MA)
I thought Next to Love was a great read. I love the way it was written in the present tense. I felt like I was watching from afar the three school friends grow up, marry and how each of their lives turn out within the historical context of WWII through the early 1960's. Familiar historical events become very personal and the author drew me in to really care about all the characters. I think it's a great book club book as there is a lot to think and talk about. It makes you think how the war and afterwards affected each character and how each of us believe we would respond to all the different situations and relationships. A good book always stays with me for weeks and this one is having that affect!
Marjorie W. (Bonita Springs, FL)
Next To Love
What a good read! Such a sad time in our history - I think the Ellen Feldman did an excellent job in revealing the feelings of the characters and how they coped with the changes and sorrows brought on by this period of time. It was interesting to me how the children, Amy and Jack, responded. I think this would be a good book for book clubs to put on their reading list. I will recommend it to my book club.
Bess W. (Marlton, NJ)
Love and War
Ellen Feldman has written a story with well-developed characters and shows the effects of war on the soldiers and their families. Babe, Grace and Millie's friendship endures throughout the entire story focusing on their experiences before, during and after the war. I found it quite interesting to view the same event from each of the friends different viewpoints. Not only does the story deal with the war but also the class and race struggles of the era, many of which we still deal with today. The book was very enjoyable and would be a good choice for book clubs.
Shirley L. (Norco, LA)
Good Overview of the Effects of War
Although not as original as her book "The Boy Who Loved Ann Frank" or as detailed as "Lucy", "Next to Love" gives an insightful overview of life during and after World War II for servicemen, their parents, their wives and their children. Given that the book tells the story of three main families as well as several supporting characters over the span of time from December 1941 to August 1964, an overview of their stories is all the reader can hope to get. The scope of the story means depth of character development gets sacrificed. The story is told in multiple scenes of each of the main characters. Although worth reading for the effects of war, any war, on its participants, and in places displaying examples of beautiful writing, the reader can't help but wonder if the author bit off more than her 291 page book could chew.
Linda C. (Carlisle, MA)
The Emotional Toll of War
Unlike many WWII books, this story is not focused on the horrors of the battlefield, but rather on the long term emotional toll war exacts at home for generations. It is a very heartfelt journey with three close women friends who fall in love with their soldiers and how these relationships and their lives are forever and completely shaped by the war. We are pulled into their experience from the first page and are riveted to each of their lives for the next 20 years. It gave me tremendous insight into my own mother's life as it was deeply affected by her soldier going off to war.
Next to Love
Next to Love is an impressive and powerful story of three best friends and the men they love set during World War II. It focuses on their lives as they live through the war and beyond. I loved watching the women face the challenges and events of their lives as the book moves from saying goodbye to their men and transitioning through the intervening years as their children are about to start their own adult lives. I enjoyed watching them deal with their trials and tribulations and seeing how their lives and friendships evolved. As a baby boomer I loved reading about this time in history.