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a good read
Brought back memories of that time, ie. asking husband if wife wants a job, husband saying no wife of mine will ever work outside the home. However, I didn't like the technique of taking each character by date and using it as a chapter in the book.
I was so looking forward to receiving this book but it didn't deliver on it's promise. As Claude might have put it - it did not live up to it's potential. I felt I was reading book jacket description of any one of the character's lives. Each story would have been a much more interesting book on it's own as I would have gotten to know each character and their story better. I spent a lot of time trying to remember who was married to whom, as well as who the children, inlaws and friends belonged to. There were many subject matters that could have been expanded upon also, such as post-war effects on returning soldiers, their wives and families, the civil rights movement, the feminist movement and religious bigotry.
“War…next to love, has most captured the world’s imagination”
Too many situations and topics were stuffed into one book, the result being no new ideas or perspectives presented.
Received this book as an advance copy from Random House
I'd like to read more by Feldman
“War…next to love, has most captured the world’s imagination” – Eric Partridge, 1914 (believe he is a famous lexicographer and author who served in the Australian Imperial Force during WWI). This quote begins Ellen Feldman’s book about WWII’s effect on the family members and community stateside. A refreshing take from the abundance of WWII era books set in Europe.
Appreciated the author’s choice to write about characters afflicted with mental illness - depression and, what is now called, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and then was labeled Battle Fatigue or Shell Shock. One veteran, Claude, suffered the PTSD symptom of survivor’s guilt, emotional numbing and withdrawal from personal relationships and socializing. He also had flashbacks (manifested by appearing “spaced out”), night terrors and intense reactions to reminders of the war (like the sound of firecrackers). Unfortunately, post-WWII Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was not medically recognized so went untreated. Veterans and their families suffered privately. Current studies reveal that up to a third of veterans who have had combat experience in the Middle East develop PTSD and half of these men and women develop symptoms severe enough to cause significant disruption in their lives.
Disagreed with other critiques that the author introduced too many issues. For example, the subject of discrimination was often only casually mentioned as this shows how insignificant an issue the characters believed it to be – doesn’t affect me so why should I care? Did struggle with the novel’s timeline jumping forward and back thus frequently found myself flipping through the book to ascertain where I was in a particular character’s life and relationship with others.
Next to Love is well-written, which makes the potentially maudlin subjects presented here interesting and thought provoking. With Feldman's clean, spare writing, the reader is allowed to think independently. Her writing is varied and interesting, and she does not repeat or spoon feed, for which I was very grateful. Babe, the main character, is the least babe-like woman in the book, and she suffers for her intelligence. And in a different way, so do the women who blindly conform to expectations. Feldman's portrayal of prejudice and its effects in the USA in the 1940s and 1950s, especially against women and Jews, is heart-breaking. I applaud her choice to include a couple of really decent men. I hope she is in the process of writing her next one.
Not quite finished
The home front during World War II and into the 1950’s has always interested me, but with this novel I think Ellen Feldman takes on too much and doesn’t fulfill her ambitions. She wants the reader to become involved in the lives of the three central women characters, but I never was convinced that they were close friends on a deep level. She wants to show the horrors of war--the heartbreak of loss and the unseen scars of those who returned; the injustice of racism and prejudice; the joys and heartbreaks of marriage, and sex, in many of its varieties. She shows us all these, yet she leaves off just as I felt she was going to explore them more fully or bring some resolution for the characters. This, of course, would have resulted in a longer novel, or required a more focused approach.
Great World War II Story
The book begins in 1944 and ends in 1964. It tells the tale of three best friends: Babe, Grace, and Millie and how they cope with their trials and tribulations and the husbands they love.
Debbie L. (Houston, TX)
a new look at the Greatest Generation
It is a deeply moving story about war, friendships, and love. This book is also a bit different from most that tell tales of WW II in that it speaks about the war’s effect on society; not just on the men who fight, their families and friends.
My favourite character is Babe Huggins who works in the Western Union office. She prides herself on the fact that she cuts the ticker tapes as they come out of the teletype with precision and never accidentally cuts off a letter. It also pleases her that she is able to tape the tickers in perfectly straight lines on the message forms. But, like any job, there are unpleasant parts and for Babe it’s a hugely emotional one. She is the one who must deliver the news to families of a lost son, a brother, a husband, an uncle, or a friend.
Babe’s own husband, Claude, (who formerly taught history at the local high school) is a deployed soldier and each time the teletype spits out another message Babe holds her breath and almost passes out from abject fear of seeing Claude’s name.
Not all of the three women get their husbands back at the end of the war, and I can’t tell you who did or didn’t without ruining the story. The way the women deal with their grief will have you feeling the same emotions they do, you’ll become very involved with these three women over the course of the novel and you’ll feel as though you were the invisible fourth friend.
Of the many books about WWII, this is the first I have read that addresses the lasting pyschological effects on the families. Ms. Feldman has shown me a part of my parents' life that was not discussed. For baby boomers, the continuing impact of the war on the lives of their parents will lead to new and insightful discussions.
Mary P. (Bellingham, WA)
For real--Next to Love
Another one-sitting book. Many writings have focused on the effects of war on the soldiers, but this is one that brings to the fore the battles of the women in the lives of those soldiers. I was taken by how true the characterizations were, without over sentimentality. It reads for real.