Posts Tagged ‘role of women in WWII’

Front Lines (Soldier Girl #1) – Michael Grant

Posted in American Fiction, WWII, YA Fiction on April 9th, 2016 by admin – Be the first to comment

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Michael Grant has written over 150 books, most of them co-authored with his wife Katherine Applegate but Front Lines is my first experience of his writing – I now can’t wait to investigate his other novels, I might be gone some time! His latest novel is set in the mid 1940s and it is an alternate history of America’s involvement in World War 2, with females being sent to the front lines for the first time.

An anonymous narrator relates the stories of three American recruits who hail from very different backgrounds – Rio Richlin, a farmer’s daughter from California, Frangie Marr from Tulsa who faces a double dose of discrimination as a result of her gender and skin colour and Rainy Schulterman, intellectual Jewish New Yorker. I was pleased that there wasn’t too much romance and more of a focus on the realities of life in the army and how these teenagers, both male and female, struggle to adjust to life at the front. It was also refreshing to hear the stories of soldiers involved in North African operations, a location often overlooked in YA novels about World War II.

Michael Grant doesn’t hold back in his presentation of the brutality of warfare so those of a nervous disposition might be traumatised by the graphic detail. I can’t wait for the next in the series to see how army life continues to mould the characters’ personalities, for better and for worse.

An intelligent, fast paced opening to an exciting new series with extremely engaging characters. Highly recommended for older teens and even young at heart adults!

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After the Bombing – Claire Morrall

Posted in Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction on March 24th, 2014 by admin – 2 Comments

After the BombingI have read and enjoyed four of Claire Morrall’s previous novels so I think it’s fair to say I’m a fan!  I’ve read enough books (both diamonds and duds) to discover what I like and if I feel the urge for something understated yet thought-provoking, I know that Ms Morrall’s writing will tick all the boxes.

Morrall’s characters are rarely happy-go-lucky souls and young Music teacher, Alma Braithwaite, is no exception.  Having experienced severe personal loss during Hitler’s bombing of Exeter in May 1942, Alma has failed to move on, neither emotionally nor physically given that she now teaches at Goldwyn’s, the girls’ school she attended during the 40s and still lives in the old family home.  Alma is a creature of habit, relishing routine and her own company.  When Miss Cunningham-Smith dies in the Spring of 1963, a new headmistress arrives to sweep away the cobwebs and enforce her own regime.  Miss Yates is a force to contend with and her new-fangled ways are an immediate source of conflict with Alma who eulogized Miss Cunningham-Smith.

As the novel progresses, we discover what happened to Alma and her school-friends after the 1942 bombing when they were temporarily relocated to university halls under the supervision of a young Mathematics lecturer, Robert Gunner.  In the 1963 narrative, we gradually learn more about Miss Yates and her possible weaknesses whilst Robert Gunner returns into Alma’s life as the widowed parent of a student in her form class. It would seem that the psychological wounds of war are still open and smarting for our central characters whilst they are expected to keep calm and carry on.

The main characters are neither likeable nor particularly exciting but are all the more real as a result.   It was refreshing to see the effects of the war on those at home rather than those at the front especially those who experienced the full impact of Hitler’s bombs and how those left behind coped.  The nervy Robert Gunner seems powerless when faced by so many confident women, an attitude which does not seem to improve with age!

Like Morrall’s other novels, this is a slow burner peopled with characters who don’t quite fit in the “normal” world but a gentle read which will reward the patient reader.

After the Bombing is published by Sceptre – release date 27th March 2014, 384 pages.

Claire Morrall

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