Publisher: Penguin (9 May 2013)
Iris had escaped the Blitz but now lived in crippling poverty after the war – until a chance meeting changed her life. Aged just sixteen, she fell in love and married US soldier Bob Irvine. And soon after she set sail for a new life in America.
It was the 1950s, the land of hope, dreams and Doris Day movies. But Iris ended up in a cramped Chicago bungalow, shared with Bob’s parents. With a baby on the way and a husband turning daily into a stranger, Iris was wracked by homesickness. Trapped and desperately lonely, she had to make a fresh start, in a country where hope and opportunity thrived.
In this dramatic sequel to the Sunday Times bestseller, Far From the East End, we follow young Iris Jones Simantel from London to New York, Chicago and Las Vegas in her struggle to find work, love and a sense of belonging in a foreign land.
Iris’ account begins with her experiences as a child in WW2, her evacuation (including the alienation of returning to a family she could barely remember). This leads on to being re-housed after the war in Hertfordshire where she meets American serviceman Bob Irvine.
Although this a reflective account, I could still ‘feel’ the innocence of that young women setting out on a journey that would take her a long way from her family and her roots. From the journey to New York through all the moves and changes in her life while living in America, Iris shares with the reader a very honest (and sometimes brutal) account of her experiences.
It’s interesting to read about the differences between life in the UK and US back then. Things we take for granted now … our debit cards, supermarkets, freezers etc of course didn’t exist in the UK then. Even the foods Iris had to eat with her in-laws Germanic heritage were totally different. Iris finds solace with the church at different points in the narrative and her experiences here are interesting too …
Iris is admirable in how she copes with trying to fit into the different circumstances that she finds herself. Within these pages you’ll find the darker side of life too … alcoholism and abuse but despite these experiences that happen without her family by her side, Iris’ spirit of making things work shines through. Not giving up, each time something happens to sidetrack her, she picks herself up and moves through a different phase.
Through all her trials and tribulations – romance, health and finding a place to belong, Iris takes us with her on her journey from an innocent 16 year old GI bride to a 26 year old who has experienced many things and although happy, is still trying to find a place to belong.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.