Publisher: HarperCollins (29 Aug 2013)
From the bestselling authors of The Sugar Girls, G.I. Brides weaves together the real-life stories of four women who crossed the ocean for love, providing a moving true tale of romance and resilience.
The ‘friendly invasion’ of Britain by over a million American G.I.s caused a sensation amongst 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 soon had the local girls queuing up for a date, and the British boys off fighting abroad turning green with envy.
But American soldiers offered something even more tantalising than a ready supply of chocolate, chewing gum and nylon stockings. Becoming a G.I. bride provided an escape route from Blitz-ravaged Britain, an opportunity for a whole new life in America – a country that was more affluent, more modern and less class-ridden than home.
Some 70,000 G.I. brides crossed the Atlantic at the end of the war to join the men who had captured their hearts – but the long voyage was just the beginning of a much bigger journey.
Once there, the women would have to adapt to a foreign culture and a new way of life thousands of miles away from family and friends, with a man they hardly knew out of uniform. Some struggled with the isolation of life in rural America, or found their heroic soldier was less appealing once he returned to Civvy Street. But most persevered, determined to turn their wartime romance into a lifelong love affair, and prove to those back home that it really was possible to have a Hollywood ending.
I reviewed The Sugar Girls written by the same authors in March 2012, so when I was approached to review G.I. Brides I jumped at the chance.
Following four young women (Sylvia, Rae, Margaret and Gwendolyn) as they are living their lives, from the UK in wartime and beyond, I found myself not only immersed in their romantic lives but also in the historical aspect.
It’s written in such a way that I could easily identify with them. They are clearly portrayed both as single women interacting with their families and then later in their relationships. I felt emotionally attached and felt a gamut of emotions alongside them.
The four women have very different personalities and different experiences. I won’t tell you what they were but they experienced so much between them. I loved finding out that there is a personal investment from one of the authors. A fabulous way to make sure the story is told to many.
I was horrified to learn such facts as a local swimming pool closed because it was being used as a morgue for blitz victims and the personal horrors experienced of the V2. I am ashamed to admit that I had no idea how Southampton was quite central to the American G.I.’s (it’s not that far from me). You don’t think about the things we take for granted such as being unable to celebrate Guy Fawkes for six years either and when it was celebrated again, the effect it had on people!
Another thing highlighted for me was how Christian name changes easily affect family history research. Two of our brides changed their first names (before they met their men). Anyone researching their family history and hitting a brick wall … don’t give up! (check out the website – link below – for family history help).
There is a clear difference between the British and G.I. soldiers and the tensions felt between them as well as racial incidents between black and white G.I’s.
My eyes have been well and truly opened as I had no idea the G.I. war brides was on such a huge scale. There were dozens of war bride boats crossing the ocean in an almost CONSTANT relay from 1946! The Red Cross played a huge part and later the support groups that sprang up.
G.I. Brides is no dry and boring memoir. This non-fiction book is just as good as any plot driven story. I recommend you add this to your reading list if you’re a romance or historical fan.
I would like to thank Duncan Barrett for offering a review copy in exchange for an honest review.