Title: The Soldier’s Wife
Author: Margaret Leroy
Genre: Historical Fiction
How I Read It: ARC received from the publisher
My Rating: 3.5 Crowns
Synopsis: As the war draws closer and closer to Guernsey and her home, Vivienne de la Mare knows that there will be sacrifices to be made. Not just for herself, but for her two young daughters and for her mother-in-law, for whom she cares while her husband is away fighting.
What she does not know nor expect is that she will fall in love with one of the enigmatic German soldiers who take up residence in the house next door to her home. As their relationship intensifies, so do the pressures on Vivienne. Food and resources grow scant, dementia takes hold of her mother-in-law, and the restrictions placed upon the residents of the island grow with each passing week. Though Vivienne knows the perils of her love affair with Gunther, she believes that she can keep their relationship – and her family – safe. But when her young daughter befriends a prisoner from a work camp, she must decide if she is willing to risk her personal happiness for the life of a stranger.
A novel full of grand passion and intensity, The Soldier’s Wife makes readers take pause and wonder “What would you do for your family?” “What should you do for a stranger?” and “What would you do for love?”
My Review: This was my first foray into historical fiction set in World War II, and I wasn’t sure what to expect at first. Having grown up in the US, I think my opinion and views of WWII are rather different than that of the rest of the world. While all wars are devastating, things weren’t nearly so risky living here as it was in Europe.
As a result, this book helped give me a different perspective on the war and how it affected an ordinary family like the de la Mare’s. I can only imagine what it would be like to live in an occupied territory, having a state imposed curfew and worrying about what it might look like if I’m seen talking to certain people. And on top of that, worrying about how to feed not only my family, but other people less fortunate than myself – I’m scared just thinking about it.
But that’s the reality for Vivienne, who makes a last minute decision to stay on Guernsey instead of taking the boat over to England. When the German’s come to occupy their little island, it’s actually not quite as bad at first as you might imagine. There are limitations imposed, but Vivienne does her best to make the lives of her family members as easy possible. After not too long, the island is cut off from the mainland and everyone is forced to find new ways to survive in an increasingly harsh world.
When Vivienne meets Gunther, she feels rather conflicted – something about him is a huge draw to her, but she doesn’t want to let down the side by fraternizing with the enemy. In the end, her love wins out and she embarks on a great journey of love in a dangerous time, full of secrets and double lives.
There are so many different choices Vivienne must make on a daily basis, the biggest one being how to best protect her family from the various risks they confront, most of which her children aren’t even aware of. While her affair with Gunther is dangerous from some aspects, it unintentionally serves the purpose of protecting the family at the same time. Which can sometimes mean the difference between life and death.
This book shows not only a different side of the war, but really illustrates that not everyone involved is necessarily a bad person. Many of the soldiers on the island are forced themselves between choosing life or death – you either follow orders, or you will likewise be disposed of. It’s an ugly truth in the world they are living in, and one I hope I never have to face.
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